Patterson Resigns as President of Downtown Memphis Commission

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Terrence Patterson has resigned his post as president and CEO of the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC).

DMC board chairman Carl Person said Patterson is "leaving to pursue other opportunities."

"The DMC appreciates his service as well as his willingness to work with the organization at our request during its transition into new leadership,” Person said in a statement. "We believe the organization is in a great position to build on its positive momentum.”

Patterson will continue to serve in an advisory role to the DMC while board members work out the next steps to hire a full-time replacement.

Jennifer Oswalt, the DMC's chief financial officer, will serve as the group's interim president until a replacement is found.

In his resignation letter to the DMC board Thursday, Patterson said he was honored to serve in the role, especially as the first African American and youngest president and CEO of the DMC.

"I focused on the work and I’m really proud of that," Patterson said. "I love this city more than anything; that's why it's so great to go to work everyday. I had a chance to make an impact on one of our greatest communities — and all communities are great — but what Downtown Memphis means to every Memphian is powerful."

Patterson said he wasn't yet ready to discuss his future plans but said that he was "hopeful in the next few weeks that I'll be able to share what that is."

Patterson was selected for the post in September 2015 after a months-long hunt to replace former president Paul Morris. That hunt yielded more than 50 candidates.

During his term, Patterson scored numerous base hits with programs that brought energy back to the Downtown core, like pop-up shops and music programs. (See a list from Patterson below.) He was also part of the team that lured ServiceMaster Downtown where the company plans to establish its headquarters in the former Peabody Place mall building.

But Patterson recently found himself in the crosshairs of angry Memphis City Council members who believed the DMC”s Beale Street Bucks program was racist.

The DMC manages the street for the city and last year the group instituted a $10 entry fee there to control crowd sizes on some Saturday nights. The program came after two stampedes on Beale Street brought injuries and property damage. But some council members believed the fee unfairly targeted African Americans.

Some council members wanted the program ended. But after weeks of debate the council decided to reduce the fee to $5 until a task force on Beale Street security could devise new strategies.

But Patterson (who is African American) maintained during all those weeks of debate that race had noting to do with the Beale Street Bucks program. His assertion was backed by MPD director Michael Rallings (who is also African American). He said the program was “one of the only tools we found that actually works to help with overcrowding and reducing the stampedes and to increase safety.”

Patterson is a native Memphian, a Harvard University graduate with a Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University, where he also earned his law degree.

Before he was president of the DMC, he was the treasurer of the DMC's Center City Development Corp. committee and had worked with the DMC for many years. Previous to his job at the DMC, Patterson was the program director for education for the Hyde Family Foundation.

Patterson has worked with Walt Disney Co. as a financial analyst, practiced corporate law with Kirkland & Ellis, and he then served as the interim executive officer of new schools for the Chicago Public Schools system. He returned to Memphis in 2011 to work with Hyde.

"This guy loves Memphis; it's his hometown," Morris said when Patterson was selected in 2015. "He's lived in Los Angeles and Chicago and with his credentials, he could work anywhere in the world he wants to. He wants to make this place better and recognizes how important Downtown is to making Memphis better."

In his resignation letter to the DMC and its affiliate boards Thursday, Patterson said he was most proud of the following:

• Successful negotiation of a comprehensive DMC incentive package to help secure ServiceMaster headquarters (and 1,200 employees) in Downtown Memphis—the largest and first major headquarters since AutoZone over two decades ago

• Redesign and enhancement of the world famous Blue Suede Brigade program to feature 12 new full-time, livable wage Security and Hospitality Officers with extended street coverage, more mobility and longer hours

• Continued support for renovation of the historic Universal Life Insurance Building at Danny Thomas and MLK

• Beautiful rebrand of Downtown Memphis as “The Soul of the City”
• Installation of anti-blight public art along the Main Street Mall and in the Collaborative “Artery” at Barboro Alley

• Attracting formerly East Memphis-based Wunderlich Securities (110 employees) to replant their corporate headquarters in Downtown
• Successful leadership and facilitation of the installation of lights on the Harahan Bridge/Big River Crossing

• Development of core district activations, such as the Kids’ “Touch-a-Truck” Summer Event, Main Street Mall "The 101" and “Open on Main” pop-up shops, Farmers’ Market in Court Square Park, and Shelby County's largest Yoga Class on Fourth Bluff

• Active participation and collaboration with Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the newly created Memphis Medical District Collaborative, Memphis Brand Initiative, and Beale Street and Riverfront Task Forces.


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