MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Officials with Memphis River Parks Partnership unveiled the latest plans for a major renovation of Tom Lee Park Thursday.
“I think (the renovation) is probably the most significant civic project in my lifetime,” MRPP President Carol Coletta said.
The designs include a two-mile running loop, fitness zones and a large water feature with misters and fountain jets. Other aspects of the $60 million project include an elevated walking path through a canopy that’ll resemble a forest and unique play areas for kids.
“So, not your kind of off-the-shelf slide and swing set but really somewhere that’s super engaging,” MRPP official George Abbott said, “So, much of what’s in this park is inspired by the shapes, the forms, the sounds, the movement of the Mississippi River.”
The initial designs for the park renovation were released in 2019 and were met with criticism from Memphis in May organizers who feared a number of planned hills and trees would force key events like the Beale Street Music Festival and Barbecue Fest to find new homes. Eventually, both sides reached an agreement that accommodated MIM’s needs so the events could stay at Tom Lee Park.
The renovation plans also call for increased parking, accessible routes for people with disabilities and clearly marked, flashing signs at crosswalks on Riverside Drive.
“Really making a safer Riverside Drive,” Abbott said.
MRPP says it’s secured most of the project’s funding, claiming more than half of it comes from state dollars, federal dollars and private donations.
“It’s a big project. There’s a lot to get done, but we’re on a path,” Coletta said.
Coletta says crews are expected to break ground by the end of 2020, and she hopes the project will be finished by 2023.
Under the current plan, Riverside Drive will remain at four lanes, but the lanes will be more narrow to accommodate a larger park footprint.