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VOL. 132 | NO. 59 | Thursday, March 23, 2017

Midtown Residents Bemoan MRG Multifamily Plan

By Patrick Lantrip

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A nearly century-old neighborhood that was torn in two when Interstate 40 came crashing to a halt at the doorstep of Overton Park is now again on the precipice of change.

Makowsky Ringel Greenberg unveiled plans for a seven-building, multifamily development at the intersection of Sam Cooper Boulevard and East Parkway on Tuesday, March 21. 

(Makowsky Ringel Greenberg)

Dubbed the Overton Gateway, Makowsky Ringel Greenberg’s plans for a proposed multifamily development at the confluence of Sam Cooper Boulevard and East Parkway received a cold reception from residents of the surrounding Lea’s Woods neighborhood Tuesday evening, March 21.

Because of district zoning overlay regulations, the developers had to bring early plans to the public before taking them to the Land Use Control Board, and ultimately the Memphis City Council.

“We envision it, starting from tonight, maybe a nine- to 12-month process,” said Forrest Owens with engineering firm ETI Corp.

Representatives from MRG, along with Owens, Scott Fleming of Fleming Architects and Blair Parker of Blair Parker Design were on hand to present the plans and gather public feedback.

While details are not yet specific, the initial design calls for developing seven, five-story multifamily buildings total – two on vacant parcels on the north side of Sam Cooper Boulevard and five on the larger parcel to the south of Sam Cooper.

“I believe that the best way to pull the fabric of the community together and to make this intersection a nicer place, is to pull the buildings closer to the right of way,” Parker said. “We’re recommending that the buildings be placed 10 to 20 feet from the right of way.”

The plan will require moving the Hampline, which currently cuts through the vacant parcel to the north of Sam Cooper, closer to the street.

“We’ve already spoken to the city about that, and the city is not opposed to it, but it’s something that we will have to work through with our design once we get down to the details,” Parker said.

As for the buildings themselves, the design will come from the Lea’s Woods Historic Conservation Guidelines and the Broad Avenue Corridor Planning Initiative, which was commissioned by the city-county Office of Planning and Development in 2006.

The Arts and Crafts architecture style, which is common in the Lea’s Woods area and Midtown in as a whole, will be the overarching design theme, according to architect Scott Fleming.

The Arts and Crafts style is similar to the prairie style of architecture that Frank Lloyd Wright was known for, according to Fleming.

“We’re going to provide something that will provide connectivity and permanence,” Fleming said.

But many Lea’s Woods residents expressed a litany of concerns, ranging from traffic issues to the effects the apartments will have on the neighborhood’s future.

Many residents said they prefer a single-family development at the intersection to replace the original homes that were torn down in the 1970s to make way for I-40.

“What was taken out of that block were homes, that I for one would expect to go back in there,” resident Ken Kelly told the designers. “If you want to extend Lea’s Woods and finish off the neighborhood, then finish off the neighborhood.”

The design, other residents argued, did not belong in Midtown – they likened it to an East Memphis or Cordova site.

Concerns over adding traffic to an already busy intersection, opposition to the Hampline’s relocation and a lack of mixed-use cafes and restaurants in the plan were also cited by the residents during the lengthy Q&A.

The designers said they will take the public input and follow up with another public meeting in mid-April with more detailed design specs.

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751