New design plans underway for Overton Square

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - New plans are underway for Overton Square after preservationists stopped developers from building a high-end grocery and other retail stores in the Memphis hub.

A public meeting held today aimed to establish design standards for Midtown Memphis.

Chooch Pickard with Memphis Regional Design Center, said the plan to build new stores simply moved too fast.

"If it is on hold, I think that's OK," Pickard said, "because it's giving us an opportunity to pause and get what we really want to see in Midtown."

Jason Hood, president of the East End Neighborhood Association, said that more opinions need to be heard.

"There may be some people who are a vocal minority, but there is a greater diversity of opinion that needs to be solicited," Hood said.

Discussion of a proposed zoning overlay brought the two sides together Saturday.

Memphis City Councilman Shea Flinn was there as both a neighbor and policy maker.

"We're trying to establish certainty," Flinn said, "and I think that's going to be for the greater good."

Most Midtown neighborhoods have different design rules.  Overton Square's inside an area where design rules are vague.  The overlay would create uniformity, such as parking, signage and distance rules.

Pickard believed an overlay would help Midtown.

"It would put restrictions in place that would stop something like Overton Square from happening so quickly," Pickard said.

Hood said the delay could have negative consequences.

"I hope it doesn't have the effect, the unintended consequence of putting off everything," Hood said.

Flinn believes an overlay will show developers what the community wants, not just what it is against.

"I think they're talented businessmen," Flinn said.  "They're going to go out and find a way to make money and give the community what they want."

After the Memphis Regional Design drafts the overlay, they will have a public review, and then seek approval from the Land Use Control Board and Memphis City Council.

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