Planting trees alongside new development builds better neighborhoods

Last week, a reporter from the Memphis Commercial Appeal reached out to us about a city initiative to plant more than 1,000 trees in concert with a new uptown development project.

The Foundation is rarely involved in a specific project like that, but from our experience working with communities on urban forestry throughout the country — including the nearly 3,500 Tree City USAs — we are well equipped to speak to benefits of new trees.

The Memphis neighborhood is historic but currently underdeveloped, and city officials envision leafy streets and a strong community feel as homeowners settle over the next few decades. As reporter Tom Bailey Jr. points out, potential buyers are purchasing a neighborhood as a much as the home itself:

“Can we put a dollar value on what a tree does to a house?” said Carol Lott, president of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors. “Probably not. I don’t think we could add $500 or $1,000 per tree. But I just think it’s got an overall better curb appeal and a more mature feeling to a neighborhood.”

According to the article, landscape architecture firm Richie Smith Associates drew up the tree-planting blueprint, one of the largest in Memphis in the last 25 years. The new trees will be comprised of native species (including the northern red oak, pictured at right) that will minimize strain on sidewalks and city infrastructure.

The project also included pruning and maintaining the existing 550 neighborhood trees, with removal pursued where a young replacement makes more sense.

Bailey asked about the benefits of these trees, and I pointed out that future residents would be especially grateful that planting was done sooner rather than later. Shaded streets can often signify the difference between a community and an anonymous cul-de-sac. And, with more Americans moving into or back to urban areas, building and maintaining great neighborhoods is crucial.

Earlier this year, a group of volunteers and civic leaders renewed their push to achieve Tree City USA designation for Memphis. We look forward to adding them to the list.