MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Downtown Memphis Commission hopes a new grant opportunity will encourage commercial property owners to make needed repairs to sidewalks.
According to city documents, an estimated 80-95% of sidewalks all throughout the city need to be fixed.
“Horrible. That’s the best thing I can say about the sidewalks," Memphis Center for Independent Living Executive Director Sandi Klink said about the current state of sidewalks.
The price tag to fix it all would cost $1.1 billion, but a city ordinance requires businesses and homeowners to repair property sidewalks.
The Downtown Memphis Commissions is offering a grant to businesses to help cover half of the costs of sidewalk repairs up to $5,000.
“A walkable downtown is more vibrant," Brett Roler, Downtown Memphis Commission Vice President of Planning & Development, said. "A walkable downtown is safer and it’s also more effective in attracting the kind of investment that we want to do to grow a downtown for everybody.”
Roler said there's $50,000 available for commercial property owners, and priority will be given to areas where travel is the busiest.
“We’re going to focus on high-impact improvements," Roler said. "We’re going to look at areas that are otherwise vibrant and walkable and try to repair those missing teeth in the smile. Those sidewalks that are in just so bad of condition and everything else around it is in pretty good and vibrant.”
Klink said the busted sidewalks means people that use wheelchairs have have to use streets instead of sidewalks.
"If the sidewalks aren’t real good, then you’re kind of putting your life in your hands," she said.
She encourages businesses do their part in making the city safer.
“Please do it," she said. "If you have the opportunity, this is a civil right that people with disabilities are celebrating the 31st anniversary of Americans Disabilities Act this week and our rights are as important as anyone else’s.”
Roler reminds businesses sidewalk repairs have to be done. That's why they're trying to make it more affordable for owners.
"It’s a requirement.," he said. "We’re going to be clear with people that this is a way of helping them meet the city ordinance and being in compliance.”