Cooper-Young granted historical status but debate not over

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Residents in Cooper-Young are cheering a city council decision that grants their neighborhood historic status, but the hard-fought fight is not over.

City council members approved the historic status after a long debate Tuesday, but not without council members saying they'll come back in two weeks to clean up the issue with a follow-up ordinance.

Patrick Durkin organized the Preserve Cooper-Young campaign after development got too close for comfort.

The home next to his, built in 1910, was demolished to make way for new construction of four narrow homes with front facing garages and no porches.

Durkin said developers are changing the character of Cooper-Young and that's why he stepped in.

"For me it's too late. I'm stuck with these homes and hopefully the neighbors will be great when they move in, but I'm looking out for the rest of the neighborhood and other homes," Durkin said.

Giving Cooper-Young historic district status means the Memphis Landmarks Commission will get authority over approving any type of residential construction.

But some council members feared it leaves too much about demolition and development unclear and unfair for both developers and homeowners, and that's why a follow-up ordinance is needed.

Critics of the historic district push worry it could stymie development.

"We're not against development, we're against the design they use when homes are built in our neighborhood. We want homes that are built here to fit," Debbie Sowell, board member of Cooper-Young Community Association, said.

She said the historic status is simply to preserve the charm and look of Cooper-Young and developers are welcome so long as they comply.

"We have a whole neighborhood of front porches. We just want good design when they're thinking about developing our neighborhood," Sowell said.

The council approval Tuesday is the first historic district status the city has signed off on in 20 years. There are just under 1,500 homes in Cooper-Young.

We expect to learn more about the follow-up ordinance in two weeks.

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