Construction on the first phase of the long-awaited solution to end overflow Memphis Zoo parking on the Overton Park Greensward will begin on Monday, August 26th, officials from the City, Zoo, and Overton Park Conservancy announced today.
The initial phase will consist only of work on the Prentiss Place lot, and will require that lot’s complete shutdown during construction. Depending on variables such as weather, construction on this phase will take approximately 90 days, according to Montgomery Martin Contractors, the City’s contractor for the project.
Prentiss Place is expected to remain open as a two-way street for the majority of those 90 days. Occasional short-term partial or full closures of one or two days are expected to complete pedestrian crossings and the called-for on-street parking. The City, Zoo, and Conservancy will communicate the expectations of those planned closures at least one week in advance.
Overflow parking will continue on the Greensward until the full completion of the project, at which point a berm will be constructed to permanently close off the space to autos.
Zoo officials will have the North Parkway entrance staffed and open on busy days when overflow parking is expected, giving easy access to the Zoo via the roughly 200 on-street parking spots on North Parkway.
Upon completion of the Prentiss Place lot, an additional 108 spaces will be gained.
After completing this phase, construction crews will then shift their efforts to the next phases of the work, which will be on the “main” Zoo lot. Construction work will begin there in the fall and winter as it is optimum time for the tree transplanting that is called for in the project to preserve as many trees as possible.
“By executing on this project, we’ll fulfill Mayor Strickland’s promise to put 30-plus years of controversy behind us by permanently ending parking on the Greensward, as well as accommodating the growth of one of the nation’s top zoos,” City Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said. “We will surely have some growing pains as we work through the construction, but we’re committed to strong communication to make sure park visitors, Zoo patrons, and neighborhoods residents know what to expect.”
“We are very happy to have such strong support from Overton Park Conservancy, Overton Park Alliance and the City of Memphis as we move forward together with this project,” said Memphis Zoo President and CEO Jim Dean. “The Memphis Zoo has been a part of Overton Park since 1906. We have grown quite a bit since then and have faced some challenges. We’re happy this resolution will, once complete, end parking on the Greensward. We are also excited about strengthening and growing our partnership with the Overton Park Conservancy and the Overton Park Alliance to continue to make Overton Park one of the best parks in the country.”
“The overwhelming community support that made this project possible is a testament to Memphis’ love for Overton Park,” says Tina Sullivan, Executive Director of Overton Park Conservancy. “We look forward to the day very soon when park visitors can look from the Doughboy statue to Rainbow Lake across a beautiful Greensward that is free of cars.”
“The Alliance is hopeful that this parking project will lead to the permanent preservation of the greensward, Old Forest, and other beloved features of our nationally-noted park,” said Mary Wilder, co-founder of the Overton Park Alliance, an active coalition of park users and Midtown neighborhood associations that surround Overton Park.