The Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC) started in February 2016 as a community development organization working with partners to strengthen the communities in the Memphis Medical District so that they are more livable, vibrant and safe. The district sits between Downtown to the west and the various Midtown neighborhoods to the east. As its name implies, the district is home to various healthcare anchor institutions. But it also contains parks, schools, retail businesses and residences.
It’s a district filled with development possibilities, whether it’s the nearly 200 apartments and 175,000 square feet of office under construction at the former Wonder Bread property or the massive potential with Union Row. But new green spaces and small businesses are just as important to the neighborhood, and MMDC plays an important role in encouraging the growth. “Not everything will be on the scale of the Wonder Bread Bakery,” says Tommy Pacello, MMDC president. “There are a lot of small-scale projects working at the same time. You have to be able to do the big projects, as well as those that are small scale.”
The MMDC contains eight major anchor institutions – Baptist College of Health Sciences, Memphis Bioworks Foundation, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Regional One Health, Southern College of Optometry, Southwest Tennessee Community College, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital/ALSAC and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Working together – along with local and national philanthropy, MMDC and U3 Advisors – these institutions are focused on a revitalization of the Memphis Medical District. It’s an area where more than 16,000 are employed, 8,000 students receive an education and over 10,000 people call home.
The Memphis Medical District Collaborative focus areas are public spaces, safety and security, programming, community development, real estate and anchor programs. Public spaces includes streets, parks, plazas and other green spaces in the district. That includes removing trash and graffiti, and creating various streetscape enhancements and public art projects. MMDC’s focus on safety and security means deploying tactics that include community building, coordination of police and security teams and security camera installations to ensure neighborhood safety.
Programming includes bike rides and community events. Community development ranges from neighborhood network meetings and new business launches to hosting a holiday market. MMDC focuses on work that creates new retail opportunities while assisting new businesses with small business grants. Finally, real estate opportunities abound in the district and the MMDC has a variety of services and tools that help take development ideas and turn them into funded projects.
Through its anchor programs Live Local, Hire Local and Buy Local, the MMDC leverages the various demands and needs of the employees and students of the district’s anchor institutions. Live Local provides incentives to eligible employees to reside in the district. Hire Local connects human resource departments with workforce efforts for job training and other pipeline development efforts to connect residents to jobs. And Buy Local is an effort that matches local and minority businesses with opportunities at anchor institutions.
Is it possible that the projects underway or announced for the district would still happen without the MMDC? Possibly, but the MMDC has helped accelerate many of the projects, Pacello says. “Our job is to serve as a catalyst for the good things in the district,” he says. “Cities evolve and change. We are a catalyst and an effort to turbo charge the development.” To learn more about the MMDC, visit mdcollaborative.org.
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