FIGHTING FOR A CLEANER, MORE BEAUTIFUL DOWNTOWN
This initiative was launched in 2020 and was the first of it's kind for the DNA. The goal? Simple: give residents and businesses a resource to help eliminate blight in their community. Illegal dumping? Trash on the roads? Blighted lots or properties in your community? The Fight the Blight initiative can help! Simply fill out the form below. Be sure to include the address or location of the concern in the "message" box. If you wish, you can also send a photo of it to our email at email@example.com.
THE STORY BEHIND THE INITIATIVE
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“Help as many as you can as much as you can for as long as you can.”
That credo is one Jerred Price holds near and dear. And it’s the driving force behind an initiative he helped bring to fruition at a time when his community needed it most. A time when downtown Memphis could use some sprucing up and a time when a sizable portion of the downtown workforce was suddenly without jobs.
That’s when Price introduced the non-profit “Fight The Blight” campaign – an effort to combat illegal dumping and rid the downtown area of overgrown and derelict properties. Launched shortly after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, Price partnered with Two Broke Bartenders – a band of approximately 24 suddenly-in-need-of-work service industry employees specializing in a wide range of home services.
“All the stars aligned, I guess you could say,” said Price, commissioner of Memphis City Beautiful, who was elected president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association in February. “I wanted the Association to step up and actually be an effective piece of the community that can really implement real change by utilizing all the connections that all of us have. So, brainstorming it in the middle of COVID, you have all these people who’ve lost work or lost hours.
Taylor Berger – operating partner of the company that owns Loflin Yard, Railgarten, Rec Room and Bounty on Broad – founded Two Broke Bartenders the day after his businesses temporarily closed their doors in March. In the early days, he and his crew were mainly running errands for those sheltering in place. But within a couple of weeks, residents were seeking help with yardwork, carpentry, pressure washing and handyman jobs. Now, Two Broke Bartenders has secured its general contractor’s license and surpassed 3,000 completed work orders on everything from moving services to commercial renovation projects.
But, when Price approached Berger with his “Fight The Blight” pitch, it was a no-brainer.
“These properties have fallen through the cracks,” said Berger, a 1998 Christian Brothers High graduate, who attended Rhodes College before earning his law degree from the University of Memphis in 2007. “They’re pretty much privately owned or else the city would be getting to them. The landlords are just MIA. The neighbors can’t do anything. They’re dealing with pests. It looks terrible. They probably attract crime. They definitely attract trash. Whenever we show up, (the neighbors) come out hooping and hollering, giving us all sorts of support.
The program does not operate without some constraints, however, according to Price. He said the primary struggle so far has been generating awareness that it exists. Beyond that, though, are the financial parameters “Fight The Blight” currently has to work within.
“We have to realize we’re an association with a budget,” said Price, who was born in Alaska and raised in Arkansas before moving to Memphis. “So, sponsorships are very important. We’ve cleaned up several properties. But if we had more funding, we could do more.”
Even as all of his restaurants and bars have reopened, Berger intends to keep Two Broke Bartenders rolling. The company recently became accredited by the Better Business Bureau and, in May, expanded to Nashville and Chattanooga. He hopes to help Price continue making progress for the greater good in downtown Memphis.
“We’re all in for the long haul with it,” Berger said. “Me and all the folks who work with us, we love it. I think a lot of them, and me, just have a different kind of sense of fulfillment from the work. It’s really gratifying and satisfying.”