Monday, May 4, 2009

Victorian Villagers to Become Guides

Posted By on Mon, May 4, 2009 at 11:47 AM

In Victorian Village, renters and guides may become one and the same.

The Victorian Village CDC was recently awarded an $18,000 grant for a program to teach rental residents about the neighborhood and then pay them as part-time tour guides.

The CDC's executive director, Scott Blake, calls it a win-win situation.

"Ninety-five percent of the people who live in Victorian Village are rental residents," Blake says. "It's hard for them to feel like they have a stake in the community. Unlike resident homeowners, they don't care about property values."

There are several Memphis Housing Authority (MHA) high-rises in the area, along with 24 National Historic Register sites within a four-block area.

"We created the program to take their residents, teach them about the history of the neighborhood, and in return, they become tour guides, like the Blue Suede Brigade downtown," Blake says. "They'll be out as walking guides and when bus tours pull up, they'll step onto the bus and talk about the neighborhood."

Not only will the guides be ambassadors to the neighborhood, they will also create a passive surveillance system of eyes and the street. And like the Blue Suede Brigade the group will wear uniforms, but organizers don't know yet what those will look like.

"Not hoop skirts," Blake says.

In partnership with MHA and the University of Memphis, the program will begin creating a course on the neighborhood's history within the next few months. They hope to begin classes by summer 2010.

The class will be open to anyone interested, but only residents will be able to become official neighborhood tour guides.

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