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Mediation over: second phase of planning begins for redesign of Tom Lee Park on Memphis riverfront

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – UPDATED: Months of meetings are over. Now, a new framework is in place for a redesigned Tom Lee Park and Memphis In Ma...

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – UPDATED: Months of meetings are over. Now, a new framework is in place for a redesigned Tom Lee Park and Memphis In May to exist alongside each other.

After the Memphis River Parks Partnership’s proposed changessparked concern from Memphis In May and other groups earlier this year, city ofMemphis-ordered mediation looked to find common ground.

Among those agreements hashed out: Riverside Drive will remainfour lanes, a city committee will oversee future design and construction andfor the first time, specific dimensions were laid out of what can go where onthe 30 acres of greenspace.

There’s a new blueprint ahead, as proposed renderings of Tom LeePark on the Memphis riverfront will now be reworked. This after monthsof mediation created new restraints to fit wildlife and rolling hills aroundthe open space used each year for Memphis in May events.

“They are excited to get restarted on the design of the park,”Carol Coletta with the Memphis River Parks Partnership said.

The mediation came about after those with Memphis In May and othergroups voiced concern earlier this year after the release of those drawings.

Out of those meetings, both sides agreed to their own spaceparameters so a redesigned Tom Lee Park can peacefully coexist with Memphis InMay festivities.

“We always wanted to see improvements to the park, but we wantedto make sure those improvements were such that it protected the space of whatwe do in the park,” Robert Griffin with Memphis in May said.

Those with the Memphis River Parks Partnership said they plan tostart construction after Memphis in May wraps in the spring.

Those on both sides of Tom Lee Park’s future face said they’resatisfied moving forward.

“I think the park has only grown better and it gives us a littlemore time to think about things,” Coletta said.

“While we will have a reduction in space, we think it’s areduction that will still allow us to have long-term viability,” Griffin said.

Memphis In May will remain at Tom Lee Park in 2020 and officialsare scouting possible locations of where to set up the 2021 events before themonth-long festival returns to the park in 2022.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must also review and sign off onany redesign of the greenspace along the Mississippi River.

Read the agreement regarding the Tom Lee Park design HERE.

Below in the release from the City of Memphis and Mayor JimStrickland:

As you may recall, earlier this year, I asked the Memphis River Parks Partnership (MRPP) and Memphis in May (MiM) to enter mediation to resolve their differences on how we improve Tom Lee Park. After months of hard work, the mediation between MiM and MRPP has concluded! 

I’m pleased to say that this was a successful process, and I would like to thank both MiM and MRPP for their diligence as we worked to find a mutually beneficial solution. 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.  

A few key take-aways:

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.

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.

My vision is, and always has been, to craft a better Riverfront for all Memphians—one in which our citizens and the thousands of tourists who come to our city can get the full benefit of the park the other 11 months of the year. That includes an improved Tom Lee Park and a better-than-ever Memphis in May. With this compromise, I believe we’ve accomplished that.

-Mayor Jim Strickland

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