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VOL. 132 | NO. 89 | Thursday, May 4, 2017

Forum to Riverfront Corridor Debuts In June

By Bill Dries

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The area between FedExForum and the Mississippi River is getting a network of protected bike lanes and pedestrian plazas next month as part of a year-long pilot project.

City Bikeway and Pedestrian Manager Nicholas Oyler says new pedestrian plazas and bike lanes between FedExForum and the riverfront are an attempt at a comprehensive corridor that has been difficult to find before.

(Submitted)

The Great Streets Pilot Project has a one-year trial period for the commissioned art, painted crosswalks, barriers and planters as well as the lane changes.

City Bikeway and Pedestrian Manager Nicholas Oyler says the goal is a “vibrant pedestrian and bicycle corridor through the heart of Downtown, west-east, really connecting the riverfront to Midtown as best we can.”

The Midtown connection is a set of bike lanes on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to come later this year that will extend into Midtown.

Once those bike lanes cross Danny Thomas Boulevard, they will link up with the Downtown corridor that takes in Fourth Street on the eastern side of FedExForum, Peabody Place, Front Street and Wagner Place.

“It’s creating new pedestrian space in the heart of Downtown and pedestrian plazas,” Oyler said. “We’ll be activating that with pop-up retail markets, with outdoor dining seating options for restaurants and bars that are already there today, with public art through the UrbanArt Commission.”

Angled parking on the north side of Peabody Place between Front and South Main streets will become parallel parking in the transition.

“That would be converted to parallel parking resulting in a net loss of four spaces,” Oyler said. “We’ll lose a couple on the north side, but we’ll gain a few on the south side when we restripe it more efficiently.”

Business owners in the area have been consulted about the changes which begin this month and debut as the city hosts the national conference of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals in June.

On the southern end of the Main Street Mall, streets currently do not provide a readily apparent path to the river for bicyclists and pedestrians.

“There have been a lot of touch up efforts. This is one attempt to do a comprehensive look for this east-west corridor,” Oyler said. “We have performance metrics based on safety, economic development and usage of the new space.”

If the changes meet with public approval and use, the city will seek federal grant funding to make them permanent.

The pilot project is being funded and planned by Hyde Family Foundations, Ikea, UrbanArt Commission, Looney Ricks Kiss and DCA.

The changes come against a backdrop of Fourth Bluff Project efforts further north on the riverfront, including the RiverPlay pop-up park that crosses Riverside Drive to link Memphis Park and Mississippi River Park. RiverPlay opens Friday with programs being held in the afternoon-to-evening hours.

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