A freshwater aquarium might soon be a new attraction at the Mud Island River Park, as Tuesday a Memphis City Council committee recommended a resolution that could allow sales taxes from the Downtown tourism and development zone (TDZ) to fund portions of the project.
Pending approval by the Tennessee Building Commission and full council, the resolution will authorize the city to request an amendment to the existing Downtown TDZ to let the funds collected in the zone be allocated for the redevelopment of Mud Island park, the Riverfront, and construction of the aquarium.
The city’s division of Housing and Community Development director Paul Young told the council committee that the $11 million in TDZ surplus should be invested into the project.
However, he said those funds won’t be able to fund the entire project but submitting the request for an amended TDZ is the first step.
In partnership with local higher level education institutions, the new aquarium would serve as the Center for Freshwater Studies, which would allow the institutions to develop policies that protect and restore deltas, rivers, and aquifers.
Other proposals for Mud Island include a museum, upgraded amphitheater, and a pedestrian land bridge connecting the southern end of Mud Island to the riverfront.
Proposals for the riverfront include constructing a cultural center, as well as closing a portion of Monroe to create a new outdoor civic terrace that will serve as a sculpture garden, public plaza, and event space.
The projects will be a public-private partnership and a piece of the larger Bicentennial Gateway project, which includes renovations to the Cook Convention Center, Pinch District, and Uptown.
If the resolution passes, the city will submit its TDZ amendment request to the state by the end of the month.
Upon state approval, the city will begin identifying additional funding sources. Mayor Jim Strickland said the city will need millions of private dollars to accomplish the projects.
Once funding is secured, construction could begin as early as fall 2018.