Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Council Recap: Public Art, Second Vice Chair, & Union Row Parking

Posted By on Wed, Jan 23, 2019 at 10:12 AM

636177737413437649-2016-12-19cityhall14.jpg

The Memphis City Council extended a public art moratorium for the second time Tuesday.


The moratorium inhibits any new public art projects — with the exception of a few pre-approved projects — from going up in the city without council approval.


Councilman Berlin Boyd said he’s been working to integrate new language into the guidelines for public artwork in the city that will “help curtail future issues.”


“It just needs to be clear and concise as to what can be drawn and painted on public structures and in public community [spaces],” Boyd said.


click to enlarge Karen Golightly, director of Paint Memphis with zombie mural city council members called "satanic." - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Karen Golightly, director of Paint Memphis with zombie mural city council members called "satanic."

The first 120-day moratorium was implemented in March 2018 after the council publicly criticized one organization’s murals. The council deemed a handful of murals sanctioned by the nonprofit Paint Memphis as offensive and, in some cases, “satanic.” Some of the less popular murals featured Elvis Presley with a snake coming from his orifices, a cow skull, a dancing skeleton, and a zombie.


The hold was originally implemented to establish a “road map” or legislation that regulates art in public spaces done by outside entities, Boyd said at the time.


Now, nearly a year after the first moratorium was approved, Boyd said the new language is close to completion.


The council also began discussion in its executive session of adding a second vice-chairperson — an idea proposed by newly appointed chair Kemp Conrad. Conrad said it’s something that’s been talked about before in past years, but never been implemented.


“If the chairman’s out of town and the vice chair is running the meeting, then who is the vice chair and what happens if that person is incapacitated?” Conrad said.


The committee recommended the proposal for approval and the full council will vote on it at its February 5th meeting.


The council also approved a $50 million loan for a 2,000-space garage — a piece of the Union Row project.

Funding the garage is vital step in moving forward with the near $1 billion project, developers said Tuesday. The funds will be from a $100 million pool of money set aside for projects that is set to be replenished with 3 percent interest payments over a 45-year period.

click to enlarge Rendering Union Row - LRK
  • LRK
  • Rendering Union Row

The council voted 8-1 in favor of the loan. Martavius Jones voted no and Joe Brown abstained. Jones expressed concern over using that much of the $100 million for one project.

“I’m in total support of the Union Row project, but I do have some concerns,” Jones said. “If we have a total of $100 million for parking projects, we are essentially tying up what would be 50 percent of our available funding for this one particular project.”

However, Jennifer Oswalt, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) said the DMC has already accounted for five or six tentative projects that could be off the ground soon.

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