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Parking project back on hold as new funds sought

Soccer on the GreenswardThe Zoo parking lot expansion has been paused again, as City officials, Overton Park Conservancy, and the Memphis Zoo work together to identify potential sources of funds for a parking deck.

After years of negotiation, compromise, and fundraising, the project to expand the Zoo’s parking lots began in 2019 with the reconfiguring of the Prentiss Place lot. At the end of that year, the City announced a pause to the project’s next phase, which would expand the Zoo’s main lot roughly 2.4 acres into the Greensward and separate the two so that overflow parking would end permanently. The pause was intended to explore the cost of building a parking deck atop the Prentiss lot, which would add the spaces mandated by a City Council resolution without sacrificing green space.

With the onset of the pandemic, that pause lasted longer than anyone expected. This year City officials returned to obtaining cost estimates for the deck, finding that the price tag would exceed $5 million. The Conservancy and the Zoo had each committed $1.5 million to the project in 2017, with about $800,000 of this having been spent already on the designs for the new parking lots and on Prentiss lot construction.

An effort to raise the remaining funds needed to build a deck is being spearheaded by City Councilman Jeff Warren. The Zoo and the Conservancy are also partnering to explore grants and other new major funding sources that would not displace critical funding for each organization’s mission and programs. If the funds cannot be located, the City would return to the compromise solution agreed to in 2018.

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