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VOL. 132 | NO. 5 | Friday, January 6, 2017

Zoo Parking Space Dimensions Emerge as Issue In Greensward Compromise

By Bill Dries

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Some members of the city’s Overton Park Parking Committee want to at least talk about changing one of the key ground rules for the rearrangement and expansion of the Memphis Zoo’s parking area.

And the zoo’s representative on the committee that met Thursday, Jan. 5, is just as adamant that the requirement for parking spaces to be 10 feet by 20 feet should remain as it is.

The Memphis City Council set that as the specific requirement for parking space size in the July 2016 resolution it approved that represented a compromise between the Overton Park Conservancy and the Memphis Zoo with the city administration and city council also being parties to the agreement.

Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Sink said changing the parking space dimensions would mean going back to the council to amend the agreement.

“If you deviate from that … it would require a vote and approval by the city council,” Sink told the council.

Overton Park Conservancy director Tina Sullivan raised the possibility of doing that but did not move Thursday to pursue such a change.

“I think it’s a good question to raise. I understand the concerns that were expressed by some of the council members around parking space size,” she said after the meeting. “But I hope that we can allow the designers maximum flexibility to design the most efficient parking lot that isn’t constrained by unnecessary restrictions.”

John Conroy, the zoo’s representative on the committee, said the zoo does not favor changing that specification.

The size of the parking spaces is critical because it determines how much of the Overton Park Greensward the parking lot will expand onto along with a reconfiguration of the existing parking lot.

The agreement calls for the creation of 415 new parking spaces and an end to zoo overflow parking on the greensward by January 2019. The zoo sought 600 new parking spaces.

With the zoo accepting a lesser amount, the conservancy accepted an expansion of the parking lot that extends the paved surface east onto the greensward north of the Doughboy statue and south onto the northernmost part of the greensward with a berm separating parking there from the greensward.

Because the agreement is built around creating a specific number of parking spaces, the larger the spaces are the larger the encroachment on the current greensward would be.

Council members approved an amendment specifying a 10 feet by 20 feet standard for parking spaces in the agreement citing the dimensions of parking spaces at Tiger Lane at the Mid-South Fairgrounds.

There is no requirement for the city to fund any part of the project and the zoo and OPC have agreed to split the cost of the undertaking.

The parking committee was put in place to work out the specific details of the compromise and manage the project.

Manny Bellen and Jack Stevenson of the city engineering department as well as city Public Works Director Robert Knecht said if there is to be a change that requires council approval it should be done before the group hires a design firm to save time as well as money.

Meanwhile, the parking committee is to hear from three design firms probably later in January who are vying for the contract to do the design work.

The three firms are Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., A2H and Powers Hill Design LLC.

The committee isn’t selecting a design plan at this point but a company that will come up with a proposed reconfiguration with some guidance from the committee but also abiding by the specific parameters set in the 2016 council resolution.

Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, is on the board of the Overton Park Conservancy. He did not participate in the writing or editing of this story.

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