The site of a parking garage at Front and Monroe is being considered as a possible new location for the Brooks Museum of Art.
The Brooks Museum of Art board of directors voted more than a week ago to get approvals form city officials to move the museum from Overton Park to a site that now has “some structured parking along Front Street.”
A revitalized Front and Monroe sans parking garage.
Sources told the Memphis Flyer recently that museum leaders were considering moving the Brooks to a site on Front between Monroe and Union, where now stands the headquarters of the Memphis Fire Services Division and a parking garage. However, museum leaders would not confirm nor deny the site’s consideration nor would they divulge any details at the time.
A Tuesday-morning note from Brooks board president Deborah Craddock and executive director Emily Ballew Neff said the board has been considering moving the museum from its 101-year home int he park for the last 18 months. The board voted to consider the Front Street site on Friday, Oct 6.
The riverfront, they said, became an option after city officials formed plan to develop the area and consultants suggested the parking garage at Front and Monroe be converted into a “cultural amenity.” But the deal is not yet done.
“Many further discussions with the city of Memphis will be required and we must still have complete and satisfactory answers to myriad questions about a potential new site for the Brooks Museum on the riverfront,” said the note from Craddock and Ballew Neff. “Nevertheless, we feel that this is a singular opportunity to be part of a true renaissance along the river, particularly with tremendous developments happening in The Pinch and Medical Districts, around the campus of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and throughout all of downtown.”
Earlier this year, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland formed a task force to look at new ways to develop the Memphis riverfront. Before that, the Riverfront Development Corp. hired Studio Gang, a Chicago-based consulting firm, to review the riverfront and deliver some ideas to the task force on ways to improve it.
The plan was packed with ideas. One of the top four “key starting points” was one to remove the parking garage and Fire Station No. 5 on Front between Union and Monroe. One page of the plan showed the possibility in infomercial-style before-and-after shots.
“Removing the parking garage at Monroe and Front and the fire station headquarters at Union and Front can open up an amazing Mississippi river vista and create space for an iconic new cultural anchor set in a green landscape,” the Studio Gang plan said. “This new amenity can include a restaurant with live music that open to the outdoors in good weather, spilling activity onto a surrounding sculpture garden that draws people to the edge of the bluff for framed views of the river.”
Brooks leaders took note of the idea.
“We agree that an active, architecturally significant, and thoughtfully programmed asset of this type could anchor a critical juncture of the riverfront and deeply enhance the experience of all Memphians and its visitors,” said the leaders’ Tuesday letter.
Mayor Strickland will ask Memphis City Council members Tuesday if his administration can go back to the State Building Commission with an updated Tourism Development Zone agreement for Downtown. The one in
place now covers Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, and The Pinch District. Strickland wants to extend the zone to cover the Memphis riverfront, the Cook Convention Center, and Mud Island.
Brooks officials said Tuesday that “will do whatever we can to be of assistance in his pursuit of this project, which will transform not only Downtown but our entire metropolitan region in remarkable ways.”