Memphis, Tennessee is not the first city that comes to mind when thinking of urban sustainability. From Elvis’s grandiosity to the Memphis in May festival that features BBQ, beer, and bands, the Bluff City has long been known for its fun-loving excess in what might be called an “anti-sustainability” mode. The city’s poverty, racial divisions, and general civic dysfunction have also contributed to an urban environment in which sustainability has not been on the agenda.
That definition seems to be changing. Last week, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy visited Memphis to draw attention to several projects funded through the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The highlight is a new, mixed-use housing development that features affordable apartments with solar panels and energy efficient windows and appliances. Other projects include a boardwalk on the Harahan Bridge providing bicycle and pedestrian access across the Mississippi River; the Aerotropolis FedEx facility, a new, state-of-the-art energy efficient distribution center; and the Broad Avenue business corridor, a revitalized commercial district. The collaborating Partnership agencies, the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and EPA, have underwritten the Memphis projects with $130 million in federal funding. With these initiatives, Memphis is now lining up with other U.S. cities in becoming a more sustainable community.
I'm John Howell for 3BL Media.