Evergreen Zoning Research

The last few days I have been working on documents in the Evergreen Historic District Association collection dealing with zoning issues.  The majority of the documents I have been working on come from the late 1970’s to the late 1980’s and into the early 90’s.  This is not during the acknowledged time period of the Civil Rights Movement but rather this can be seen as the aftermath of said movement.  It is interesting to see how the neighborhood association fought well into the 1990’s and still today to keep their neighborhood a high-class residential area of Midtown. 

Many things can be inferred by this struggle to keep their neighborhood the way it had been for almost a century.  For instance, neighborhood leaders fought to keep a majority of the neighborhood zoned for single-family dwellings in order to keep out people of a lower socio-economic status, most likely this was aimed at African Americans.  By fighting against multi-family dwelling zoning they were attempting to legally keep out those they felt would bring down the value of the neighborhood.  As time passed on many zoning regions were overturned into multi-family dwellings, but a core of streets right around Overton Park were able to maintain their single-family status.  Much of this changed with the construction and attempted completion of Interstate 40 through the Evergreen neighborhood.  Another way the leaders of the Evergreen District fought to maintain their neighborhood’s status was fighting the construction off businesses inside the neighborhood whether it be restaurants like Hardee’s or office buildings within old residential buildings.  This can be seen as a way to keep unwanted traffic through their neighborhood, but it can also be inferred that the leaders did not want these businesses present because they would attract people of lower status that would bring down the value or status of the highly esteemed Evergreen community.

In 1970 much of Evergreen was done-zoned to single-family dwellings.  This could be seen as a reaction to the many victories that African American citizens obtained in the 60’s, because this rezoning was another instance of people of lower status being removed from an area and made into outsiders. These laws were subject to change and did very often through appeals and special circumstances, so Evergreen did not stay entirely single-family for very long. The rezoning and down-zoning of the Evergreen district happened often and the leaders of the neighborhood were constantly fighting in this aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement to keep their neighborhood the way it had been since the turn of the century and keep others out. In many instances throughout the 1980’s the Evergreen leaders were working to “purify” their neighborhood by convincing city council to change already existing multi-family zoning into single-family zoning.  This change would have put many residents of lower status out of their homes. The constant struggle dealing with zoning that involved the Memphis City Council, the Evergreen Historic District Association, land developers, and citizens of both high and low socio-economic status has defined the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement in the Evergreen District.

-Bradley, Purple Team

Published in: on June 18, 2009 at 12:59 pm  Comments Off on Evergreen Zoning Research  
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