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VOL. 132 | NO. 84 | Thursday, April 27, 2017

MRG Reshapes Overton Gateway Plan, Residents Still Not Happy

Michael Waddell, Special to The Daily News

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A revised multifamily development planned by Makowsky Ringel Greenberg LLC that reduces the number of apartment units and adds amenities that would better connect the project with the neighborhood still didn’t get positive reviews from residents.

Blair Parker of Blair Parker Design speaks to a concerned resident about the revised Overton Gateway site plan Wednesday, April 26.

(Daily News/Michael Waddell)

Representatives of MRG’s team hosted a second neighborhood meeting Wednesday night, April 26, at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art to discuss its revised Overton Gateway development on two properties along Sam Cooper Boulevard at East Parkway just east of Overton Park.

The project’s design team presented the changes that were made based on feedback from the greater Midtown community, input from the first neighborhood meeting March 21 and results from an online survey, but many nearby residents remained unconvinced that the project will bring value to the neighborhood.

Major changes to the original design include scaling down the number of overall apartments as well as the height of the multifamily buildings from five stories to a combination of three- and four-story buildings.

“We’ve now lessened the amount of apartments that we recommend to put on this property,” said Blair Parker, principal with Blair Parker Design. He and Forrest Owens with engineering firm ETI Corp. and Scott Fleming of Fleming Architects were on hand as part of MRG’s design team.

The new design also includes much more landscaping, walkable green spaces and streetscape amenities like planters, covered wraparound porches, and a corner spot possibly for a sculpture or piece of public art.

“This sort of streetscape will really encourage community and connectivity among the neighbors,” Fleming said.

On the north side of Sam Cooper, plans call for 54 apartments and 54 parking spaces and a few potential retail bays for a coffee shop and other small businesses. On the south side of the street, the design calls for a combination of 106 multifamily units (with 116 parking spaces), three townhome duplex rentals, and three flats with four rentals each.

Water elements on both sides of the street were removed. The south side will have a community space for neighborhood use.

After the planners made their presentations, the meeting broke up into smaller one-on-one meetings with residents and other attendees.

“I objected to the format of not being able to ask questions during the meeting,” said Gordon Alexander, founder of the Midtown Action Coalition. “You have to ask questions so that everybody in the room hears the question and hears the answer. In these small focus groups, you can’t get the same result. I think a lot of people felt muzzled.”

Alexander still doesn’t believe the developers have addressed the problem of heavy traffic that will be going through the intersection at Sam Cooper and East Parkway once that many more residents live there.

“The neighborhood doesn’t want it,” he said. “The current residents want it to be restored just like the west side of Overton Park was. They want single-family homes back. They want a complete neighborhood. Nobody wants renters in their neighborhood. People would rather have something that brings the property values up.”

Kevin Ferner, owner of Memphis Guitar Spa located on nearby Broad Avenue, lives on one of the streets adjacent to the proposed project. He’s most concerned about the project’s lack of adequate parking and disappointed that planners were able to supersede historic guidelines that he had to follow while restoring his home and adding a garage.

“I don’t care how architecturally pretty it is or how many shrubs there will be, anything four or five stories is so out of place there and so ridiculous, and probably the most insulting thing is for someone to stand there and say we’re allotting you one parking place per unit and most of the units are 1,200 square feet,” said Ferner, who cited the fact that planners estimate that 115 overflow cars will park in the neighborhood.

“When you have a lot of outcry from people about it, in the end do they have any power, or does money just rule everything?” Ferner asked.

Ferner, Alexander and others plan to continue to go to every meeting held for the project in an attempt to convince the developers to make further revisions.

MRG plans to submit its planned development application to the Land Use Control Board next week. The LUCB is then scheduled to hold a public meeting on June 8 in City Council Chambers at City Hall.

“If everything goes as we would like, it would be December before we record the final plan, and sometime in 2018 we would begin construction,” Owens said.

PROPERTY SALES 93 424 6,970
MORTGAGES 42 281 4,410
BUILDING PERMITS 196 704 16,619
BANKRUPTCIES 38 174 3,570