South City

City plans to resurrect L.E. Brown Park as part of South City development

Residents of the new South City development will soon have a new park, but it’s one former Cleaborn Homes residents will remember.

Six-acre L.E. Brown Park, located at 617 S. Orleans Street, was originally developed in the 1950s as an on-site park for the Cleaborn Homes public housing development. Now used by all neighborhood residents, the park includes a playground, softball field, basketball court, picnic pavilion, walking trail and an active swimming pool.

It is also bisected by a 20-foot-deep drainage ditch that takes up valuable public space.

By combining half of the existing L.E. Brown Park with an undeveloped parcel related to the Hope VI renovation of Cleaborn Homes (now known as Cleaborn Pointe at Heritage Landing), the City of Memphis Division of Parks and Neighborhoods will shift the park’s territory away from the drainage ditch to completely front Georgia Avenue.

The new L. E. Brown park will be six uninterrupted acres of space with updated amenities.

“The swimming pool will remain, and a new playground will be added with some picnic tables, benches, water fountain and trash receptacles,” said Mike Flowers, head of planning and development for Parks and Neighborhoods.

“Street trees will be planted along every street frontage with irrigation. A paved pedestrian connection will be installed to connect Heritage Landing to Georgia Avenue.”

The project is expected to cost $700,000 with $100,000 funded through the city’s capital improvement fund and $600,000 from the City of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development’s Choice Neighborhoods Grant.

“We’ve been wanting to replace this park for sometime, and with this South City Choice Neighborhoods Grant, we were able to fill the financial gaps in order to get it done,” said Mairi Albertson, senior program administrator with HCD.

HCD is deploying the $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to redevelop Foote Homes and the surrounding area into South City. Demolition of 420 public housing units at the former Foote Homes site is complete. Construction is underway on the first two phases of housing that will rise in its place with move-ins expected in fall 2019.

Flowers said bids for the park have been received, and the next step is to finalize a construction contract between the city and chosen contractor. He expects the work to begin in January and wrap by July, weather permitting.

Flowers also said Urban Art Commission typically funds public art work in the city’s parks and will likely do so at L. E. Brown after construction is completed. Future plans for phase two of development include a picnic pavilion and walking trail, if funding can be procured.

“Adding more recreation opportunities is always positive,” said Flowers. “We hope that these improvements will activate what is essentially a greenfield into something that can be utilized and enjoyed.”

Albertson said the partners would work to recruit area sports teams to program the park. Additionally, the park sits adjacent to the old Georgia Avenue Elementary School where several partners are working with HCD to redevelop the three-building school campus into a mixed-use facility. Current plans include an early childhood center and Girl’s Inc. location.

Related: "Girls Inc. plans to add a massive center in former South Memphis school"

“We feel like [the park] will be a great opportunity for employees at that campus or the Girl’s Inc. participants to walk to as well,” said Albertson.

“Neighborhood parks are important because they provide local recreational opportunities and held to stabilize the neighborhoods they are in, as well as the neighboring property values,” said Flowers. “The Trust for Public Lands recommends some public green space within a 10 minute walk of every neighborhood. Re-establishing L.E. Brown Park helps us to accomplish that.”

Read more articles by Cole Bradley.

Cole Bradley is a native Memphian and applied anthropologist. Since 2011, Cole has worked as a researcher, strategist, and community engagement specialist across the city's private, public, and non-profit sectors. Passionate about storytelling, they began contributing to High Ground News in 2017.
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