The DNA recently had the opportunity to hear from Tommy Pacello, President of the Medical District Collaborative (MDC), about the good work happening in the medical district.
If you need a refresher, the Medical District is the area roughly bounded by Cleveland, Danny Thomas, North Parkway and Vance. The Medical District Collaborative is a nonprofit community development organization created by the leaders of eight major, as Pacello calls them, "anchor institutions" - businesses that have been in the area for decades and aren't going anywhere. These anchor institutions are:
- Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare
- University of Tennessee Health Science Center
- Baptist College of Health Sciences
- Southern College of Optometry
- Southwest Tennessee Community College
- Regional One Health
- St. Jude / ALSAC
- Bioworks Foundation
Collectively, these institutions employ 16K people and support 8K students in the area. They have a collective annual operating budget of $2.7B and capital expenditures of $2.5B! They own over 250 acres of property. With all this potential, the primary question the DMC wrestles with is, "Why does the medical district lack a cohesive sense of place?"
Broad, Midtown, and Downtown are all waking up and becoming vibrant, thriving neighborhoods, but the medical district has remained, in Pacello's words, "a donut hole you pass through." But it doesn't have to be that way according to our speaker - the medical district could be the vibrant lynchpin that connects downtown and midtown.
And that's the vision of the MDC. Pacello and his team are attempting to connect the dots of what's happening across the 8 campuses for the first time, and then fill in whatever gaps remain to build it into a vibrant neighborhood. It's complex work, and there's no silver bullet, but the MDC has created a 4-pronged strategy:
- Public Realm: Investments in "cleaning and greening" the area is a core place-making strategy. This will involve commissioning art, cleaning trash, and doing basic landscaping, for instance.
- Safety & Security: There are 8 security teams across the various campuses, plus an additional 3 police forces in the area. What is missing is communication and data sharing across these security forces.
- Program & Marketing: The MDC seeks to better market and promote the area. By hosting events and telling the story of the medical district in a compelling way, they hope to attract people to the area and encourage employees who are already there to linger longer after work.
- Community Development: Local businesses are vital to any neighborhood. The MDC strives to incubate local businesses that will serve the neighborhood. In addition, there are 110 acres of surface parking or vacant land in the medical district. The MDC hopes to unlock some of that, and promote real estate transactions that provide more housing. Currently, housing in the area is at 98% occupancy!
By coming together around a shared vision for the medical district, the eight anchor institutions have incredible opportunities for impact. "Live local. Buy local. Hire local" is their shared rallying cry. Check out Pacello's presentation for more information about planned investments and the 5 year implementation plan.