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VOL. 132 | NO. 198 | Thursday, October 5, 2017

Brooks Museum Eyes Downtown Fire Station Site

By Bill Dries

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The city fire station at Union Avenue and Front Street and the adjacent parking garage appears to be under consideration as the new site for the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, according to a source close to the situation who did not want to be identified by The Daily News.

A PDF of the July concept plan for riverfront redevelopment for the city shows the site of the Downtown fire station and parking garage as a possible site for a "cultural amenity." (Studio Gang)

And the site, which is considered prime riverfront property, has been mentioned for such a use as recently as this summer.

The Brooks announced in September it was considering moving out of its original home in Overton Park of the last century but still within the city of Memphis. The museum’s staff and long-range planning committee have been evaluating locations, and the Brooks board would vote on any potential site.

If the Brooks board OKs the 2-acre Downtown property, it could go to the Memphis City Council for approval possibly as early as its next meeting on Oct. 17.

The possibility was news to council chairman Berlin Boyd. When contacted by The Daily News, Boyd said it was the first he had heard of that specific site being under consideration.

The city owns the entire 2-acre block, including the parking garage next to the fire station.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's administration is in the midst of assembling a new riverfront plan that is now in the concept phase. The general concept created by Studio Gang consultants and unveiled in July shows the fire station and parking garage as a “cultural amenity” or museum site.

An annotation to another graphic covering the same area reads: “Convert Parking to Cultural Asset: Replace the parking garage at Monroe and Front with a new cultural amenity that can anchor the corner and split activity outdoors.”

The emphasis on the plan is on the corner of the block where the parking garage currently stands, across Monroe from the Cossitt Library, which is about to begin renovations to its midcentury front space.

Under the concept plan, the western boundary of the fire station/garage site would become part of a “civic terrace” fronting the river and extending through other properties. A rendering shows a pedestrian bridge over Monroe Avenue on the northern side of the parcel similar to the bridge that is over Court Avenue.

The idea of moving the fire station, which includes the Memphis Fire Department's headquarters, has been considered before for other riverfront redevelopment plans since at least the administration of Mayor Willie Herenton.

The site is considered prime river bluff real estate that is also part of the city’s “promenade” – an area of land designated for public use by the city's founders.

The public use definition has been stretched over the last 50 years or so to include a city government facility as well as public parking. And changing those specific uses has been a specific goal of past riverfront plans.

Reporter Andy Meek contributed to this story.

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