In March, a survey of people living in the Vance Avenue area revealed residents hoped for a cleaner, safer, and more active community. In response, the Vance Avenue Collaborative is working to make the neighborhood — a poverty-stricken area where vacant and abandoned lots make up the majority of the land and less than half of adult residents have high school diplomas — a vibrant cultural center.
Residents of the neighborhood, bounded by Crump Boulevard, Third Street, Beale Street, and East Street, decided their initial plans would be to create a homeless service center, start a minority youth entrepreneurship initiative, and focus on the area’s musical history.
The meeting was led by University of Memphis faculty Ken Reardon and Katherine Lambert-Pennington. Both stressed the importance of relying on local resources and ideas to combat the area’s challenges.
“We have many young men and women in this community who have extraordinary energy, creativity, and a commitment to redevelopment in this city,” Reardon said.
Overall, the Vance Avenue Collaborative identified more than 50 projects it would ultimately like to do to improve public health and safety, education, social services, economic development, housing, and public transportation.
Various community programs have already been put in place to work on those issues. The collaborative has established a successful community garden near Linden and Lauderdale. MIFA has plans to create a program called Promise Neighborhood, based on New York’s Harlem Children’s Zone, that will provide mentoring to area children.
“There are a lot of people thinking about the problems in this community and how to reimagine it,” Lambert-Pennington said, “and those resources are out there to make it happen.”