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New Heights for Highland

University District is next target of migrating MEMFix neighborhood festival.

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On Saturday, April 13th, the University of Memphis-area neighborhood around Highland and Walker will get a temporary facelift during the daylong MEMFix festival.

After the Mayor's Innovation Delivery Team held a successful debut MEMFix event along Cleveland Avenue in Crosstown last fall, University Neighborhood Development Corporation (UNDC) community redevelopment liaison Leah Dawkins wanted to bring MEMFix from Midtown to the University District.

"I saw what they were able to do in Crosstown, and I wanted to do a similar event that addressed specific issues in our community," Dawkins said.

Inspired by the "Build a Better Block" campaign that started in Oak Cliff, Texas, MEMFix uses low-budget solutions and pop-up shops to re-imagine neighborhoods and encourage economic growth.

"A big part of MEMFix is looking for things that can be put in place that are relatively inexpensive solutions," Dawkins said. "We try to figure out what is the most obvious fix: things that make a big impact but don't cost a huge amount of money."

While the area around Highland and Walker hasn't experienced the same degree of urban decay that Crosstown has, Dawkins said the UNDC has found that a lack of pedestrian access to existing shops along Highland could be responsible for an economic slump.

"Sometimes when you stand on Highland, it's like you're standing on a freeway," Dawkins said. "We're going to be installing temporary crosswalks at Highland and Walker and Mynders and Walker to try to encourage more foot traffic."

In addition to the crosswalks, the MEMFix event at Highland and Walker will also feature a bike valet, a local artists' market, pop-up shops featuring more than 25 vendors, games for children, a beer garden, and live music from more than 15 bands.

The Mayor's Innovation Delivery Team, which has been tasked with boosting economic development in certain neighborhoods, uses the MEXFix campaign as part of its overall strategy, and the Crosstown festival was their kick-off event.

But since the University District wasn't originally a target neighborhood for the Innovation Delivery Team's campaign, this MEMFix event won't receive money from the city. But Tommy Pacello, project manager for the Mayor's Innovation Delivery Team, said they were willing to offer advice and the MEMFix logo to the UNDC.

"We were approached by the University District, and they said they wanted to replicate what we did at Crosstown in their neighborhood, so we shared our model with them," Pacello said. "We had a small budget to help with the Cleveland Street model, but we are not involved financially in the Highland and Walker Avenue project. The businesses and the UNDC raised the money for the temporary infrastructure, the money needed to pay bands, receive permits, and everything else."

Pacello said city-funded MEMFix events for South Memphis and Binghampton are still in the planning stages.

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