The Beacon Newsletter

About the Beacon

The Beacon is our bi-monthly newsletter where we update you on the latest news and developments with CRA’s projects. Below are snippets of the lead articles and links to download the full issue.

Volume 1, Issue 8

Lead Article: HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION 299 Chelsea Ave.

There is a special church in the Uptown TIF District, “The Brick Church” at the corner of Chelsea between 6th and 7th street. While the space is a community landmark, it has been vacant for 20+ years and hasn’t touted the reputation that most would hope for a church building. Neighbors referred to it as “an eye sore, filled with trash and clutter.” When the CRA acquired the space, the inside was just as unsightly if not worse than the outside of the building.

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Also in this issue:

  • North Memphis Pastor leads the charge for a new fresh food distribution center intended for 1092 N. Manassas
  • Be The Light: Kney Street Tranquility Park
  • North Memphis Greenline

Volume 1, Issue 7

Lead Article: BLOCK BY BLOCK

The Block Wellness Program is CRA’s street by street and block by block approach to addressing infrastructure, overgrowth and safety needs in the TIF District. Each month 5 companies clean the entire Uptown TIF District, that is 102 streets. Every quarter the CRA gives special attention to a few streets in dire need. Most recently both Leath Street and Leon Place.

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Also in this issue:

  • Big Changes Ahead for Morris Park
  • Grind City Cyclist Club Breast Cancer Ride
  • Meet Our New Team Member

Volume 1, Issue 6

Lead Article: We’ve Moved! CRA Makes a New Home.

The CRA has a new home right in the heart of North Memphis. We have moved into the Gould Cottage on the Historic Porter Leath campus. Established in 1850 and built in 1854, the campus was the first safe haven for widows and orphans in the Memphis area.  For 160 years, Porter Leath has served children through family disruptors like the Civil War and Yellow Fever or modern circumstantial and socioeconomic issues. This space remains a healing balm to the community and the CRA seeks to carry on the legacy of the land by coming alongside neighbors to elevate their voice and execute a communal vision.

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Also in this issue:

  • Upgrades to the sewer, storm, and electrical infrastructure
  • Black Seeds Urban Farm now open in Uptown
  • Malone Park Commons now open

Volume 1, Issue 5

Lead Article: Lighthouse Keepers

Google The Office@Uptown and you’ll find a perfect 5-star rating. That could be because of their famous Ooey-Gooey Butter Cake. Or, maybe it is because of the entrees named after communities like the Scutterfield Club Salad, Bearwater Roast Beef, or the Smokey City Melt. These dishes served patrons the fondest nostalgia of the neighborhoods that raised them. But, most likely, the rating is a mixture of tasty food, a great location and unforgettable people.

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Also in this issue:

  • More about the North Memphis Greenline Connector and Park
  • Man on Fire: Octavius Nickson, Co-Founder of Nickson General Contractors

Volume 1, Issue 3

Lead Article: Goodness Brewing in Bearwater

Not many 15-year-olds lay awake thinking about opening their own brewery, but Hopper Seely did. His father, Bill Seely, introduced the craft to him as a way to spend quality time together. Bill was unwittingly cultivating a deep passion within Hopper that would one day become Grind City Brewing Company. The father and son duo opened the brewery in the Bearwater community this past fall and business has been booming ever since. Some loosely call the neighborhood Uptown (just across the street from Washington Park), but a true North Memphian will proudly let you know, this is Bearwater!

When Hopper began looking for spaces to build this lifelong dream, he hoped for a location that placed him on the border of need and influence. He wanted to be immersed in a neighborhood he could serve while also engaging with the massive growth and development occurring in Downtown Memphis.

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Also in this issue:

  • Own the Land, part 1 of our docuseries at Grind City Brewing Company
  • CRA funds Habitat for Humanity homes in Memphis

Volume 1, Issue 2

Lead Article: Let’s Do Something Big

Take a stroll or drive through North Memphis and you’ll likely see a new Habitat for Humanity home going up. We sat down with Habitat’s CEO and President, Dwayne Spencer (pictured left) to chat about one of our most vital partnerships. “Some people think we build little houses and give them to people for free, but that’s not true.” Habitat removes the barriers in homeownership so that more people can enjoy a decent place to live. “We do this work all over the city, but our partnership with CRA provides the funding Habitat needs to go beyond building affordable homes. We can now strategically invest in the longevity of North Memphis.”

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Also in this issue:

  • Black Seeds: A New Urban Farm Coming to Uptown
  • Celebrating Ms. Mary Wainwright, a proud resident of Smokey City
  • A walk in Bearwater with long-time resident Glen Lloyd

Volume 1, Issue 1

Lead Article: Born by the River, a North Memphis History

In its earliest days, the community slightly North and East of the Mississippi River was bustling with new life and industry. A cotton-based economy previously built on slave trade was transforming in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. People from all over the world, namely Ireland, Italy, and Germany, immigrated to Memphis to build lives and a strong future for their families. They worked for local companies and the area was more diverse and industrious than ever.

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Also in this issue:

  • How can a community recover from massive disinvestment
  • How TIF works and why it’s great news
  • About the CRA Staff members

Note from Erin Cole, Editor

Erin is a writer, performer, host, and event producer. A Memphis native, Cole grew to appreciate the beauty in her city through experiencing the culture and people in other places. She says, “In all of the world, there is not a group of people like Memphians. At our best we are painfully honest and wildly courageous with astonishing perseverance.” Cole gained a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a Minor in Theatre from the University of Missouri- Columbia. Her work to activate civic spaces and transform communities in Memphis through the arts connected her with CRA. “The arts are a gold mine in connecting an individual’s heart to a movement.” Cole says she enjoys seeing people “come alive” to a new way of thinking and living. She’s excited about telling resident’s stories in a way that invites others to engage and invest in the longevity of their community.  “It’s easy to see everything that’s wrong in a neighborhood, but in my short time with CRA, I’ve met at least a dozen community builders who are pouring out their lives for this district.” Cole believes there are hundreds of stories to tell. “I look forward to archiving what’s being done so that future generations understand the sacrifices cemented in the grounds they walk.” If CRA accomplishes its objectives over the next 30 years, the Uptown and Binghamptom TIF districts could become models for similar communities around the country. Like CRA President Rosalyn Willis said, “This is sacred work,” and the impact will never be adequately quantified. But, in these newsletters, Cole plans to give readers a glimpse into the lives of those who have embodied the change they want to see.

To share a story about a neighbor who is making a difference in the Uptown TIF district, please email Erin at

Erin Cole

Editor of “The Beacon”