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Downtown leaders concerned about parking at Tom Lee Park

Downtown Neighborhood Association President Jerred Price fears park-goers may have to pay to park blocks away to visit the park.
Credit: Memphis Riverparks Partnership

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — UPDATE: George Abbott with the Memphis River Parks Association has issued a statement regarding parking at the new Tom Lee Park. 

"The Partnership is thrilled to be building a signature Tom Lee Park as the centerpiece to a riverfront for everyone. This is a project many years in the making and a new and inclusive public space that we'll all be proud of.

We've kept the public informed with public presentations at every step of the way as the design has progressed - as well as by housing up-to-date information on tomleepark.org.

The most recent public presentation was in April at the conclusion of design development. You can watch the full presentation here. Between 6 and 8 minutes there is a detailed discussion of Riverside Drive. At 9:08 you can see an overhead image of the entire park that clearly shows parallel parking on the west side of Riverside Drive.

Ensuring easy, safe and convenient access to the riverfront for all is a key priority of the Partnership. The new Tom Lee Park includes better and easier connections to downtown - including the Cutbank Bluff, the first ADA-accessible route up and down the bluff - and is within a couple of blocks of thousands of public parking spaces (Wagner lot, MLGW garage, The Landing garage and, soon, the ~1,400 space Downtown Mobility Center). There are also more than 20 blocks of free or metered street parking within two blocks of a park entrance.

Tom Lee Park is an exciting landmark project for Memphis. The park is under construction and we can all look forward to a signature park for Memphis and for Memphians soon."

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Original story:

Downtown Memphis leaders are voicing concerns about changes to the parking situation at Tom Lee Park - changes they said taxpayers weren't a part of.

Back in March, the Memphis River Parks Partnership (MRPP) released updated renderings of the new park design, which included about 130 parking spaces on both sides of Riverside Drive.

Downtown Neighborhood Association president Jerred Price said at some point after this, the number of spots was cut by nearly half - a change that he said was made without public input or presentations to leaders. 

He fears those spots will fill up quickly, especially on busy weekends, forcing people to pay to park blocks away. 

The original plan for the park's redesign, published in 2019, showed a two-lane Riverside Drive with over 100 parking spaces on both sides of the road.

However, a mediation agreement between the City of Memphis and Memphis in May required that Riverside Drive remain a four-lane road. The MRPP said parking had to be reduced to accommodate these extra lanes. 

Price argues the latest March 2021 rendering, which was released after the mediation agreement, includes both a four-lane Riverside Drive and parking on both sides of the road.

The current plan features 67 parallel parking spaces on just the west side of Riverside Drive that will only be free for an hour, which reduces the number of parking spots in Tom Lee Park by nearly half. 

“We’re in essence pushing from free 'come down to the river' parking to 'come down to the river if you’ve got the money to pay for the parking spot and then walk a long way'," Price said.