Gate debate: Affluent Midtown neighborhood considers limiting public access to combat crime

Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 10:30 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2023 at 8:30 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A wealthy Memphis community wants to close two of five streets in their neighborhood to keep the criminals out. But neighbors opposed to the plan say it will prevent the public from easily accessing a city park, and that’s not their only concern.

Chickasaw Gardens is an upscale neighborhood in Midtown nestled between Poplar and Central Avenue right behind the Pink Palace Museum.

The Chickasaw Gardens Homeowner’s Association submitted two applications to the Land Use Control Board requesting permission to put up clicker-operated, exit-only security gates at the main entrances into the neighborhood.

Those fighting the proposal told Action News 5 the plan is being fast-tracked through the approval process to avoid scrutiny and criticism.

Sarah Smith and her neighbors just found out their neighborhood HOA wants to close two of the five streets that access the well-to-do Midtown neighborhood to fight crime.

Sarah Smith, a Chickasaw Gardens resident
Sarah Smith, a Chickasaw Gardens resident(Action News 5)

“We’ve always thought of ourselves as one neighborhood,” said Smith. “Why are we dealing with crime in Memphis by closing people out? You know, we need to be addressing the fact that we have a crime problem, and it’s not being dealt with effectively.”

The Chickasaw Gardens HOA application to the Land Use Control Board includes renderings of the security gates that would be installed at the main entrance on Lafayette Street at Lafayette Place and on Fenwick Road off Lombardy.

“If we could limit the access to the three streets on Central Avenue,” said the HOA application, “it would allow security to monitor the activity in the neighborhood going in and out and still have ample access for anyone to enjoy the neighborhood.”

The HOA says bikers and walkers will still be able to enter the neighborhood from dawn to dusk, but Alex McCormick questions that ample access.

”I think the big concern for me,” said McCormick, “is there’s a public city park in the center of their neighborhood that’s owned and maintained by the city and the taxpayer. I don’t know the benefit to them of putting up the gates besides literally gatekeeping us from accessing their amenities that we’re helping to pay for.”

Those opposed to blocking the streets also said it creates a traffic hazard.

“It’s a good way to get out on Central because I don’t know if it’s known,” said neighbor Adam Smith, “but the intersection of Fenwick and Central Avenue is very dangerous. There’s not a light there, so a lot of people from this neighborhood go through Chickasaw Gardens and make a right on Goodwyn because there’s a light there.”

East Chickasaw Parkway, one of the five entrances into the Chickasaw Gardens neighborhood
East Chickasaw Parkway, one of the five entrances into the Chickasaw Gardens neighborhood(Action News 5)

Neighbors said they feel like the project is being fast-tracked through the approval process with little community notification. For these Memphians, fighting crime does not include building walls.

“I think we need to hold our elected officials to account,” said Smith, “about the fact that we do have so much crime here, rather than just saying every wealthy neighborhood is just going to close its gates.”

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s office told Action News 5 there will be plenty of time for the public to comment.

The security gate debate goes before a Technical Review Committee meeting on Thursday, August 24 in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Conference Room on the first floor of City Hall The meeting is at 9:00 a.m. During this session, city planners may hear from engineers and the fire department about how the proposed plan impacts the city’s ability to provide critical services. This meeting is not one where citizens can give comments.

They will have an opportunity to sound off about the gate proposal when the applications go before the Land Use Control Board at its Thursday, September 14 meeting at 9:00 a.m. in the 5th floor City Council Conference Room at Memphis City Hall at 125 N. Main in downtown Memphis.

The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. on the fifth floor City Council Conference Room at Memphis City Hall at 125 North Main in Downtown Memphis.

Chickasaw Gardens
Chickasaw Gardens(Action News 5)

Action News 5 reached out to the HOA for comment and did not hear back.

We also asked Mayor Strickland to weigh in on this debate, and his spokesperson referred us to the Land Use Control Board meeting schedule, once again insisting the public would have an opportunity to sound off on this project.

Read the applications for the proposed gates using the links below:

The September 14 meeting will be livestreamed on YouTube. Click here to watch live.

Click here to sign up for our newsletter!

Click here to report a spelling or grammar error. Please include the headline.