Uptown TIF District could expand into new areas

Revitalizing Uptown

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Neighborhoods north of downtown, including Bickford, New Chicago and Smokey City, could undergo big transformations if city and county leaders approve an expansion of a tax increment financing district next month.

When it comes to transforming neighborhoods, Rosalyn Willis knows all about it.

Willis is president of the Memphis and Shelby County Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA).

"Our primary core goal is to eliminate slum and blight and to provide opportunities for affordable housing," said Willis.

The CRA distributes money collected from property taxes in what's known as tax increment financing districts, or TIFs.

With the help of community partners, the CRA has been able to transform neighborhoods in the Uptown TIF District, which stretches from Mud Island to the Medical District.

Uptown Square (formerly the Lauderdale Courts), the demolition of Hurt Village and the construction of single family homes in the Bearwater neighborhood are some of the major projects that were financed with money from the Uptown TIF District.

Terry Hoff with Oasis of Hope, one of the many community organizations the CRA partners with, calls the impact remarkable.

"This community has seen significant change over the last 15 to 17 years, which we're really excited to be a part of," said Hoff.

Willis said the Uptown TIF District is 20 years old and is set to expire in about 12 years.

The agency will have about $95 million to spend over the next 12 years on projects big and small.

But Willis said like with previous projects, money can only be spent within the Uptown TIF District's boundaries.

Willis said people who live just outside those boundaries feel left out.

"For the most part, a lot of what was done in the past was focused on sort of the what people call the Uptown neighborhood, but we have Smokey City, we have Bearwater, we have New Chicago and other areas that need our attention," said Willis. "So, our focus is going to be what I would call the greater community."

Next month, she’ll ask the Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission to expand the Uptown TIF District’s boundaries to include all of Bickford, Smokey City and New Chicago.

The TIF district previously expanded in 2017 to include the Medical District.

If city and county leaders give their approval this time, Willis said more neighborhoods in desperate need will undergo big transformations.

The CRA is also hosting a public meeting Monday night for homeowners in the Uptown TIF District who are interested in grants to repair their homes.

Pre-applications will be available.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at Optimum Plaza Encore Room, located at 726 N. Parkway, Suite 3.

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