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  • Carnes Elementary School, located in Memphis, TN, stood as a vacant reminder of a once vibrant neighborhood institution. The Center for Transforming Communities (CTC), a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering equitable communities in Memphis' diverse neighborhoods, saw an opportunity to repurpose the school for community-focused real estate projects, including affordable housing. Populace Community Strategy partnered with CTC to make this vision a reality.

Client Background

  • CTC is committed to empowering communities and addressing social inequalities in Memphis. Their mission aligns closely with Populace's dedication to affordable housing and community development.

Project Scope

  • Populace's involvement encompassed the purchase of the Carnes Elementary School building from Memphis Shelby County Schools (MSCS) and the development and implementation of community engagement strategies.


  • Populace and CTC collaborated closely to navigate the pre-purchase due diligence period with MSCS. This involved legal and financial negotiations to begin securing the acquisition of the property.

  • Implementation:

  • Community Engagement: Populace facilitated meetings with former students, neighbors, community leaders, and other stakeholders to gather input and garner support for the project.

  • Educational Initiatives: To ensure transparency and understanding, Populace organized community conversations that included primers on development topics and terms. This leveled the playing field and empowered community members to participate meaningfully in the process.

  • Recognizing the potential for broader impact, Populace initiated a land assembly process to identify additional development opportunities in the surrounding area, with a focus on expanding affordable housing options.


  • Successful Acquisition: Through diligent negotiation and collaboration, Populace and CTC successfully acquired the Carnes Elementary School building from MSCS.

  • Community Buy-In: The community engagement efforts led to widespread support for the project, ensuring its relevance and sustainability.

  • Expanded Development Opportunities: The land assembly process opened up new avenues for community-focused development beyond the initial project scope.


  • Populace's involvement presented th eopportunity for CTC to revitalize a vacant property into a hub for community-focused real estate projects, contributing to the overall well-being and resilience of the neighborhood.

  • Lessons Learned:

  • Effective community engagement is key to the success and sustainability of community-focused projects.

  • Transparency and education are essential for fostering understanding and trust among stakeholders.

Future Opportunities

  • The successful collaboration between Populace and CTC sets a precedent for future partnerships aimed at revitalizing communities and expanding affordable housing options in Memphis, and beyond.


  • The future transformation of Carnes Elementary School will exemplify the power of collaboration and community engagement in creating positive change. Populace Community Strategy remains committed to its mission of building thriving, equitable communities across Tennessee.

Contact Information


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