Public Goes Private 

Overton Square residents may get special on-street parking.

Residents around Overton Square may soon get a special permit that would allow them to park in public, on-street parking spaces designated just for them.

The revitalization of the Square has brought thousands of new people and their cars to the area in the past year. Many of those new visitors are parking their cars on the streets around the entertainment district, despite the October opening of the new $16 million parking garage.

This has riled residents around Overton Square who have reported visitors' cars blocking their driveways and alleyways and some even parked in their yards.  

click to enlarge TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells

"At all times of day and in the evenings, residents are surrounded with people," said Memphis City Council member Jim Strickland. "Some residents only have access to their [houses] through an alley, and they'll be blocked. Sometimes it's in their yards. It's just a free-for-all."

Strickland and council member Shea Flinn have been meeting with residents and business owners in the neighborhood to solve the parking problem. Those talks have included the need for crosswalks, better signage for the parking garage, and better lighting in the area overall.

But much of the conversation has centered around establishing a parking permit district for residents around Overton Square.

If approved by the city council, the district would designate some on-street parking spaces just for residents. Residents would have to display special permits to park on certain parts of the streets in the district. Each household could get two permits for residents and up to four permits for visitors. Anyone parking illegally in the district would be ticketed and then towed.  

The permits and special parking zones would be a test case, Strickland said, and would only be for a limited time and for a limited area. Petitions will go out to Overton Square residents in the coming months to determine the boundaries of the district.

The city law establishing the parking district will take at least six weeks to move through the city council's legislative process.

Chef Kelly English said a crosswalk leading from the parking garage across Cooper to his restaurants, Iris and Second Line, is needed before the parking district is established. Without one, he says he won't have an "artery to business." 

"[Customers] are not going to cross that street at 8 o' clock," English said. "That's not going to happen."

City officials are also looking closely at improvements needed for the area's sidewalks, said Memphis city engineer John Cameron, especially between the parking garage and Cooper.

"We're trying to make that corridor more pedestrian-friendly so folks would be more likely to walk from the garage to the businesses over there," Cameron said. 

Strickland is expected to bring the proposal to the city council next week.

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