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Tom Lee Park redesign work accelerating on Memphis' front door downtown

The Memphis riverfront fixture is being reimagined with new nature trails, open spaces and recreation areas.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After years of designs and design adjustments - even mediation between disputing parties - the conflict is resolved and work is well underway to reconstruct Tom Lee Park along Memphis' riverfront.

Monday, ABC24 got a sneak peak of the progress and what's still to come.

Those overseeing the project with the Memphis River Parks Partnership said the project is on its revised schedule and expected to open as planned next spring - in 2023.

But while park organizers embrace the potential ahead, some living in surrounding neighborhoods are concerned about potential parking problems and access.

"We are moving forward and it's super exciting, every day there is somethng new," George Abbott with the Memphis River Parks Partnership said. "We have an unmatched view of the river, the river is unbelievable, and now we'll have a park that will be able to match it."

These days, construction is in full swing at Tom Lee Park, as crews across the 30-acre site are busy forming the foundation at the greenspace on Memphis' front door.

"Some of the elevations going in, foundations beginning to be laid and we are making great progress and looking forward to building a great park," Abbott added.

Work began last summer clearing Tom Lee Park for its major makeover.

The new park will be reimagined in four parts - including the Cutbank Bluff across from Beale Street Landing and three other sections, each with open areas, recreation spaces and nature trails.

RELATED: Opinion | Get to work fixing up the riverfront and hope the state goes along | Otis Sanford

The work involves eventually planting 1000 new trees and other plants, along with creating new rolling hills.

"We've done a lot of the site prep and now over the next few months, you'll start to see more and more stuff actually come out of the ground," Abbott said.

But some with the Downtown Neighborhood Association worry this will overwhelm the supply of free and available parking nearby.

"It's not just downtowners that go to Tom Lee Park from the top of the bluff, it's people that come from Frayser, Whitehaven, Midtown and they have to drive typically to get there," Downtown Neighborhood Association President Jerred Price said.

Abbott countered that about 70 free parking spots will still be available along Riverside Drive.

He's also confident the addition of new parking options close to the bluff will be more than adequate for park visitors.

"Just like everyone who visits the Orpheum doesn't park at the Orpheum or everybody that goes to FedExForum doesn't park in the FedexForum garage, we expect people will come downtown, enjoy a meal, or a coffee, visit the park," Abbott said.

As the Tom Lee Pak construction continues, the 2022 Memphis In May festivities will be temporarily relocated near the Liberty Bowl.

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