MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Construction on the new Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in downtown Memphis is at a standstill, even as a temporary injunction halting construction has expired.
In June, the museum broke ground on their new location on Front Street between Monroe and Union Avenues. While construction has been going for months, a Shelby County Judge ordered a temporary restraining order to stop construction. That is because Friends for Our Riverfront, a nonprofit created by descendants of Memphis’ founding fathers, filed a complaint and petition against the City of Memphis and Brooks Museum.
It is a matter of wanting growth but also wanting to keep true to Memphis history. The area for the new Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is also part of the public promenade designated by Memphis’ founding fathers in the 1800’s. Friends for Our Riverfront members fear projects like the museum might damage the land.
“In the 1860’s, our founding fathers gave this plot of land that they’re wanting to build the Brooks on. They gave it to the people of Memphis, not the city, not the municipalities, not the government to enjoy the river front," said Jerred Price, Downtown Neighborhood Association President Emeritus.
Price, also a candidate for City Council Super District 8 Position 3, said during public meetings, he spoke up about the concern.
“For far too long, Memphis has had hasty decision-making when it comes to community projects and large construction projects in their neighborhoods. We haven’t engaged enough with the public before we do that,” said Price. “We want to make sure that if we do have a plot of land that was given to us by our founding fathers, that we protect that land. Even if it’s been built on before, here’s a chance to erase a mistake and not repeat it again.”
Brooks Museum filed a brief opposing the temporary restraining order. In a statement, Board Chair Carl Person said, “The City has the right to use the Museum Site ‘for any public purpose even though such purpose be different from that originally contemplated.’”
Paul Young, Downtown Memphis Commission President and Memphis mayoral candidate, said he is hopeful for a resolution and hopeful the project will continue.
“It's the front door of our city, and to have a beautiful attraction that will draw over 600,000 visitors a year will be an asset to our community to show off some of the cultural arts and all of the various aspects of our community is really important,” said Young.
While many are all for positive change downtown, they also said there is a right way to go about it.
“We need to make sure that if we do have these projects…we thoroughly investigate that for a fair and just decision to make sure everything is kosher amongst all parties involved,” said Price.
We reached out to the City of Memphis. They said they cannot comment on pending litigation.
At a Chancery Court hearing Wednesday, court officials said they will need more time to make a decision on whether a temporary injunction remains in place.