Sustainable Great Places Go Hand-in-Hand

Sutton Mora Hayes, Executive Director
Cooper-Young Development Corporation

I am often asked if our developments are sustainable. We build homes for low- and moderate-income families in Midtown and they should be sustainable, they tell me. People know the words “sustainable” and “green” now, and they ask the question to prove that they have heard of the concept, but also to hold me accountable for a concept that I am not sure many entirely understand at first glance. I know I did not understand it before I was able to research it through projects like Sustainable Shelby. Not that I am any kind of expert now. But I do have an understanding for what it is and what it can be, and I happily tell people that my work is sustainable. It may not involve solar panels or wind turbines, but it is sustainable. In my line of work, sustainability is the key to building great places. It means growing and protecting what you have. It means investing in the existing people, infrastructure, and neighborhoods of Memphis. It means infill development. To me, infill is the ultimate sustainable development. We reuse land and buildings that already have sewer and water lines that are easily tapped. Electricity and gas are easy to connect. The streets to the sites are already built, and the neighborhoods and neighbors are already there. Everything is already connected, and connection is what makes great places great. Reinvesting in neighborhoods that are already built saves time, money, and resources; none of which we have in abundance now. Sustainable Shelby recognizes the need for infill development and targeted investment, and that is so important to the continued revitalization of Memphis and Shelby County.