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Mayor promises to submit Fairgrounds redevelopment plans by December

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- As people look through plans for the future of the Mid-South Fairgrounds, many of them still think of the past.

“I grew up on the Beltline. I grew up going to the Fairgrounds, Liberty Land and the Fairgrounds swimming pool," said Keith Bradley, Sr., who currently lives in Orange Mound.

“I grew up going to Tiger basketball games at the Coliseum,” said Marvin Stockwell of Humes Heights, who also started the group Friends of the Fairgrounds.

But officials have said they’re ready to put a 10-year planning process in motion. They’re using a 2015 plan as a baseline for public input. That plan included a kids athletic center, a concert venue and green space including a pond.

“Things like the Kroc Center, having recreation facilities for all ages has been really exciting and it looks like there’s some opportunities to do more of that here on the fairgrounds,” said Sylvia Crum, who lives with her family in Cooper-Young.

Officials said they’re in somewhat of a rush because they want to make sure they take advantage of a Tourism Development Zone funding plan that could expire. TDZ monies include sales tax funds that the state would give back to Memphis, Mayor Jim Strickland said.

“This is a Tourism Development Zone so something has to be done for tourists. But it doesn’t only have to be for tourists. We need something that brings in tourists and helps the neighborhoods,” Strickland said.

“We do want to figure out how can we enhance connectivity, improve commercial nodes and look at what the community wants to see,” said Paul Young, director of housing and community development.

But those who came to voice their opinions Thursday night still have concerns.

“That is a real issue for people in Orange Mound, to be able to get to this side of Southern and have access to Kroc Center or anything else in the fairgrounds. I’d be interested to know how we could make that access better,” Crum said.

“If I have any reservations it’ll be that the neighborhood stakeholders’ wishes wont be respected and included,” Stockwell said.

Mayor Jim Strickland said that’s why they want public input; to make a change that’s fit for everyone.

“We will present it to City Council and the state by the end of this year because it’s time to move on,” Strickland said.

The next public meeting will be September 21. There's a final meeting November 6. The mayor will present to City Council in November and submit the TDZ application to the Tennessee Building Commission in December.