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Report: Stable housing mix Downtown, but room for improvement

Downtown’s population is getting wealthier and older.

Over the next 5 years, the number of people who live Downtown with incomes above 100,000 is expected to grow more than 60 percent

The number of Downtown residents age 55 or older is expected to grow about 70 percent in the next 5 years.

Those are some of the findings in a comprehensive housing report prepared over the last year by the Center City Commission. It revealed Downtown has one of the most diverse, stable and growing residential bases in Shelby County.

The area’s housing mix has laid a foundation to support the big tent of population growth Downtown backers want to encourage. It runs the gamut from pricey South Bluff condos to single family homes in Uptown to mid-range apartments on Mud Island.

But there are strengths and weaknesses. Downtown, for example, could do a better job providing affordable housing options.

Findings in the report, such as the increasing age and wealth of Downtown residents, will help developers and policymakers in several areas. Singles and older residents, for example, are not as likely to need as large and as affordable a housing unit as a family, for example.

The CCC – the agency that guides Downtown development via tax breaks and financial incentives for residential and commercial development – will soon put the report into a final form and begin folding it into its policy discussions and decisions.

It’s a good time to have that data tucked away, ready to refer to. The CCC will soon choose a new president to replace Jeff Sanford, a decision that will have broad implications for Downtown.

A bevy of new retail is coming soon to Downtown, including a new gourmet grocery store at the corner of Main and Union scheduled to open in a little more than a month.

Detailed findings on who lives Downtown – and what populations will grow or drop in the future – will help guide decisions that affect activity like that.

Wharton Responds To Forbes

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. has followed through on what might be a key moment in the city’s continuing quest for identity.

Wharton has made public a letter he sent to Steve Forbes, publisher of Forbes magazine, about the magazine’s list of most miserable cities which included Memphis near but not at the top.

The Forbes ranking is but the latest in a series of lists in which Memphis has taken a beating.

Wharton’s letter can be found at Wharton’s blog, http://mayoracwharton.wordpress.com, and Andy Meek will have more in Tuesday’s print edition.

Wharton’s outrage over the list was still fresh last week when he covered this in a speech to the Memphis Rotary Club.

But Wharton mixed the outrage with a deliberate call for Memphians to define the city’s identity for themselves. Redefining how we feel about our community might be a more daunting task than trying to convince Steve Forbes.

Incidentally, Forbes has been in Memphis before – several times – when he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.

Despite our best efforts, we will probably always care more about what visitors think of our city than we should.

That said, our self image remains the political issue that our candidates trip over occasionally on their way to less perilous issues like being for education and against crime.

The discussion we have must be realistic, which means right down the middle of the street on which an unrealistic blindingly bright version of the city sits on one side and an unfathomable desolate darkness is on the other.

Both are extreme caricatures built around kernels of the truth.

Our self image is not to be the product of a dispassionate review of statistics from a safe distance. Emotion will be involved. Good and bad experiences and memories will come into play. And let’s not forget all of this discussion will be built on a foundation of change – civic, cultural and the more concrete business of new neighborhoods arising where old neighborhoods stood. Our city is in a period of change on just about every front.

We don’t all have to agree on what the nuts and bolts of what that change should be. We can and should be able to dare to mix hope and reality and find our true face within.

Dansette

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