Strickland says Memphis in May staying in Tom Lee Park

Beale Street Music Festival in Tom Lee Park

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis in May will remain in Tom Lee Park “for years to come,” and Riverside Drive will remain four lanes, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said in his weekly statement Friday.

The festival will temporarily move out of Tom Lee Park in 2021 to accommodate construction, but will be held there next year and return in 2022, and for years afterward, he said.

“We’re currently mediating the future layout of Tom Lee Park — not whether Memphis in May will remain in Tom Lee Park. I’ve always been committed to Memphis in May in Tom Lee Park, and said so as recently as this space in May,” Strickland said.

Memphis River Parks Partnership is currently in mediation with Memphis in May to resolve difference over MRPP’s plan to revamp Tom Lee Park with additional landscaping and hills. The group says it will help turn the riverfront park into a premier destination, but MIM says some of the changes could make the annual festival impossible and force it to move.

(from Studio Gang’s Tom Lee Park presentation)

Some citizen-led groups have also questioned why money is being spent on Tom Lee Park rather than the 40-year-old Mud Island River Park, which is facing serious maintenance issues.

But Strickland said the Tom Lee Park improvements would provide new amenities for citizens along with better infrastructure for Memphis in May.

Although the plan presented by Memphis River Parks Partnership shows Riverside Drive reduced to a two-lane road, Strickland said it would remain four lanes with speed-limiting features. A pilot project that briefly reduced Riverside to two lanes in 2014 was not continued.

The mayor emphasized that money for the park’s renovations is not coming from the city’s general fund or capital improvement budget, and would not affect city services such as police or fire. The $10 million set to come from the city is sales tax money that would otherwise be sent to the state. The rest is from the county, state and private sources.

Memphis in May put out a response to the mayor’s statement Friday, saying they are happy to have his reassurance on next year’s festival and are committed to coming up with a solution that benefits both the festival and the riverfront.

“We appreciate the Mayor’s leadership in this process and the time his staff and Justice Holder have put into mediation,” the statement said. “We are excited to be back in Tom Lee Park in 2020 for the forty-fourth edition of Memphis in May, and having this assurance now allows us to finalize plans we have already been working on for next year.”

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