Is Vance Park destruction and redevelopment, right outside Pitt Hyde’s PITTCO-Hyde Foundation Compound a parking project ? Don’t think so. Let’s dig in.
Some time ago, before Carol Coletta said that every community is entitled to a “glamour project”, I adopted that belief, and for the most part, accepted the Riverfront boondoggle. I did publicly object to a County Commission appropriation of $3M due to the fact that the resolution contained no deliverables.
At any rate, that has now changed after I have learned more. For starters, the recent reduction of parking, promised in City mediation, is concerning. Memphis Riverfront Parks Partnership (MRPP) claims to have the authority to modify a City mediated parking agreement. But after seeing various entities get access to local funding and then dramatically modify the deliverables, I believe opponents of MRPP on the Riverside parking matter.
And then there is the extravagant $5M Cut Back Bluff project that was sold by the Downtown Memphis Commission’s Downtown Mobility Authority (DMA) and JenJen Oswalt, to local legislative bodies, under the heading of a $62M public parking project. The $62M project included the public endorsement of AutoZone’s Bill Rhodes.
Again, I had not been focused on the Riverfront boondoggle. But from the presentation materials of the $62M DMC PILOT extension fund project, I was always wondering what was going on with the Wagner Place project that added 35 parking spaces for $6M.
That’s $171K per parking space, with above ground parking garage spaces costing $25-30K per space. So I wondered, are they putting all of the Wagner spaces under ground or what? Then I referred back to the DMC Commission presentation materials and this is what I discovered.
Extravagant Park Project
First, even with $6M in DMA parking funds, the Cutback Bluff project has nothing to do with automobile parking. Its an extravagant Vance Park enhancement project bordering Pitt Hyde’s downtown compound. (Refer to the above graphics, when reading the following).
This $6M in local funds, comes in addition to $30M in state and local funds for Riverfront development. Vance Park was a beautiful park before hand, with stairs to the river. But the park is being redeveloped under the name of Cutback Bluff. The project extends Tom Lee Park’s current boundaries by engulfing Vance Park as Cutback Bluff.
The language used in the legislation to enable access to $6M of $62M in parking funds was parking “connectors” from Riverside and Tom Lee Park to DMA parking. The connector is an extravagant landscaped switchback sidewalk being built, on the bluff of the once Vance Park, to connect a sidewalk at the top of the bluff to Wagner place parking. Cutback Bluff itself does not generate direct parking revenue for the DMA.
In fact, parking is being removed at the bottom of the hill on the east side of Riverside Drive in apparent violation of the City mediation agreement. As far as the top of the bluff, a cost effective connector, could have been, connecting Wagner Place parking to an unimproved Vance Park. But Nooooo, the elitists have to gig the taxpayer, for another $6M to fund extravagant landscape improvements bordering the PITTCO compound.
Given the DMA’s local funding, they have the potential to be a local game changing board by investing in true economic development. The DMA should curtail the mobility center and recover $6M from MRPP for Cutback Bluff. Or if not the former, curtailing the Brooks Museum by $6M for Cutback Bluff. This will result in about $70-80M in taxpayer savings to be redirected to targeted economic development investments.