Last night, the Memphis Regional Design Center's (MRDC) board of directors voted to reorganize the five-year-old, non-profit, urban design and planning organization. That reorganization meant letting go of founding director Chooch Pickard.
MRDC board chair Bill Ferguson said the board is looking to hire a new director with management and fundraising skills, rather than someone who is more interested in the urban design and planning aspect.
"It was suggested that we need someone to manage, not someone who went to school for urban design, and all the administrative paperwork drives them crazy," Ferguson said. "We need someone who likes to network and get partnerships, someone who is always thinking about fundraising."
People with an urban design background would continue to work for the organization, but the director would take on more of a managerial role.
The board approved a six-month contract for Jeff Sanford, former executive director of the Center City Commission (now known as the Downtown Memphis Commission), to serve as interim director. He will be tasked with keeping the organization running while heading a search for a permanent executive director.
As for Pickard, he's currently seeking out new opportunities in the fields of architecture, historic preservation or urban design.
"I've enjoyed my time there, and I learned a lot. I met great people, and I plan to stay involved with the community in whatever I do in the future," Pickard said.
The mission and vision of MRDC, to make Memphis the most livable city in country while increasing vitality and economic stability through urban design and planning, will remain the same. MRDC's accomplishments include the establishment of the Midtown Overlay (which protects Midtown's historic character in new development projects), the founding of the South Memphis Farmers Market and that community's renaissance, leading public discussions about the future of Overton Square, and the restoration of the Broad Avenue Arts District.