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WASHINGTON (November 4, 2015) — The Mid-South Coliseum and Fairgrounds site has the potential to become a major gathering place for the residents of Memphis and the surrounding region, serving as an amenity offering recreation and entertainment spaces flexible enough to accommodate a variety of year-round uses, according to a newly published report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI).
Memphis, Tennessee: A Vision for the Memphis Fairgrounds, released today, is based on the recommendations made by a panel of nationally renowned land use and urban planning experts convened by ULI this past June to advise the City of Memphis regarding the redevelopment and reuse of the Mid-South Coliseum and Fairgrounds site in the center of the city. ULI is a global, multidisciplinary research and education institute whose 36,000-plus members are dedicated to responsible land use and creating thriving communities around the world.
Conducted through ULI’s advisory services program, the panel was comprised of members representing different aspects of the real estate and urban development industry. Panelists spent the first part of a week-long visit (June 7-12, 2015) evaluating the site and meeting with numerous stakeholders and other members of the community before preparing their initial recommendations, which were delivered at the conclusion of the visit. The panel’s study area comprised the Fairgrounds site, Tobey Park, and the Cooper Young, Beltline and Orange Mound neighborhoods. Among the key 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 could include several indoor multi-sports courts, academic tutoring and study rooms, concession and merchandising spaces, and removable and retractable bleachers to create a championship court, among other uses. The complex could be used for a variety of events and tournaments that would attract local and regional users as well as a vibrant gathering place for the surrounding neighborhoods.
- Repurpose the Coliseum to create an events structure that could host smaller events and concerts. While the panel recognizes the costs of restoring the Coliseum, it appreciates the facility’s significance in the city’s history. As a result, the panel recommends preserving at least part of the structure or its shell for reuse as an indoor facility with a larger outdoor stage for a range of events such as concerts, sports games or graduations.
- Add a multi-purpose open space in the center of the site. A multi-purpose space could be used to expand the concept of Tiger Lane and create green, walkable space for use by residents as well as visitors to the city. Additional open space for events could 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, existing institutions on the site such as the Kroc Center and Children’s Museum, the youth sports facility operator, and other businesses and stakeholders to create more unified support and accomplish greater goals for the Coliseum and Fairgrounds area.
The advisory panel was chaired by longtime ULI leader Leigh Ferguson, director of economic development for the Downtown Development District for the city of New Orleans. Ferguson, a developer with more than 35 years of experience in the industry, is a widely renowned expert on downtown revitalization, affordable housing, mixed-use development and partnerships with public and non-profit entities. “We were impressed by the tremendous commitment by the City of Memphis to reimagine a future for the Fairgrounds that includes Memphians and visitors from the mid-South region and beyond,” said Ferguson, who has chaired numerous ULI advisory service panels. “We encourage the city to leverage this momentum as it continues to realize a vision for this site. A concerted effort on the part of the city, the surrounding neighborhoods and the stakeholder institutions can return the Fairgrounds to its former prominence.”
In addition to Ferguson, other panelists were: Stanley Lowe, president and chief executive officer, Pittsburgh Neighborhood Preservation Services, Pittsburgh; Nathan Watson, president, Tradition Properties, Inc., Biloxi, Mississippi; Ellen Mendelsohn, director of leadership, ULI, Washington, D.C.; Michael Medick, architect and town planner, BSB Design, Inc.; Alexandria, Virginia; Tom Murphy, senior resident fellow, ULI/Klingbeil Family Chair for Urban Development, ULI, Washington, D.C.; Alysia Osborne, planning coordinator – long range planning services, Charlotte – Mecklenburg Planning Department, Charlotte, North Carolina; and Stephen Whitehouse, partner, Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners PLLC, New York City.
Now in its 68th year, the ULI advisory services panel program assembles experts in the fields of real estate and land use planning to participate on panels worldwide, offering recommendations for complex planning and development projects, programs and policies. Panels have developed more than 600 studies for a broad range of land uses, ranging from the redevelopment of waterfront properties to sports stadiums; a few months prior to the Memphis panel assignment, a ULI panel made recommendations on reuses for the Houston Astrodome.
According to Thomas Eitler, vice president of ULI’s advisory services program, the strength of the program lies in ULI’s unique ability to draw on the substantial knowledge of its members, including land developers, engineers, public officials, academics, lenders, architects, planners and urban designers. “The independent views of the panelists bring a fresh perspective to the land use challenge,” Eitler said. “The advisory services program is about offering creative, innovative approaches to community building.”
About the Urban Land Institute
The Urban Land Institute (uli.org) is a nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the Institute has more than 36,000 members worldwide representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines.