Mayor Strickland's Plan for Overton Park


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Today, in keeping with my pledge to provide a lasting solution to the parking issues in Overton Park, I am announcing a plan that will permanently end parking on the usable portion of the Greensward, provide the Memphis Zoo with a sustainable source of parking for its patrons, and enable growth in this great park in the center of our city.

My plan, a byproduct of the mediation I initiated shortly after taking office in January, calls for:

  • Reconfiguring the Zoo’s existing lots (main and Prentiss Place) for a net gain of approximately 200 spots.
  • Adding approximately 100 spaces by constructing permanent parking on the southeast side of the Zoo’s main lot, where a tree-lined swale exists to separate it from the grassy, usable Greensward area. A berm will be constructed to obscure the view of cars from the Greensward, and new trees will be planted to replace ones lost. The berm solution was proposed in this year’s parking study and is supported by the Overton Park Conservancy.
  • Utilizing approximately 200 spaces on North Parkway, which will be activated by a new entrance on the north side of the Zoo. The North Parkway parking will include a designated waiting area for buses, thus freeing up spaces in the Prentiss Place lot.
  • Building a new lot on the General Services area on the southeast corner of the park that will provide hundreds of spaces. It will be serviced by buses that will run on peak days and will transport guests to the new Zoo entrance via public roadways outside the park. It will also provide parking for all other park entities, especially the park’s East Parkway-facing facilities and the Old Forest. General Services’ departure from that area allows the opportunity not only to add parking but also for additional amenities and green space to be added to the park.
  • Adapting a technology solution to aid with the efficient loading and use of all existing parking space.

Here's a preliminary guide to how it will look:

Overton Park Plan

My proposal calls for the Zoo and OPC to share the costs of implementing this plan.

All of the parties participated in good faith in the mediation, and I appreciate their efforts. I thank everyone who participated in mediation, especially mediators Janice Holder and David Wade, for their hard work.

There was no easy solution to this complicated issue. The proposal I am putting forth is the best possible result, given the constraints with which we are dealing. Those constraints include: 

  • A parking garage is estimated to cost at least $14 million. When we have urgent public safety and infrastructure needs all across our city, I am not willing to spend $14 million of city taxpayer money on this garage. Private sector leaders did not express confidence they could raise the money needed to build a parking garage. Therefore, the parking garage was not possible.
  • The board of the nearby Evergreen neighborhood voted against using Galloway Avenue as part of a permanent solution.
  • There is opposition to more parking on the Greensward.
  • There is opposition to the use of trams to ferry patrons from the General Services area lot through the Old Forest. Also, the state of Tennessee maintains that the Old Forest’s designation as a state natural area prevents us from using motorized trams to ferry patrons through the Old Forest.
  • There is opposition to using buses to ferry patrons from the General Services lot on a daily basis.

In addition to the Zoo, my proposal provides a parking resource for Overton Park’s other amenities. It is a solution for the entire park.

The status quo will remain until these solutions are put in place. Work on the first of the solutions is expected to begin in early 2017.

Allow me to share some comments:

OPC Executive Director Tina Sullivan: “We are grateful for the Mayor's personal attention to this issue and for his leadership in developing a compromise solution. We've lived with cars encroaching on park activities for decades, and this plan will physically and visually separate parking from park users. After exploring these ideas in our parking and traffic planning effort earlier this year, we know the public clearly wants creative, collaborative solutions to the parking problem.”

FedEx executive Richard Smith: “Having been told I’m simultaneously ‘selling out’ and ‘ruining’ the Zoo by one side, and that I’m ‘destroying’ Overton Park by the other, I do not envy the mayor on this day. He’s having to step up and make a call on behalf of the citizens of Memphis, who own both amenities, and is trying to balance the interests of all constituencies in maintaining access to valuable city resources.”

The council, by city charter, has jurisdiction on parkland uses. Said City Council Chairman Kemp Conrad: “This issue requires ample time for the public to review it and offer input, so I will strongly recommend to my colleagues to delay the final vote on the ordinance that considers the plan until July 19. I support this plan.”

In closing, I say this: For some three decades, various groups of Memphians have disagreed on this very issue. I do not expect everyone to agree on this plan, either -- that’s the very nature of compromise. I’m proud to present a viable, long-lasting solution early in my tenure.


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