MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The backdrop of the sun setting over the Mississippi River as music and barbecue smoke fills Tom Lee Park will be put on pause for 2021 while construction crews take over Tom Lee Park for upgrades.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s announcement Friday comes after months of private discussion between Memphis In May and Memphis River Parks Partnership.
“To be able to present some results to the citizens who have been very concerned on both sides as far as what's happening inside this closed door mediation and to be able to see here's what's happening so far. So I think it's great,” said Robert Griffin, Vice President of Marketing for Memphis in May.
The upgrades to Tom Lee Park has divided many since renderings were first released.
The proposal was met with immediate worry from the festival's organizers. Their biggest fear is that the new park wouldn't fully accommodate the music festival and barbecue contest.
Though MRPP assured them it could still work.
“We are not against changes to the park. We want to see an improved Tom Lee Park, too. We just want to make sure it’s a park that makes sense for our festival events,” said Griffin.
Memphis in May says they now have time to plan where to temporarily relocate the festival.
“We had already reached out to a couple of different venues, there are still a few more on our short list that we want to talk to. But knowing this for Tom Lee Park for 2020 helps us plan for 2021 of what our needs may be,” said Griffin.
Which spots are top of list to be the new host? Griffin says it's too soon to share locations in the running. But now this new timeline alleviates the scramble to find a place for 2020, which is only 10 months out.
Following the mayor’s update Friday, MRPP spokesperson George Abbott issued a statement saying:
“We appreciate the Mayor’s commitment to deliver a great riverfront for all Memphians. That’s what Memphis River Parks Partnership was created to do. There has been so much misinformation and speculation regarding the project that we appreciate the Mayor’s leadership in clarifying the project goals and timeline. We’ve always believed a signature Tom Lee Park can be both the centerpiece to the best waterfront in the country and a great, unique venue for festivals and events – including Memphis in May. We look forward to delivering on that commitment for the people of Memphis and Shelby County.”
As for the mediation between the two groups, Griffin says it's not over yet.
“Not by a long shot. There are several other issues that we both trying to make happen because just like the mayor said that MRPP has said that Memphis in May wants to see an improved park too,” said Griffin.
Another key point that came out of the mayor’s update, Riverside Drive will remain four lanes. It was previously proposed to condense the street down to two lane to allow for a bike lane.