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City Begins 25-Square

May 15, 2012

Community Enhancement Deputy Director Onzie Horne

For the City of Memphis, it’s hip to be square.

Last year, the city began a pilot project to clean up the city – 25-square-blocks at a time.

Due to the success of that effort, the city has implemented the 25-Square strategy for neighborhood improvement going forward.

In the past, clean-up efforts were handled on a case-by-case basis. Citizens would call in with a problem property or code enforcement officers would see one; a crew would then be sent out to take care of it.

Under the more comprehensive and proactive 25-Square strategy, crews will work in predetermined “target zones” to mitigate grass and weed overgrowth, abandoned and dilapidated houses, litter and debris, impassable sidewalks, congested alleys, potholes, and vacant lots all at one time.

“This is the right strategy,” said Onzie Horne, deputy director for the city’s Community Enhancement division. “The idea of going into a neighborhood and cutting the vacant lots but leaving the abandoned houses doesn’t make sense.”

512 properties were mowed, trimmed, and cleared of debris; 378 weed violations were issued; … and perhaps most strikingly, 25 dump trucks loads of garbage, trash, and debris were removed.

The 25-Square crews actually began the season with a super clean-up in Orange Mound: 512 properties were mowed, trimmed, and cleared of debris; 378 weed violations were issued; 44 vacant houses were boarded and secured; 18 houses were demolished; and, perhaps most strikingly, 25 dump trucks loads of garbage, trash, and debris were removed.

The goal is to do 15 target areas or 365 square blocks – located across the city – each week.

Community Enhancement estimates that the comprehensive 25-Square strategy is 80 percent more efficient than the previous complaint-based system. The new strategy won’t result in cost savings for the city, but with unloading and loading, as well as travel time, drastically reduced under 25-Square, the city’s cost per unit has also dropped.

“We did 11 target areas last year,” said Horne, “but we were primarily focused on overgrowth and vacant lots. … The goal now is to mitigate blight of all types.”

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