The University Neighborhood Development Corporation (UNDC) has been working with Looney Ricks Kiss, Kimley-Horn, Malasri Engineering and Alta Planning and Design for several months redesigning the Highland strip to make the area more pedestrian friendly and to connect the surrounding neighborhoods.
Cody Fletcher, executive director of the UNDC, said in a press release the project will benefit students and the surrounding community.
“Everything that we do has a common goal of promoting economic inclusion, shared prosperity and student success,” Fletcher said. “This project furthers those goals and will serve as a catalyst to bring more students, visitors and businesses to the university district.”
Jonathan Flynt, an associate at Looney Ricks Kiss, presented the new design to the community in a meeting held at the University of Memphis Research Foundation Research Park.
“We know there’s a lot of good things happening on Highland, but we also know there are some gaps and issues to address,” Flynt said. “We took all of that into account when creating the design.”
Flynt said the new design aims to slow traffic, improve sidewalks, incorporate public art and improve the railroad crossing to make walking easier and more enjoyable for pedestrians.
“Instead of Highland being a division, it unifies two sides of the street,” Flynt said. “This plan is still flexible enough to where we can incorporate a lot of these ideas on an opportunity basis.”
Flynt said the main objective of the project is to connect Highland Street to the community.
“If we aren’t bridging these neighborhoods, we aren’t using our full potential,” Flynt said.
Turner Schneider, a sophomore at the UofM, sawwid the new design for the Highland Strip will benefit campus and local businesses.
“I think it’s going to benefit the businesses because more customers are going to go there and see how nice it looks,” Schneider said. “There will also be more support and moral for the students that go to Memphis.”
Schneider said the project will help bring more students to the UofM because the Highland Strip is the go to spot for students. He also said once a prospective student sees how nice the area has become they might decide to attend the UofM.
Brock Moore, a freshman at the UofM, said the new construction will effect traffic more so than business.
“I think construction will slow people down while they’re on their way to work,” Moore said. “I don’t know if it will really affect them (businesses) that much, but I guess it will be better when it’s all done.”
Kaitlynne Scusselle, a graduate student at the UofM, said the project will make walking more convenient for pedestrians, but construction may cause a problem.
“I think it’ll make it easier especially if there is a pedestrian bridge,” Scusselle said. “If they are doing any major construction, then that might annoy a fair amount of people if you can’t use the sidewalks.”
Scusselle also said the project will not really connect with the community as well as it will with students.
“The Highland strip is more for the students that live in the area, but not really families, so it depends on how well it goes,” Scusselle said.