Concerns arise over parking in new Tom Lee Park design in Memphis

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 7:28 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Construction of Tom Lee Park is well underway, starting with the Cutbank Bluff.

“It’s going to be a beautiful lit, gentle ramp for people with strollers, people, with walkers, people in wheelchairs. We’re super excited about that,” said Carol Colleta, president and CEO of Memphis River Parks Partnership (MRPP).

But it’s the parking, or lack thereof, that has Downtown Neighborhood Association president, Jerred Price, concerned.

“The original plan they laid out still had enough parking, I think, for families to be right by the park and access it. Now, it’s gone down to just parallel parking on the west side of the street, which cuts free equitable parking for the park by more than two-thirds,” Price said.

Colleta says the original plan for Tom Lee Park had parking on both the east and west side of the street.

“But that assumed a two-lane Riverside Drive. Memphis in May and actually the Downtown Neighborhood Association supporting Memphis in May insisted that we needed a four-lane Riverside Drive. When that happened, the physics are such that you can’t get parking on both sides of the street. So, that meant parking could only be on one side of the street,” she said.

Colleta says now there will be 68 parking spaces along the entire length of Tom Lee Park, in addition to free and metered street parking a few blocks away, the MLGW garage, the Landing garage, and soon, 536-space Downtown Mobility Center.

However, Price feels limiting parking on the actual park could have consequences.

“I think it may deter people from coming down here, especially in neighborhoods like Frayser, Whitehaven, Orange Mound Crosstown, and Midtown. A lot of people I’ve heard are already frustrated with the growth downtown and how hard it is to find a parking spot. This only adds to that,” he said.

Colleta believes this new design will ensure Memphians have safe, easy, and enjoyable access to the river, no matter how they arrive.

Price says he hopes the city and MRPP will go back to the original design which had more parking near Tom Lee Park.

“I hope they hear the concern, I hope our elected officials hear the concern, I hope Memphis River Parks hears, the concern and we can work together to create an equitable solution for everyone to come down to the river,” he said.

The entire Tom Lee Park Project will be done with an estimated completion date of 2023.

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