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VOL. 122 | NO. 217 | Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Three Firms Chosen To Submit Plans for Shelby Farms

By Eric Smith

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Shelby Farms Park Public Forum Schedule:

Nov. 14, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Memphis Botanic Garden
Nov. 20, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., White Station High School
Nov. 26, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis
Dec. 1, 10 a.m. to noon, Shelby Farms Park Visitor Center (This is a youth forum for teenagers)

Three national design firms have been selected as finalists to create a master plan for Shelby Farms, park officials announced Tuesday morning at a press conference.

Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, the nonprofit organization that oversees the 4,500-acre park, narrowed the pool from 33 applicants after a month-long review process.

The result is a trio of respected companies that have completed projects similar in scope to Shelby Farms, a recreational and educational destination that draws a million visits each year and ranks among the largest urban parks in the country.

The finalists are, in alphabetical order:


Field Operations of New York City (www.fieldoperations.net);


Hargreaves Associates of San Francisco (www.hargreaves.com);


and Tom Leader Studio of Berkeley, Calif. (www.tomleader.com).

"We were thrilled with the high level of experienced, world-class design firms that want to conduct the master plan for Shelby Farms Park," said Calvin Anderson, chairman of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy board of directors, in a statement. "The response confirms what we all know - that Shelby Farms Park is a special place that has the potential to be the best urban park in North America."

The winning firm - to be chosen after a comprehensive design, review and public-input process - will be awarded a $450,000 contract to reinvigorate the county's multiuse crown jewel.


Toward the future

The call for an organized plan comes on the heels of a July agreement signed by Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. that handed management of the park from the Shelby Farms Park Alliance to the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy.

The new 501(c)3 organization now oversees all aspects of park management - from administration to conservation - for 2,900 acres of Shelby Farms, excluding Agricenter International and the area at Mullins Station and Farm roads that includes county offices.

The Conservancy's 34-member board of directors is chaired by Anderson, vice president of corporate affairs at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Former Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division president Larry Papasan is serving as interim executive director for the organization.

One of the board's first initiatives was developing a master plan for the park, so the Conservancy launched a request for qualifications (RFQs) initiative in early October through its "Innovative Design Competition."

Once the RFQs were filed, members of the 10-person Master Plan committee read all 33 submissions and eventually settled on the three winners. The committee, chaired by Barbara Hyde, consulted Alex Garvin, president and CEO of Alex Garvin & Associates Inc. in New York.


Form and function

All three firms bring something to the table, such as vast experience with large natural landscapes, an emphasis on sustainable design and creative land-reclamation projects.

For example, Field Operations won an international design competition in 2001 to prepare a master plan for the 2,200-acre Fresh Kills Park on Staten Island in New York.

Hargreaves designed a multi-phase waterfront reclamation project in Louisville, Ky., which revitalized derelict industrial land.

And Tom Leader created Birmingham, Ala.'s Railroad Reservation Park, a 220-acre rail corridor transformed into green space in that city's downtown area.

Each finalist will receive an honorarium of $25,000 and an additional stipend to cover travel and presentation expenses as they further develop their proposed master plans for the park.


Public input

Public input is imperative for this process, and four public forums are scheduled. They begin tonight, with the final one set for Dec. 1 (See sidebar for schedule).

Also, citizens may participate anytime in an online survey at www.shelbyfarmspark.org.

"We want to gain a significant amount of public input before any of these master plan teams put their first pencil to paper," said Laura Adams, the conservancy's interim director of public engagement, master plan and development. "We want them to hear - before they begin conceiving designs for the park - what the people's feelings are; how the park is being used today; what they value about the park; if they're not using the park, why; and what would attract them to the park."

From Nov. 29 to March 5, the finalists will refine their designs based on input from the public and from various Shelby Farms stakeholders. An exhibition of all plans will be held March 6-26 at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar Ave., for public viewing and feedback.

"In the beginning we're able to get more general kind of input, and then as we move further along we'll get more specific input," Adams said.

The winner will be announced April 9 with approval by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners slated for the end of June. Once selected, the winning firm will contract with local landscape design and engineering firms to complete its plan.

Each of them already has engaged, or is planning to engage, a local firm to help them with processes such as engineering, architecture and landscape design.

For example, Hargreaves is partnering with Ritchie Smith Associates, and Tom Leader has pegged buildingstudio, which designed the BRIDGES Inc. building in Downtown Memphis.

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