Memphis, Tennessee—Advisory Services Panel
July 21, 2015
Date: June 7-12, 2015
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Sponsor: City of Memphis
Subject Area: Downtown Redevelopment
Leigh Ferguson, Director of Economic Development
Downtown Development District of New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana
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Background and Panel Assignment
The Fairgrounds, a nearly 155 acre site, marks the center of the city of Memphis. Historically this site has been a fixture in the city’s history and today continues to hold a special place for many Memphians. The Fairgrounds is home to many anchor facilities for the city including the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, which hosts University of Memphis football games, the Liberty Bowl, the Southern Heritage Classic, the Children’s Museum of Memphis, the Kroc Center and the STEAM Academy. In 2004, the city assembled a blue ribbon committee to determine potential new uses for the Fairgrounds and nearby properties, and later in 2008 issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the redevelopment of the site, which did not move forward. Following the RFP, the city began to explore other redevelopment and reuse ideas. These concepts provided the foundation for the State of Tennessee to apply for a Tourist Development Zone (“TDZ”) around the Fairgrounds.
The city invited ULI to conduct an advisory services panel to examine the Fairgrounds and to review previous studies commissioned by the city on the proposed future use and development of the site. The panel was also asked to provide an analysis of what uses will provide for a self-supporting and sustainable program on the site, what existing economic tools the city has available to achieve redevelopment goals, and how any future uses at the site can connect with and complement the surrounding neighborhoods.
Summary of Recommendations
The panel proposes many innovative ideas, including the following overarching recommendations:
- Create a unique state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor youth sports facility oriented toward sports such as boys’ and girls’ basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, gymnastics, and fencing. This facility would include eight to ten indoor multi-sport courts, academic tutoring and study rooms, concession and merchandising spaces, and removable and retractable bleachers to create a championship court, among other uses. The proposed youth sports complex can be used for a variety of events and tournaments, attract local and regional users, continue to be a destination for the greater Memphis community, and provide amenities to and serve as a vibrant gathering place for the surrounding neighborhoods.
- Repurpose the Coliseum to create an outdoor events structure that would host smaller events and outdoor concerts. The panel recognizes the limitations and cost of restoring the Coliseum, but it also appreciates the significance of the Coliseum to Memphis’s rich history. The panel strongly recommends that some portion or the shell of the structure be adapted for use as a smaller indoor facility with a larger outdoor stage (with the proposed name “Coliseum Stage”) for regional and local events, including concerts, sporting events, and graduations.
- Add a multipurpose open space in the center of the site. A multipurpose space can be used to expand the concept of Tiger Lane and create green, walkable space for both nearby residents and visitors to enjoy. Additional open space for events will serve to reestablish the Fairgrounds as a cultural gathering place for Memphians.
- Engage the surrounding neighborhoods by creating a Midtown Collaborative. This organization would be responsible for engaging neighborhood representatives, nearby universities, current institutions on the site (i.e., the Kroc Center and the Children’s Museum), the youth sports facility operator, and other businesses and stakeholders to create a more unified voice and accomplish greater goals for the Fairgrounds area.