Council members debate investment of millions into Overton Square

Amid pay cuts, recent layoffs and cuts to city services, the Memphis Council is considering investing millions of dollars into Overton Square - but not without controversy.
Amid pay cuts, recent layoffs and cuts to city services, the Memphis Council is considering investing millions of dollars into Overton Square - but not without controversy.

(WMC-TV) - Amid pay cuts, recent layoffs and cuts to city services, the Memphis Council is considering investing millions of dollars into Overton Square - but not without controversy.

According to Memphis City Council member Jim Strickland, the Overton Square area is overdue to get a water retention pond with a $6.5 million price tag.

"I think you have to prioritize, and controlling flooding has got to be an essential service of city government," he said.

Councilwoman Janis Fullilove agreed, but said the city cannot be selective.

"That needs immediate attention, but there are other areas within the city of Memphis that, too, need immediate attention," she said.

Strickland cited a new study that shows Overton Square is the most critical location to build a new retention pond.

"The flooding problem along Lick Creek is the number one flooding problem in the entire city," he said. "It affects so many people and it's been going on for 15 or more years. We've got to get a handle on it."

Fullilove cited other areas that need work.

"There have been areas in the Orange Mound community that have been flooded," she said. "There have been areas in the Tchulahoma and Shelby Drive communities that have been flooded, and those areas have not been taken care of."

Next April, the Overton Square rebirth will break ground to create a theatre district in the heart of Midtown Memphis. In addition to the retention pond, the resolution also calls for an additional $6 million to build a parking garage, which Strickland says will quickly pay for itself.

"It will generate $2.5 million a year in sales tax revenue, so the project will pay for itself in five or six years," he said.

Fullilove urged caution.

"The city wants to jump and immediately come up with these millions of dollars in which we're always claiming that we don't have the money - we're broke - to get this project underway, which is a good thing," she said. "But don't alienate one community or several communities in favor of one community."

Strickland said the money would come from two divisions - storm water money, and city capitol improvement funds.

"It appears that those who have, get, and those who have not, get nothing," Fullilove replied.

An additional $2 million for the project would come from federal government.

A council committee approved the project today, but the full council will conduct three readings before the project is approved

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