Operation Crosstown Seeks To Improve Neighborhood 

Church Health Center initiative focuses on projects to improve Crosstown.

A Crosstown skate park? Or maybe a dog park? Farmer's market? Or a "banging wall" where people could pound out rhythms using found materials?

Those were just a few of the suggestions thrown out during the idea lab launch of Operation Crosstown during the Church Health Center's (CHC) "Rock for Love" block party last month. Guests of the event stopped inside the CHC's new Crosstown Shoppes property to write ideas on sticky notes and pin them to a wall.

After the event, the ideas were narrowed down to the doable (public art, pop-up classes) and the not-so-doable.

"Someone said they wanted a Trader Joe's in Crosstown, and that would be awesome. But that's not something the Church Health Center can do," said Jerica Sandifer, development assistant for CHC.

The ideas that seemed like they might work were then uploaded to ioby.org's Create Memphis website (memphis.ioby.org), which allows users to "like" favorites. The CHC is hoping to turn those projects that get the most "likes" into reality.

The CHC is one of the founding partners in the Crosstown Development Project, which is currently underway to transform the vacant, 1.4-million square-foot Sears Crosstown building into a "vertical urban village" of health-care, education, and arts organizations, as well as apartments and retail.

"The CHC was one of the early adapters of our mission [to renovate the Sears building]," said Gayla Burks, director of partnerships and research for the Crosstown Development Project. "And they know this is not just about the building but about helping the community and building up what's around the building."

Pre-construction work on the Crosstown building began a couple months ago, and the renovations won't be complete until 2016. But Sandifer said Operation Crosstown is a way for the CHC to get involved in the neighborhood before they officially relocate all their offices into the building.

For its first project, Operation Crosstown will be installing aluminum trash cans along Cleveland.

"There is a lot of trash in certain parts of Crosstown, especially on North Cleveland. We're having neighborhood organizations and businesses adopt trash cans, and they'll be responsible for managing them," Sandifer said.

Operation Crosstown is currently accepting stencil-design ideas from local artists. Sandifer said they're really looking for designs that represent Crosstown. Ideas may be submitted to submissions.OC@gmail.com. Five stencils will be chosen, and on November 1st, volunteers will meet up at 420 N. Cleveland to spray-paint the designs onto the cans.

Sandifer said they have a goal of completing one project per month, and they'll select the projects that get the most support on the ioby website.

"We're hoping to start small and then do some bigger projects," Sandifer said. "We may move on to public art or a pop-up health clinic or class. It just depends on what people in Crosstown want based on their input on the ioby site."

CHC is partnering with various Crosstown-area neighborhood groups such as the Vollintine-Evergreen Community Association and the Klondike-Smokey City Community Development Corporation.

"And we're trying to get neighborhood businesses involved so this is truly a community effort foreshadowing our presence in the Sears building," Sandifer said. "We want to collaborate with them so we're all on the same page about what the neighborhood should look like."


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