The Memphis Slim Collaboratory (Collaborative + Laboratory) is the first physical development of Community LIFT’s Memphis Music Magnet @ Soulsville USA plan, an economic and community development strategy for Soulsville. As one of the physical amenities included in the Memphis Music Magnet plan, the former home of the late Memphis Slim, an internationally renowned bluesman and pianist, has been transformed into a gathering place for musicians and music industry professionals to collaborate and create music.
As an extension of the Slim House, Community LIFT and partners transformed the blighted backyard into a pocket park that doubles as outdoor performance and community gathering space. The newly completed outdoor space will host music related programming and other events for the historic Soulsville USA neighborhood and the larger Memphis community.
Data collected from neighborhood door-to-door surveys conducted by the Soulsville Neighborhood Association reveal that that residents want to see more parks and public gathering spaces in the area. This backyard buildout at the Slim House fulfills the need for neighborhood access to green spaces and adds to the growing green space network in Memphis.
As part of the planning process Community LIFT invited neighborhood residents, community stakeholders and institutions to participate in a visioning session. Attendees were asked what type of amenities, programs and performances they would like to see at the outdoor space. They also sought to eliminate any obstacles that would prevent the community from using the space so also addressed issues related to accessibility.
The Soulsville Neighborhood Association, residents, community stakeholders and students from Department of Architecture at the University of Memphis participated backyard buildout. In one weekend the partners built an outdoor stage, rehabbed outdoor seating, and made significant landscape improvements.
Slim’s Backyard will become a neighborhood amenity as it will create a more vibrant community while improving access to food venues, recreational space and performance space to bring live music back to the historic Soulsville neighborhood. Activating vacant spaces in the neighborhood will provide recreational entertainment for residents and attract other individuals to the neighborhood. The additional foot traffic will create a stronger demand for eateries and other amenities that are currently not available in the immediate area.
Additionally, this project will be a catalyst for converting other blighted properties into pocket parks for the community to enjoy.