Next Movement 

Developer sought to paint Brooks’ blank canvas.

City leaders are looking for developers to repurpose the Brooks Museum of Art building, which is slated to be vacated by 2023.

Brooks officials announced in September that the museum could be moving from its Overton Park home of 102 years to a riverfront spot downtown. Now, the city is issuing a request for qualifications (RFQ) to find a developer to "rehabilitate, adaptively reuse, and manage" the 86,000-square-foot building that sits on a 3.14 acre site in Overton Park.

The city is open to all creative proposals that will "maintain the character of the site as a public amenity" while taking a "sensitive approach to the historical nature of the 1916 building," according to the RFQ.

"With all the talented and creative people in our city, I'm hopeful we will get a viable proposal to allow the Overton Park site to continue to thrive and be used by the public," Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said.

The adaptive reuse should be "in context with the other offerings of Overton Park," while "contributing to Overton Park's future as a thriving, active center of culture, recreation, family activities, and civic events," the RFQ states.

click to enlarge Brooks Museum of Art in Overton Park - KEVIN BARRE PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Kevin Barre Photography
  • Brooks Museum of Art in Overton Park

Some examples of ideal reuses listed in the RFQ guidelines include a performance space for music, theater, dance, or film; an entertainment venue for adventure sports, esports, or live music; a conference and event space; or activation through restaurants and retail stores.

In December, Ekundayo Bandele, CEO and founder of Hattiloo Theater, told a city council committee that he wants to turn the building into a national black theater museum.

Bandele said the museum, costing anywhere from $50 to $100 million, could be "of the future," equipped with touchscreen and virtual reality exhibits featuring black playwright manuscripts and archives from the 1400s to present day.

It could serve as an "anchor in the theater district" and "add cultural density in Midtown," Bandele said. "This could be our new COGIC [Church of God In Christ]."

City council chairman Berlin Boyd told Bandele that the museum fits the needs of the city, but because the building is a city-owned asset, "to be fair" other citizens have to be given the opportunity to present ideas as well.

So far, other proposals for the building include a museum of African tribal and visionary art that could showcase more than 7,000 cultural items.

An informational session and tour of the building will be held Friday, March 2nd, five weeks ahead of the April 6th deadline for submissions.

Responses will be evaluated based on the developer's experience, financial capacity, rehabilitation concept, as well as the feasibility and sustainability of the project. Qualified developers will then be selected to submit proposals, and from there a single developer will enter into negotiations with the city for a one-year period of due diligence to further hash out the plans.

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