A Lot to Think About 

Public weighs in on three designs for the Memphis Zoo’s new parking lot.

Among those surveyed, a clear winner emerged among the three concept plans for a new Memphis Zoo parking lot that is promised to end parking on the Overton Park Greensward.

In early November, local designers at Powers Hill Design submitted the three plans to the advisory group plotting the project and to the public, which had its say on them via an online survey.

All of the plans — Concept X, Concept Y, and Concept Z — added the minimum 415 parking spaces for the zoo mandated by the Memphis City Council. They all also expanded current zoo lots, included a "ring road" to help with traffic flow, and preserve the park's trees.

click to enlarge “Concept Z”
  • “Concept Z”

None of the plans encroach past the current ridgeline that separates the zoo lot from the Greensward. They all, too, include a green buffer to further separate the 12-acre park field from the parking lot.

The main difference in the plans is the layout of the parking spaces. But they also differ in access points and amenities for pedestrians.

Close to half — 42 percent — of the nearly 4,500 people who took the survey voted for Concept Z. Asked why, those surveyed said they just liked its overall design. That design expands current zoo lots with its southern-most "ring road" reaching almost to the park's Formal Gardens.

The main difference between Concept Z and the others is that it reconfigures the main zoo lot into a sort of hand fan shape, or maybe the shape of half a wagon wheel. The spaces in the concept roughly face north and south. The other plans keep the familiar bookshelf design with spaces aligned generally east to west.

Concept Z also easily has more pedestrian walkways than the other plans. It has pedestrian entry points from McLean, along Prentiss Place, and an entrance from the Greensward.

The survey feedback will be studied by the Powers Hill team, which will incorporate the notes into an updated concept proposal. That concept will be presented to the advisory group and to the public for another round of online feedback.

The survey yielded some other interesting facts. Most who took it said they mostly visit Overton Park for the zoo and, to a lesser degree, the park itself, and its anchors like the Levitt Shell and the Brooks Museum of Art. When they visit the zoo, most (95 percent) parked in the main lot, instead of on streets or in the park.

They don't live around the park, and they drive to it (versus walk or bike) when they go. They enter, mostly, at the signaled entrance at Poplar and Tucker.

Most of those surveyed said they want better traffic circulation and better access for cyclists and pedestrians. They want to preserve existing trees and to improve landscaping. They want better lighting, bike racks, better signage, and more.

While most of the respondents were from ZIP codes around the park, voices were heard from all over Memphis, Fayette and Tipton Counties in Tennessee, Marshal, Tate, and DeSoto Counties in Mississippi, and Crittenden County in Arkansas.

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