Tom Lee Park may get $45 million makeover

(from Studio Gang’s Tom Lee Park presentation)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tom Lee Park could get a new look with trees, hills and a smaller Riverside Drive in a plan designed to work better for both the city and Memphis in May events.

The Memphis River Parks Partnership, which operates a string of riverfront parks from Mud Island to Tom Lee Park, got a look at the plans Tuesday.

Studio Gang, a Chicago architecture firm, worked with a team from Memphis in May to develop the plan, which envisions planting shade trees, rebuilding four acres of the levee, relocating utilities, adding pavilions and signage and restarting Beale Street Landing with lower-cost programming.

The plan also calls for reducing Riverside Drive from four lanes to two.

Mayor Jim Strickland told WREG on Wednesday that the decision on reducing Riverside Drive’s width has not been made yet and will require a public forum.

“They need to get public input and public buy-in for that,” he said.

Strickland said he supports the effort to improve Memphis’ parks and said private fundraising would be key.

“There needs to be more things to do down there,” he said. “It can make the park better with mostly private funding.”

The Tom Lee project is part of a larger plan to revitalize the Memphis riverfront.

George Abbott, external affairs director for the parks partnership, estimated the cost between $45 million and $55 million, which would be paid through private fundraising and public support.

“We anticipate seeking funds from multiple public sources including the city, Shelby County, the state and federal governments as well,” Abbott said.

The revamped Tom Lee Park would require 10 months for design and another 18 months for construction.