Weekly Update: Two major pieces of good news for Memphis


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Two pieces of good news for Memphis hit the surface this week, and they’re both potentially so big that I’m not quite sure where to start. So let’s tackle them both from the top of this week’s email.

Welcome back, COGIC!: When we took office on Jan. 1, 2016, we immediately went to work addressing our big challenges — like rebuilding our police department, building the funding mechanism for Pre-K, increasing what we do for our youth, and paving more streets. We continue our work on all those fronts.

But I also told our team of another priority of mine: Let’s bring back the annual Holy Convocation of the Memphis-born Church of God in Christ. It belongs here, after all. And it was a big deal when it departed for St. Louis a decade ago.

I worked to build a relationship with Bishop Charles Blake, who leads COGIC. I worked to amplify the efforts already ongoing with great COGIC leaders in town like Bishop Brandon Porter. And every time I spoke at a COGIC event, I made sure to say, out loud, just how much we want the Holy Convocation back. (Sometimes, just saying it matters.)

I was so proud of Ken Moody, Kevin Kane, and our whole team when we learned Monday night, shortly before the news broke publicly, that the Holy Convocation would return in 2021-2023. This should coincide with a transformed convention center, a spate of brand-new hotels rising Downtown, a growing and renovated Memphis International Airport, and an energy in our city we haven’t seen in a while.

A decade after COGIC left, we look forward to showing the Saints how far Memphis has progressed!

Welcome, Union Row!: Every day, it seems, we see another news story with an exciting rendering, a big investment, and a planned new development for our city. With more than $13 billion of recent, current, or planned development, it’s all adding up. (And yes, there’s more in the pipeline.)

But I do want to single out the plans, unveiled Monday, of the new Union Row development. Its scale is massive — a projected $950 million over the life of the project. To put that in perspective, it’s almost four times what it took to build FedExForum, about five times the investment it took to bring Crosstown Concourse back to life, and about six times what we’ll spend to transform the convention center.

Yes, it’s massive.

We look forward to the ongoing discussions and approvals needed to bring this project to fruition. When built, it will bring more density and life Downtown, particularly to a stretch of Union in need of new life.

And if you’re not convinced Memphis has momentum, consider what Kevin Adams, the developer of Union Row, told the Memphis Business Journal about it:

"It's hard to imagine $1 billion. That's significant. But, when [my partners] got here and saw how the city is changing … and the vibe of the city, the success of Crosstown, it was only obvious to them this would be a tremendous project," Adams said.

Partnering to fight crime: Reducing violent crime in Memphis requires strong partnerships, which is why we’ve worked these past three years to strengthen our work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. U.S. Attorney Mike Dunavant explains his work in this Daily Memphian guest column, which includes this number:

Since October 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has increased the number of federal firearms cases filed by over 58 percent, and the number of defendants charged with firearms offenses has increased over 68 percent.

Welcome aboard: We talk often about hiring more police officers to rebuild our force, and we’re doing that: Two classes are currently training at the academy.

But we are also enthusiastic about our police service technician program, which we brought back in 2016. PSTs focus on items like traffic control, which frees up our commissioned officers to fight violent crime. Just last week, we added 19 more PSTs to our force, bringing the total number up to roughly 100.

Remember, we had zero PSTs this time three years ago.

Enjoy the River Garden: Great things aren’t just in the plans for our riverfront, they’re part of our present! Last week, we cut the ribbon on the River Garden, a brand new activation of Mississippi River Park. (That’s the one on Riverside Drive, below the bluff, just south of the Tennessee Welcome Center.)

The weather looks nice tomorrow, so I encourage you to come Downtown and check it out.

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