Creating Vital Connections
Memphis Medical District Collaborative
Building an unexpected coalition of leaders to revitalize a Memphis neighborhood.
U3’s ongoing engagement with the Memphis Medical District began in 2014, when we were asked by the Hyde Family Foundations to study the impact of eight major institutions located in the Memphis Medical District: Baptist College of Health Sciences, Memphis Bioworks Foundation, Methodist/LeBonheur, Regional One Health, Southern College of Optometry, Southwest Tennessee Community College, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital/ALSAC, and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
Our analysis revealed that, despite their prominence in the neighborhood, there was a disconnect between these anchor institutions and the surrounding community. Less than three percent of all institutional employees and six percent of all students lived in the District. Their cumulative investment in the neighborhood totaled only four percent of their $1.2 billion total purchasing power. And, critically, they were not realizing the transformative potential of their total 250 acres of property.
These numbers told the whole story about the underutilized medical district. U3 saw the potential to tell a new story – a story about how these eight anchor institutions, who often viewed one another as competitors, could work together and leverage their economic power to revitalize a neighborhood and inspire a community.
After our initial analysis, we developed and implemented a three-part strategic plan for increasing institutional investment and involvement in the area. To create a more vibrant neighborhood, we identified key urban nodes and historic buildings that could serve as catalysts for redevelopment.
To increase investment in the area, we launched an anchor strategy focused around “Live Local, Buy Local, Hire Local” programs to provide housing incentives for institutional employees who reside in the district, and connect the institutions to local vendors and potential employees. Perhaps most importantly, we helped unite the CEOs of all eight anchor institutions with local philanthropists to form the Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC). This new non-profit community development organization bridges local talent and national expertise to support the revitalization efforts and ensure the entire community prospers.
Since 2016, the MMDC has been our primary collaborator, and our joint efforts have dramatically impacted the District. “Live Local, Buy Local, Hire Local” has attracted and retained 130 residents, increased local procurement spending by $22 million, and inspired more than 100 neighborhood job applicants to connect to employment opportunities at the anchors. The MMDC’s accomplishments include directing $11 million of investment, leveraging more than $300 million in real estate investments, engaging the community through a series of popular events and programs, and attracting 28 new businesses.
These outcomes met, and in some cases, surpassed our initial vision for the District. By every imaginable metric, the Memphis Medical District is a more vibrant, walkable, and safer neighborhood with an engaged community and the support to ensure that its success continues.