As early as 1840, Memphians wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown living. Wooden bridges spanned Gayoso Bayou (now Danny Thomas Blvd) so the wealthy moved away from the center city and began building homes and churches in the area now bounded by Downtown, the Medical Center and St. Jude. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps from 1888 and 1922 show blocks and block of single family houses, many of which were converted to apartments in the early 20th century as the wealthy again moved eastward to the Parkways. Memphis’ greatest architectural treasures are found in this neighborhood, with over 26 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Sadly, many other important structures were demolished in the 1960’s during urban renewal. Jefferson Ave. was widen to 63 feet and many of the homes were bulldozed in the name of progress. Following the national trends of community building, true neighborhoods, alternative transportation and walk-ability, energy conservation, and Age-in-Place concepts, Village Werks ( a group formed by neighborhood residents) intend to restore a piece of this neighborhood. A related project driven by the Mayor’s administration and Kyle Wagenschutz plans to turn Jefferson Ave. into the major bike-pedestrian connector from the River to the Medical Center and beyond to Cleveland Street.
Ten years ago the Downtown Memphis Commission funded a master plan at the request of residents and institutional stakeholders to explore reviving the neighborhood. Urban planning firm Looney Ricks Kiss recommended building infill residential to support the medical center and downtown growth. This study was supported by the Knight Foundation findings, and most recently, the project announcement on the Innovation District from the Urban Land Fellowship. Victorian Village Inc. CDC was formed as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit in 2005 to advocate for, and drive this plan. Over the past seven years, Scott Blake has designed and built three new houses directly to the east in the same block. He lives in a c. 1868 townhouse on the corner of Jefferson and Hamlin. The project team includes Milestone Land Survey with engineering by Russell Norville, PE.
The new Planter’s Row subdivision will be a development of seven single family homes designed using the principals of Universal Design. Universal design is more than just following Americans with Disability guidelines. The principals deal with creating spaces that are barrier free for everyone, and are built to be adaptable to whatever your abilities and whatever your age. Design 500 Inc. has been designated the Master Planner on this project.