Downtown plan includes Brooks Museum, Mud Island aquarium

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After more than a century in Overton Park, the Brooks Museum of Art is considering a move to a proposed new cultural center on the Memphis riverfront.

On Tuesday, the museum revealed, while in a great location, their current building no longer fits their needs. They don't have enough space for their growing collections, the building itself is not seismically sound and it is very difficult to keep it climate controlled, the museum stated.

The board of directors then began focusing on how to relieve the problem, but deemed upgrades to the facility would be too costly and disruptive to guests at the Memphis Zoo and Overton Park. They also wished to avoid taking over space from Overton Park.

That's when they said the museum became aware of the city's renewed interest in the Memphis riverfront.

The proposed new museum would go on Front Street between Union and Monroe, where a parking garage and fire station currently stand. The plan would close off Monroe and put parking underground.

"The riverfront concept plan that was produced by Studio Gang at the behest of the Mayor’s Riverfront Task Force is a remarkably thoughtful, cogent, and actionable blueprint for reawakening portions of our historic riverfront that have been too dormant for far too long," the Brooks Museum said in the release.

A plan produced by Studio Gang for the Mayor’s Riverfront Task Force called for an "iconic cultural asset" to be located along Front Street to enhance the experience of locals and guests to the area.

City leaders were hopeful about the Brooks proposal.

"We believe it'll create a space that all Memphians will be proud of,"  said Paul Young, Housing & Community Development director.

There would be a plaza out front and a pedestrian bridge to Mud Island.

From there, Mud Island would be totally transformed into a riverfront park with a freshwater aquarium.

Young says there`s no better spot in Memphis for the project.

We want to embrace Memphis. No other city can claim their position on the bluff and on the Mississippi like we can, so we want to highlight Mud Island as a space where we embrace that ecology."

On October 6, the museum's board of directors passed a resolution to send a proposal to the city of Memphis expressing their interest in moving to the downtown area and becoming that asset for the area.

While the move is still in the early stages, the museum is excited about the prospect of becoming a part of the new Memphis landscape.

"We feel that this is a singular opportunity to be part of a true renaissance along the river, particularly with tremendous developments happening in the Pinch and Medical Districts, around the campus of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and throughout all of downtown."

"We are excited about what the future holds, even as our century-old mission remains consistent: to serve the greater Memphis region as a truly world-class art museum."

To help make this entire project possible, the city is requesting the state to allow them to expand the Tourism Development Zone (TDZ) to include the Riverfront and Mud Island areas.

If that gets approved, the city expects to spend a year securing private financial partnerships to help alongside the TDZ funds.

The estimated cost of the aquarium is $125 million and a cultural center would cost somewhere around $80-100 million.

The proposed plan doesn't use general funds.

You can read more about the project here.