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Shovel Ready

Community organizations submit wish lists for federal economic stimulus funds.


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As President Barack Obama was campaigning last week for public support of his $825 billion stimulus package, Memphis-based community groups were planning what they'd like to do with some of that money if approved by Congress.

The stimulus package would provide both tax cuts and funding for "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects across the country. The projects should create thousands of new jobs, both temporary construction positions and long-term jobs at the newly built facilities.

City leaders have asked entities such as the Center City Commission, Memphis Bioworks, and multiple community development corporations (CDCs) to submit their wish lists for possible stimulus projects. Those lists were due last Friday, and if Obama's plan is approved, the mayor's office will determine which projects will be given priority.

"We've identified a long list of projects that we think would create jobs and start quickly," said Steve Bares, executive director of Memphis Bioworks Foundation, a nonprofit group attempting to expand bioscience research in Memphis. "I'm building a research park, and not only does that create construction jobs, but it attracts talent, researchers, and investment."

The $450 million research park has been in the pipeline for several years, but Bares hopes stimulus funds could supplement the group's private donations.

Emily Trenholm, executive director of the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis, collected project proposals from various local CDCs.

"We have a CDC in the Beltline area that submitted a proposal to make homes in that area more energy-efficient," Trenholm said. "And a CDC in Binghamton would like to use the money to purchase right-of-way along Sam Cooper Boulevard."

Other projects on Trenholm's list include a new day-care center in South Memphis and a new Habitat for Humanity subdivision in Southeast Memphis.

The Center City Commission is pushing for funds to create the Wolf River Greenway along the Wolf River harbor from the Pyramid to Levy Road.

Midtown Development Corporation president Sam Goff would like to see some stimulus funds used to improve Midtown streetscapes along Madison and Cooper. The group would also like to install benches in Belvedere Triangle Park near Madison and Belvedere, remove and regrade the "I-40/I-240 Mound" in the Crosstown neighborhood, and improve accessibility along Lick Creek Greenway, an overgrown path linking Overton Square to Overton Park.

"We want to make Midtown more livable and encourage more people to get out and bike and walk and be more green," Goff said. "These are all projects we've been planning for the future, but if we could get some of this stimulus package money and get the projects done now, that would be a marvelous thing."

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