Mediation Ends with Final Tom Lee Park Design Agreement


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Trees, hills, & more in the - Tom Lee Park redesign. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Trees, hills, & more in the Tom Lee Park redesign.

(UPDATE: MRPP president and CEO Carol Coletta comments below the main story.)

(ORIGINAL POST) Mediation on the design of Tom Lee Park has concluded and the newly designed park will include three large, wide-open fields for festivals, a four-lane Riverside Drive, sports equipment that can be removed, and a design review committee to ensure the agreement remains true.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland ordered the Mississippi River Parks Partnership (MRPP) and the Memphis In May International Festival (MIM) into mediation earlier this year to hammer out an agreement on a proposed $60 million redesign of the park.
Strickland - CITY OF MEMPHIS
  • City of Memphis
  • Strickland

MIM unveiled its plan for the park in February. Only few days after the reveal, MIM officials said publicly that they worried the redesign would not accommodate the many activities it hosts in the park in May.

A debate over the park sprawled into the public realm as some Downtown restaurateurs urged passage of the plan. However, the Memphis Restaurant Association (MRA), the Metro Memphis Hotel and Lodging Association (MMHLA), and the Beale Street Merchants Association issued a public statement against the proposed redesign. The debate spilled into social media where Facebook groups like “Save Tom Lee Park and Festivals” pushed against the plan.

City officials released the final agreement Thursday morning after “months of hard work,” according to statement from Strickland, who called the process “successful” and one that found a “mutually beneficial solution.”
The original re-design of the park. - STUDIO GANG
  • Studio Gang
  • The original re-design of the park.
“We now have a clear direction not just for the designers of the park, but also a process for review and approval by the city of Memphis and the Army Corps of Engineers before any construction can begin,” Strickland said.

That process includes the city of Memphis riverfront Concept Steering Committee. It will be the city’s internal design review committee and will monitor the design and construction process of the park. The committee will keep open lines of communications with the parties throughout the process.

Strickland noted four key takeaways from the agreement and the redesign process as a whole:

1. Memphis in May will be held in Tom Lee Park in 2020. In 2021, it will be held at an alternate site to accommodate construction in the park. The festival will return to the park in 2022 and will be at home there for years to come.

2. Riverside Drive will remain a four-lane street. We will incorporate speed-limiting designs in the final product, because we want the street to enable better access to the park.
A wildlife observation tower proposed in the original redesign of the park. - STUDIO GANG
  • Studio Gang
  • A wildlife observation tower proposed in the original redesign of the park.

3. In addition to providing new amenities for citizens, the proposed renovations to Tom Lee Park will improve the infrastructure for Memphis in May.

4. No city money from our general fund or capital improvement budget will be used — meaning that not a cent of this will impact service delivery like police and fire. The city is routing $10 million in sales taxes in the Tourism Development Zone (TDZ) that would otherwise have gone to the State of Tennessee. The remaining money for the park would come from Shelby County, the state of Tennessee, and private sources.

Read more details of the agreement below:

See related PDF Tom_Lee_Park_final.pdf
MIM had not issued a formal statement on the agreement as of Thursday morning. We’ll update this story when they do.

Carol Coletta, MRPP president and CEO, comments:

"For more than 100 years, Memphis has dreamed of a great riverfront. The Memphis Riverfront Concept lays out a vision for a connected, catalytic, and fun six miles, the best riverfront in the country, anchored by a transformed Tom Lee Park.

With Mayor Strickland’s announcement today of a resolution to the mediation process with Memphis in May, the final design process to turn Tom Lee Park into the signature public park on the Mississippi River can begin. The Partnership thanks Mayor Strickland and COO Doug McGowen for their leadership through this process.

Since the beginning, our goal has been to produce a new park that will be an unmatched public asset for the people of Memphis and Shelby County and will be able to host great festivals and events. Today, that goal remains intact.

Now, the design team will re-convene and restart work. Early next year, we’ll be able to share more on the evolution of the design. All of the elements we unveiled in February will remain in the park, and you can expect the design to be better than ever.

Visionary donors have already committed $40 million toward a capital campaign goal of $60 million. With renewed momentum, the campaign will proceed and enable a transformation of Memphis’ most visible real estate into an iconic image for Memphis.

Thank you for your continued support as we work to deliver a riverfront that works for everyone."

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