Updates coming to riverside park space, still unclear if they’ll close Riverside block

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- City planners are clarifying plans to close a part of Riverside Drive to make way for a "pop-up park" that would include food truck space and basketball courts.

"I think the message got confused," said Benny Lendermon of the Riverfront Development Corporation, in reference to an apparent miscommunication with city officials over the future of the project.

He said city officials were still evaluating the impact the pop-up park would have on traffic and other issues.

The park would be part of updates to the area bordering the Mississippi River between Court Avenue and Jefferson Avenue. Updates to the park would continue, regardless of the city's decision on whether to include the pop-up portion on Riverside Drive. Those updates would include walking paths, trees and play areas.

The city has about $10 million in grant money to focus on the area.

”Do improvements to those parks in a way that allows people of different walks of life, different races and different economic backgrounds to come together,” Lendermon said.

The pop-up proposal would close Riverside on one block from May to August. They’d add basketball courts and picnic tables for food trucks.

Organizers said it would be modeled after a similar project in Detroit.

“The pop-up park has not been approved by the city yet. It’s still being considered, fleshed out. They’re looking at traffic issues, other issues,” he said.

Peggy Wise, who manages apartments at a nearby building, said she also hoped the city would consider a police presence.

“Of course we always have an eye to security, so I’d want to make sure it was getting a lot of attention from law enforcement,” Wise said.

But she and several tourists still agreed on the potential positives.

“Every city downtown is trying to come back to life. Something like that would help,” said Lisa Lambert, who is visiting from Arkansas.

“I would enjoy something as a tourist, areas you can walk and don’t have to watch out for cars,” said Petra Recor, who is visiting from Colorado.

“I think it would be grand, great for downtown and great for the city," Wise said.

The RDC said it hoped to hear a decision from city officials in the coming days about closing Riverside. They said updates to the park portion would move forward, regardless of the city's decision.