Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Ground Broken on $60M Tom Lee Park Project

Posted By on Wed, Dec 9, 2020 at 3:28 PM

click to enlarge An aerial view of the Cutbank Bluff design, illustrating the improved entrance at VancePark, an accessible pathway down the bluff, and stone scrambles that provide informal seating alongthe way. - MISSISSIPPI RIVER PARKS PARTNERSHIP
  • Mississippi River Parks Partnership
  • An aerial view of the Cutbank Bluff design, illustrating the improved entrance at VancePark, an accessible pathway down the bluff, and stone scrambles that provide informal seating alongthe way.

Local leaders broke ground Wednesday for a reimagined, $60-million Tom Lee Park.

Construction on the first phase of the redesign is slated to begin next year, according to the MRPP. That phase will create Cutbank Bluff on the park's west side.

The beginning of construction comes three years after the completion of the Memphis Riverfront Concept by Studio Gang, a Chicago-based architecture and urban design firm. the design team now includes Scape, a New-York-City-based landscape architecture and urban design studio.

Studio Gang was hired in 2016 by the Riverfront Development Corp. (RDC). Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland organized the Riverfront Task Force in 2017 to reimagine the city's entire riverfront. The RDC was replaced as the riverfront's steward in 2018 by the Mississippi River Parks Partnership (MRPP).
click to enlarge View of the Cutbank Bluff looking across Riverside Drive from the Civic Plaza in Tom LeePark. - MISSISSIPPI RIVER PARKS PARTNERSHIP
  • Mississippi River Parks Partnership
  • View of the Cutbank Bluff looking across Riverside Drive from the Civic Plaza in Tom LeePark.
“In 2017, I challenged my Riverfront Task Force to deliver a world-class riverfront in record time,” said Strickland. “This groundbreaking marks a major milestone toward that goal. Now, we can all begin to look forward to the day when we cut the ribbon to open the nation’s best riverfront park right here in Memphis.”

Funds for the $60-million project have come from the city, county, and state funds, and a number of corporations, foundations, and individual donors.



“At the end of an unusually challenging year, it’s thrilling to be able to celebrate groundbreaking on Memphis’ next civic jewel,” said Tyree Daniels, MRPP board chair. “All the meetings, planning, mediation and fundraising have led us to this moment. Almost a hundred years in the making, Tom Lee Park will serve Memphians for generations to come. Its transformation starts now.”
click to enlarge Entry path to Vance Park Plaza. - MISSISSIPPI RIVER PARKS PARTNERSHIP
  • Mississippi River Parks Partnership
  • Entry path to Vance Park Plaza.
Parts of the Riverfront Concept have already come to life, including the five-mile River Line trail and the transformation of two former Confederate parks into River Garden and Fourth Bluff Park.

“This is an important step toward the revitalization of the Mississippi Riverfront as a vibrant place for all Memphians,” said Studio Gang founding principal Jeanne Gang. “Our design for Tom Lee Park responds to the observations, ideas, and knowledge shared by Memphians since we began working to envision a new riverfront with them in 2016. The new park will celebrate the diversity and enthusiasm of these voices by creating flexible and resilient spaces for community life to flourish along the water’s edge.”

Kate Orff, founding principal of Scape, called the groundbreaking a "major benchmark for public space in Memphis."

"It’s fitting that the first area of Tom Lee Park to break ground is a gateway to Downtown — the new design aims to improve connectivity and equitable access across the park for all Memphians, celebrating the environmental and cultural history of the Mississippi riverfront," Orff said.

Here is how Studio Gang and Scape describe what's ahead for Tom Lee Park:

Tom Lee Park’s landscape and features are inspired by the dynamic rhythm and patterns of the Mississippi River. Guided by the inspiration of Tom Lee, Memphis’ very worthy wero for whom the park is named, the park will be a place that welcomes all and where community thrives 365 days a year beside the river.

The new park features four zones of activity separated by generous, flexible lawn spaces. Together, the park features combine to create a dynamic and engaging experience with breathtaking river views at every turn, from north to south.
click to enlarge View along the Bluff Walk in Vance Park plaza, including the relocated ‘Whirl’ sculpture. - MISSISSIPPI RIVER PARKS PARTNERSHIP
  • Mississippi River Parks Partnership
  • View along the Bluff Walk in Vance Park plaza, including the relocated ‘Whirl’ sculpture.
The Civic Gateway features the Cutbank Bluff, a radically redefined park entrance and access point from Vance Ave. and the first ADA-accessible route up and down the bluff. The new access leads to the Gateway Plaza hosting a major water feature and natural stone seating nestled beside a shaded community tree grove.

The central Active Core will buzz with activity as the home to the park’s signature all-ages play space and outdoor exercise equipment at River Fit. The one-of-a-kind 20,000-square-foot Civic Canopy will host music, sports, events, and more with the unrivaled backdrop of the river. A river deck and two river lawns will play host to the free nightly show of spectacular Mississippi River sunsets while pavilions and shaded seating provide options for food and restrooms.
click to enlarge View from the base of Cutbank Bluff, including informal stone "scramble" seating. - MISSISSIPPI RIVER PARKS PARTNERSHIP
  • Mississippi River Parks Partnership
  • View from the base of Cutbank Bluff, including informal stone "scramble" seating.
Designed as the quieter, more-serene, and peaceful part of the park, the Community Batture will feature topographic changes that unlock new river views, sloping lawns for family enjoyment, meditative paths, a Peace Walk, and a River Overlook that will accommodate smaller outdoor gatherings. Community Tables and Hammock Groves provide places to relax, unwind, and gather in small groups.

The Habitat Terraces, at the southern-most end of the park offer an intimate and immersive experience with nature, featuring educational spaces, sound and sensory gardens, and plenty of native plants and wildlife.

Throughout, Tom Lee Park prioritizes resiliency, survivability, and sustainability with native plantings grown from seeds collected as part of the first-ever Massive Seed Project.

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