‘Seed Vault’ founder ordered to remove barriers around East Parkway mansion

‘Seed Vault’ founder ordered to remove barriers around East Parkway mansion
Concrete barriers line Poplar Avenue near East Parkway. City crews could soon impound the barricades.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A famed agriculturalist known for creating the “Seed Vault” in Norway has been ordered to remove more than a dozen concrete construction barriers still surrounding his midtown home.

The City of Memphis has sent repeat notices to Cary Fowler, who helped launch the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, an arctic facility meant to safeguard different strains of the world’s crops from disaster or disease.

At issue is the 1.8-acre property at the busy corner of Poplar Avenue and East Parkway, which Fowler and his wife purchased in January 2016.

The couple conducted extensive renovations on the six-bedroom home, pulling more than $1 million in construction permits, according to Shelby County property records.

Concrete “Jersey barriers” were installed along the sidewalks as crews constructed a new brick privacy wall. However, the barricades have remained on site long after exterior work was complete.

A new brick wall surrounds the property, but construction barriers have not been removed.
A new brick wall surrounds the property, but construction barriers have not been removed.

Complaints were brought to the city’s attention most recently in a 311 request by a citizen who called the barriers a “traffic hazard and eyesore.”

A city employee closed the request the same day, noting “barricades installed by property owner to protect his wall. Wants city to take proper steps to protect his wall.”

It was unclear if the wall had been damaged in crashes, though the intersection is the site of frequent collisions.

Fowler, who once attended Rhodes College and currently serves as chairman on the school’s Board of Trustees, lives on a farm in New York state.

Attempts to reach Fowler through public relations contacts on his website and a Rhodes college spokesman were unsuccessful Tuesday.

The 311 system notes two separate notices have been sent to Fowler. City crews could soon impound the barriers.

“Public Works is going to remove these as the owner has been unresponsive to the City’s demands for removal,” Dan Springer with the City of Memphis told WMC Action News 5 Monday. “We will hold them at Public Works facility and recoup cost once owners or their contractors claim them."

A dozen barriers sit inches from traffic on busy Poplar Avenue.
A dozen barriers sit inches from traffic on busy Poplar Avenue.

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