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Kresge Senior Fellow Carol Coletta to continue transformation of Memphis riverfront

General Foundation News

Carol Coletta
Carol Coletta

Senior Fellow Carol Coletta – who has been serving as a loaned executive from the Kresge Foundation to the Memphis River Parks Partnership as that organization’s CEO and president since March of 2018 – will be transitioning from Kresge to further advance the reimagination of Memphis’ riverfront.

During her tenure at Kresge, the Memphis native played a central part in the Foundation’s efforts to contribute to Memphis’ community development strategy and revitalization. Carol also led implementation of the Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative, a national collaboration of foundations, nonprofits and governments to more fully use and democratize civic assets – such as parks, libraries, and other public spaces – to yield increased and more widely shared prosperity for cities and neighborhoods.

Memphis is one of five cities participating in this initiative, with much of that city’s efforts focusing on the re-imagination of the Fourth Bluff in the heart of the city’s historic downtown. The initiative’s embrace of the primacy of the Mississippi River in the Memphis future growth and prosperity was in part responsible for Coletta assuming leadership – while a Kresge Senior Fellow – of the Memphis River Parks Partnership.

“Carol is an unsurpassed leader in the urban reinvention space, a visionary who has worked for decades to instill an ethic of innovation, equity and prosperity into urban planning and practice. Her contributions – from leading the Mayor’s Institute on Design . . . to launching CEO’s for Cities . . .  to serving as a one-person speaker’s bureau about the importance and potential of cities . . . to helping start the national ArtPlace collaborative . . . to leading the Knight Foundation’s Communities and National Initiatives program . . . to conceptualizing and leading the Reimagining the Civic Commons consortium – have established her as one of this nation’s most influential thinkers and doers in making cities better places to live and work,” said Kresge Foundation CEO and President Rip Rapson. “We at Kresge relished our time working alongside Carol, and we cannot wait to see what she and the rest of the team at the Memphis River Parks Partnership accomplish in reinventing Memphis’ presence on the Mighty Mississippi.”

Since Coletta came to lead the organization, the Memphis River Parks Partnership has undergone its own transformation: Coletta led the development of the Memphis Riverfront Concept, a blueprint for innovating six miles of the Memphis riverfront, an aggressive capital campaign and a new business plan. She also oversaw the rebranding of the organization from Riverfront Development Corporation to its current moniker. Under Coletta’s leadership, the organization now focuses more intently on making the riverfront a city asset that promotes racial and economic equity and greater community development in adjacent neighborhoods.

Throughout her career, Coletta has focused on efforts to transform cities and public places. Prior to her work at The Kresge Foundation, Coletta was vice president of Community and National Initiatives for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. She led the two-year start-up of ArtPlace, a public-private collaboration to accelerate creative placemaking in communities across the U.S. and was president and CEO of CEOs for Cities for seven years.

She also served as executive director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, U.S. Conference of Mayors and American Architectural Foundation.

In 2017, she was named one of the 100 most influential urbanists of all time by Planetizen, one of only 17 women to make the list.  She also made the list in 2009. For nine years, she was host and producer of the nationally syndicated weekly public radio show “Smart City,” where she interviewed more than 900 international leaders in business, the arts and cities.

Since 2013, Kresge has committed an estimated $21 million to support nonprofit and government organizations in Memphis including:

  • The launch of a funding opportunity that awarded $1.3 million in grants to ten local partners working on strengthening opportunity for Memphians.
  • In April of 2019, Kresge built on this support by launching a $1.5M Memphis grant initiative to support community-driven projects aimed at strengthening neighborhoods.

Kresge’s deepening community development work in Memphis will continue, led by senior program officer, Chantel Rush.

Kresge will also continue its participation in the Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative specifically focusing funding support on local projects in Detroit and Memphis.