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Poplar/Cooper Project Funded by First Tennessee Foundation

Poplar/Cooper entry today
Poplar/Cooper entry today

The effort to improve bicycle and pedestrian access in Overton Park just got a big boost. The First Tennessee Foundation has awarded a $25,000 grant to Overton Park Conservancy for the construction of an enhanced bike/pedestrian entrance at the intersection of Poplar Avenue and Cooper Street. The $25,000 funds complete the Conservancy’s required match, unlocking the TDOT funds that will allow the project to move forward.

The entrance enhancements come as the City of Memphis prepares to stripe bike lanes along Cooper Street leading into Overton Park. Current conditions offer a single crosswalk across Poplar, leading to a small patch of concrete with no connection to the park’s sidewalk or trail systems. The new plans, designed by Ritchie Smith Associates, call for a second crosswalk on the west side of the intersection, countdown clocks and a protected bicycle crossing phase at the intersection’s traffic signals, an enhanced landing pad for cyclists and pedestrians, and a new path connecting to the off-street trail system.

“We are thrilled to partner once again with the First Tennessee Foundation to make Overton Park more accessible,” says Tina Sullivan, Executive Director of Overton Park Conservancy. “First Tennessee’s leadership allowed us to construct the bicycle and pedestrian plaza on East Parkway and to build the Bike Gate arch, which is already an iconic symbol of Memphis’ progress as a cycling-friendly city. We are tremendously grateful for their continued investment in the park and their commitment to moving Memphis forward.”

Ritchie Smith Associates' conceptual drawing for the Poplar/Cooper entrance
Ritchie Smith Associates’ conceptual drawing for the Poplar/Cooper entrance

Bicycle access to Overton Park is an important facet of the overall city bicycle connectivity plan, as the park is now, or soon will be, surrounded on all sides by dedicated bicycle infrastructure. Currently, however, only two approaches to the park provide protected access by bicycle. The Cooper-Poplar Connector project adds a third level of access for those park users and commuters coming from or traveling to the southern neighborhoods and business districts.

Improved bicycle and pedestrian access is also a key component of the effort to alleviate traffic and parking demand for the park and its attractions. The planning effort by Looney Ricks Kiss identified the Cooper-Poplar entrance as a key area for improving non-vehicular access.

Now that funding is in place, the construction schedule will be dependent on TDOT’s final approval of the project. We’ll keep you posted on the official timeline as we learn more.

Project costs for the Cooper-Poplar Connector at Overton Park total $346,000. This project is partially funded by a Tennessee Department of Transportation Surface Transportation Program (STP) grant obtained by the Memphis Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The City of Memphis has allocated funding in its Capital Improvement Budget for this project. The First Tennessee grant represents the balance of the funding Overton Park Conservancy needed to raise for the project to move forward.