Funding fear puts Overton Park Greensward solution in limbo

Funding fear puts Overton Park Greensward solution in limbo

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Funding for a new parking plan in Overton Park took an unexpected turn Tuesday.

Memphis Zoo leaders told a city council committee they wanted to back out of the parking deal, because they don't believe Overton Park Conservancy will pay their part of the bill.

In July, Memphis City Council approved a plan aimed at ending the ongoing controversy about Memphis Zoo using a patch of grass in Overton Park for overflow parking.

Mobile users: Click here for previous stories about the greensward.

The plan called for the zoo and Overton Park Conservancy to each pay $1.5 million to fund the parking plan.

Memphis Zoo said it has raised nearly $2 million to fulfill its obligation.

"We raised money and they didn't," Memphis Zoo CEO Chuck Brady said. "Now we are going to have a design that's not going to be funded."

Overton Park Conservancy will not comment about how much money it has raised. Because of this, zoo leaders fear the group is backing out of the deal.

Overton Park Conservancy said it remains committed to the parking solution.

"We've got a lot of work to do, and I think we will be successful in raising the funds we need to raise," Overton Park Conservancy Executive Director Tina Sullivan said.

City Councilmember Joe Brown said construction plans need to be put on hold until Overton Park Conservancy can prove it can pay for construction, which is scheduled to start as soon as the fall.

"Overton Park Conservancy does not have the revenue at hand as we speak," Brown said.

A City Council committee sent the architecture and engineering plan for the parking solution to full City Council to be heard in mid-April.

Overton Park Conservancy said it is working with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's Office to develop a funding formula.

"We do not need the construction funds until October or November at the earliest," Memphis COO Doug McGowen said.

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