671 Jefferson Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee 38105
Victorian Village Inc. Community Development Corporation
Incorporated in 2006, Victorian Village Inc. Community Development Corporation (VVI) has quickly grown into an advocacy group that works for economic development, heritage tourism, preservation, crime prevention, and social justice in our small, ten-square block area. This historic neighborhood, now a part of downtown Memphis but originally the premiere 19th century suburb, is unique to this region. Once an elite residential location, the area experienced the slash and burn practices of urban renewal, unsympathetic zoning, and an increase in crime. Until this organization was formed, Victorian Village Historic District did not have a unified voice for change on the local or national level. Our goal is to create a stable, residential and mixed-use neighborhood that underpins the Medical Center District.
VVI consists of 17 board members and nine advisory members that represent all of the stakeholders in the neighborhood, as well as other civic-minded citizens from Shelby County.
The Corporation has a salaried Executive Director, as well as an administrator and communications manager who contract on an hourly basis – approximately 20 hours per week. Our physical boundaries are Poplar Avenue, Danny Thomas, Madison Ave, and Manassas, however, due to the one-of-a-kind collection of 19th century landmarks and museums, we serve a much larger community base for the benefit of all citizens in the Mid-South and tourists throughout the world. Our business plan is two-fold: To build a mixed-use residential community that supports the new Memphis Medical Center and to promote cultural heritage tourism for the benefit of the City of Memphis.
Victorian Village Inc. exists to create a vibrant and diverse urban neighborhood that treasures our architectural heritage and builds a community that is safe, clean and prosperous.
U of M architecture students make presentations on Victorian Village neighborhood redesign projects in the Lee House.
Visitors listen to an Ambassador Tour Guide on the steps of the Woodruff-Fontaine House.
Victorian Village is in the Renewal Community Census Track #35 and is designated a Federal Urban Renewal Area. We are also among the neighborhoods recognized by HCD for priority funding. In 2008 we were recognized by the White House as a Preserve America Neighborhood. This neighborhood, according to the Fall 2010 estimate by Decision Data Resources, is 72.9% African American, 37% unemployed, and 84.6% renters.
Our CDC is unique in that the Board of Directors represents all of the stakeholder organizations in the neighborhood. The Board reflects the diversity of our community: 25% African American, 25% female, and 25% gay/lesbian.We have been ranked at the highest level possible by the Community Assessment Tool, administered by the Memphis Community Development Council and U of M, as a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. The well-run committee structure recommends action to the full Board that, in turn, directs the staff on a policy level. For example, the Heritage Tourism Committee is headed by the Vice President of the Airport Authority, and includes U of M professor who created the Ambassador Tour Guide Program and the sales manager of Sweet Magnolia Tours. The two primary projects from the committee now in implementation by the staff are Original Memphis www.originalmemphis.org and the Ambassador Program. Both are multi-year programs.
Ambassador Tour Guide Employment Program – This program was conceived to reach the underserved rental residents of Victorian Village who live in low-income Memphis Housing Authority apartments. Pride of place and respect for our neighbors can only come from us knowing one another as individuals, and working from a place where we each can contribute what we can. VVI and its partners conceived a plan to engage, educate, enrich, and empower our neighborhood residents, and created a model for other neighborhoods throughout the country.
Training was funded by a Strengthening Communities grant from the University of Memphis (2009-2010). Six students completed the 14-week course given by Professor Randle Witherington, Department of Architecture/Design. In March 2011 we hired five tour guides with funds from a Strategic Community Investment Fund (SCIF) grant and the Durham Foundation. Five days per week, part-time Ambassadors walk a four-block area north and south of Adams Avenue, telling visitors about the neighborhood’s history and attractions. Their salaries, equipment and administration are funded by the grants. Total project cost for two and a half years is $60,000.
Morris Park Master Plan – This city park at the corner of Poplar and Manassas is the gateway to downtown and gives a poor impression of the neighborhood. Crime incident reports show a number of drug and prostitution arrests. With the major expansion of Le Bonheur, all of the stakeholders agree the park should have a new purpose. In 2010, private matching funds were raised to meet Mayor Wharton’s pledge of $35,000. Funding partners are Le Bonheur and The Urban Child Institute; Memphis Medical Center, Housing and Community Development, St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, and VVI. The contract between the city and the landscape architect/urban planning team is in process. Total project cost is $65,000.
Adaptive Re-use of the Lee House – The historic Lee House, c. 1847, is listed in the Library of Congress and has stood empty for over 50 years. Owned by the City, it has been mired in legal deed restrictions and has become a blighted liability. Over the past two years, VVI has worked to have the City Council and the Center City Development Corporation put the Lee House up for sale and adaptive reuse. VVI drafted a Request For Proposal to identify a buyer that can restore the property as a residence, office, school, or appropriate retail business.
VVI conducts a volunteer clean-up of the Lee House prior to its for sale listing.
Participants included staff from Memphis City Beautiful and VVI supporters.
Heritage Tourism Initiative – Victorian Village is home to the most important architectural treasures of our city, yet has been left behind as an attraction. Our strategic marketing plan, funded by the Assisi Foundation, revealed a need for an overarching heritage tourism initiative. To promote Victorian Village and other attractions of historical significance, we developed www.originalmemphis.org. When formally launched, it will include museums, historic neighborhoods, guided and self guided tour sources, and many places uniquely Memphis. VVI will seek support of larger attractions and charge for-profit businesses for listings.
Apart from the neighbors, the major stakeholders are Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center, The Urban Child Institute, St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Collins Chapel CME Church, the Memphis Medical Center, Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County, and the Association for the Preservation for Tennessee Antiquities (APTA). All four resident home owners (yes, only four) are also part of VVI.
VVI is a member of the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis. They provide guidance on policies and procedures, and are an advocate for the City’s CDCs.
Juvenile Court Centennial and Victorian Village Homecoming
Early in 2010, Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County asked VVI to partner with them on a centennial celebration. VVI planned and managed three days of activities from September 30 through October 2, 2010. On Thursday, a public ceremony recognizing the accomplishments of Juvenile Court was held on the courthouse steps. An invitation-only fundraiser followed under a 70 ft. tent with two stages featuring local high school bands and choirs, catered refreshments, and the debut of a 30-minutes documentary on the Court.
Channel 5 news anchor Joe Birch starts the Free neighborhood picnic in the tent used for the
Right Road Run in front of Juvenile Court. 3-day Juvenile Court Centennial Celebration.
On Friday, an all-day Continuing Legal Education class utilized the tent for their lunch and entertainment. VVI registered and received payment from all attendees. Saturday kicked off with the Right Road 5K Run, followed by a free neighborhood picnic, music, and street tours of the historic homes.
Grant from the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution
The local Regent of the National DAR asked VVI to apply for a grant to benefit the Mallory-Neely House. This home, once donated to the DAR, is now managed by the Pink Palace Museum. It was closed in 2005 due to budget cuts and never reopened. The City of Memphis hired a manager in 2010, but progress is slow to reopen it for tours. VVI wrote and received this grant to produce a short film on the Mallory-Neely House which will be used for a web-based neighborhood walking tour. VVI included the Woodruff-Fontaine House in the grant request of $10,000. The films will be produced in the next nine months.
The Legacy Project
In 2007, local filmmaker Willy Bearden initiated what he called the Legacy Project. Because he uses images already in the public domain for documentaries and books, he wanted to be sure that there will be images of today’s Mid-South region for future documentarians. He began his photographic and video survey in Victorian Village and used many images in the documentary, The View From Adams Avenue: 19th Century Memphis. VVI has agreed to bring the Legacy Project under its Heritage Tourism Initiative in order to raise awareness and funding for continued image collection and archiving.
Second Annual Right Road Run, 4-Miler, and Victorian Village Home Tour 2011
Juvenile Court wishes to continue the tradition started in 2010 at their centennial, so October 22 will mark the second annual Right Road Run, a four-mile race this time. At the conclusion of the awards ceremony the Victorian Village Home Tour will open at 11 a.m. and go until 3 p.m. Twelve sites will be included on the tour, involving neighborhood stakeholders, volunteers and sponsors.
The Mallory-Neely House was a popular stop Eldridge Wright, resident and champion of saving the
on the Victorian Village Home Tour 2007. Neighborhood during 1960s urban renewal, accepts the
first Preservation Award from Scott Blake in 2007.
Reopening of Mallory-Neely and Magevney House MuseumsVVI has made the reopening of Mallory-Neely and Magevney Houses a priority. City of Memphis Mayor Wharton has been our ally in this cause. Since 2010, an Historic Properties Manager has been working towards this end. We continue to represent many of the interested parties, including the Mallory family and the local DAR organizations, to keep the attention on this issue. Once the homes are open to the public, we will promote them as a part of what Victorian Village has to offer.
Home-schooled students volunteer at Victorian Village events as reinactors.
The Mallory-Neely House and lawn are perfect backdrops for the documentary film debut in May 2008.