Cooper-Young residents and city budget watchers were taken by surprise when the Memphis City Council took up proposed funding for a parking garage in Cooper-Young as part of its budget negotiation last month.
Councilwoman Janis Fullilove proposed adding $3.6 million into Mayor A C Wharton’s $600 million budget for a parking garage that advocates want to build on Young between Meda and Blythe. Preliminary designs suggest the structure would have room for 150-250 cars with the first floor being dedicated to commercial space.
The funding request made it through several rounds of budget negotiations before ultimately being dropped by the cash-strapped city.
“[Cooper-Young] is a meeting point of Orange Mound and the Glenview area and, of course, Midtown, so this is a citywide kind of project,” Fullilove said in defending her budget ask. “If we’re lucky, we could get some [tourist development zone] money from Nashville. But if we don’t, we need to put this in the budget and start planning this.”
The idea for a parking garage in Cooper-Young was first introduced last year after the city had agreed to foot part of the bill for a similar structure in the resurgent Overton Square. That project also included a retention basin badly needed to store excess runoff from nearby Lick Creek.
The Cooper-Young proposal, supported by area businessmen and the Cooper Young Business Association, is all about parking. It’s estimated there are about 460 on street and private parking lot spaces in Cooper-Young, not even enough to accommodate all of the 1,150 people who work in the district. As area restaurants have become more and more popular, it has put a strain on parking resources in the area. It is estimated that 40,000-50,000 people visit Cooper-Young weekly, generating more than $12 million annually in sales tax revenue alone.
Opponents of the garage say the structure would harm the largely residential nature of the area. They also raise concerns over crime and the glare of the structure’s bright lights.
A survey conducted last year by the Cooper Young Community Association found that 75 percent of residents agreed parking was a problem in the neighborhood, but only a slight majority, 53 percent, supported the garage solution.
One thing everyone can agree on, however, is that the garage debate is not over yet.