Funding for a new parking garage in Cooper-Young is again before the Memphis City Council with familiar arguments and familiar advocates. And the proposal comes as the council debates a familiarly tight city budget.
The garage was first proposed to the council last year, but funding was not approved. Now, Councilmember Janis Fullilove has put the issue forward again. Last week, she moved to add $3.4 million for the project to the city budget next year, noting that "Cooper-Young is a very booming area" that attracts tourists from across the country and residents from all over the region.
"[Cooper-Young] is a meeting point of Orange Mound and the Glenview area and, of course, Midtown, so this is a citywide kind of project," Fullilove said. "If we're lucky, we could get some [tourist development zone] money from Nashville. But if we don't, we need to put this in the budget and start planning this."
A vote on the matter was delayed for two weeks. The council passed a resolution from Councilmember Kemp Conrad that mandates money for new projects be found in budget cuts or created with a tax rate hike. Fullilove said she'd bring a funding proposal back to the council in its regular meeting on Tuesday, June 17th.
The proposed garage would have two floors of parking for about 150 to 250 vehicles and be built on the corner of Meda and Young. The ground floor would be reserved for commercial space. Architects from Pensacola, Florida-based Structured Parking Solutions said they designed the building to fit in with the neighborhood.
The Cooper-Young Business Association (CYBA) has been out front in support of the garage project for the past four years. Representatives from the group have led community discussions, lobbied leaders, and formally presented the plan to (and requested funding from) the city council last year.
CYBA Director Tamara Cook said the district has 95 on-street parking spaces and 366 spaces in private lots. The area's 187 businesses (21 of them restaurants) employ more than 1,150 people, which alone would use up all the parking spots. But add in the 40,000 to 50,000 people who visit Cooper-Young each week, and Cook said the neighborhood is in a parking pinch.
"The Cooper Young Historic District generates over $12 million in sales tax revenue annually," Cook said. "Now is the time [for the garage] because we do not want our historic district business owners to suffer by not having adequate parking for our patrons."
A survey last year from the Cooper-Young Community Association found that 75 percent of respondents said parking was a problem. Most said a garage was the best option, but the plan has long had opposition from those who think a garage would kill the neighborhood's vibe. A Facebook group called "Keep Cooper-Young Walkable" was launched this week.