New Tom Lee Park Design Unveiled

February 2, 2019 4:00 AM

Construction of the newly unveiled design for Tom Lee Park could begin as early as June and be finished as early as December 2020, according to the Mississippi River Parks Partnership (MRPP).

The public is now invited to a new Tom Lee Park engagement center inside Beale Street Landing (where the gift shop with shirts that read “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” used to be) to see the vision for the park.

For hours and more information on the engagement center, see our previous story here.

That new design is a blend of landscaping and architecture meant to mimic and restore some of the 30-acre river park’s natural ecology and better connect the city to the river.

It features cutouts of the river bank on the east side of Riverfront Drive to offer places to explore and places to sit. The design adds an outdoor activity court that could be used for everything from basketball games to concerts. Tom Lee Park visitors of the future can also expect spaces for education, sports, recreation, play, events and amenities like a cafe, concessions, lockers, storage, and bathrooms.

Water features, trees, gently sloping hills, and riverfront seating break up the now-vast, now-flat, now-wide-open Tom Lee Park.

MRPP hired two firms - Studio Gang and SCAPE - to deliver the plan. MRPP president Carol Coletta promised Friday the plan will be executed and will not sit on a shelf.

Designers laid out their vision for the park in four distinct zones, laid out from the north end of the park at Beale Street Landing to the wilder, more-remote south end of the park. Designers said the zones are inspired by unique features of the Mississippi River and all flow together for a variety of uses.

Here’s how the designers describe the four zones: 

The Gateway: A welcoming new connection linking Downtown Memphis to the riverfront will bring new life to the east side of Beale Street Landing, create a universally -accessible pathway down the bluff from Beale Street, and welcome visitors in a new entry plaza that can accommodate public gatherings, art installations, and festival tents.

The Riffle: Modeled after the pattern of river water flowing over stones, the park’s central zone is defined by dynamic topography that shapes areas for relaxation and play, activity courts shaded by a signature canopy for everyday use (from basketball to yoga, dance, and fitness classes) and special events, and river-facing overlooks and “eco edges” that give visitors an intimate experience of the water.

The Pool: A network of open lawns that act as the park’s anchors for field activities and large events, designed to accommodate signature events including the Beale Street Music Festival. The pools support large and small festivals, and everyday recreation like field sports, picnics, kite flying, or playing fetch.

The Tailout: At the southern end of the park, where its landscape becomes more wild, active, and accessible, recreation paths lead to an outdoor learning and play area where children and adults find hands-on opportunities to connect with nature. A large outdoor classroom will host STEM programs facilitated by a scientist-in-residence.

The dramatic Habitat Tower provides an attractive structure for birds to nest and rest and a memorable gathering space where park visitors can feel as if they’re hovering above the Mississippi - taking in views of the water and, after sundown, the Mighty Lights. Continue Reading

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