The Edge District

Morris Park renovations underway, opening expected summer 2022

Memphians who live and work in the Medical District will soon have a revamped and accessible park in their neighborhood.

Morris Park is seated at the intersection of Poplar and Manassas, roughly between LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center and the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center.

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Morris Park sits at the intersection of Poplar and Manassas, across the street from LeBonheur. (Shelia Williams)The park’s new design starts with new trash cans, lighting, and benches. Children will be able to enjoy a playground with new equipment and a number of grassy mounds for imaginative play. The beautiful existing tree canopy has been carefully preserved and more trees will be added, along with grass and a comprehensive irrigation system to keep the green space blooming.

The formerly dilapidated park has long been a place of refuge and community for those individuals and families who lack stable housing. This could be because of its proximity to shelters like Memphis Union Mission and Hospitality Hub, both of which have been renovated recently. Hospitality Hub is a partner in the park redevelopment plans, offering resources for unhoused people who are ready to transition into temporary or permanent housing.

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Uptown community anchor areas, according to the Community Redevelopment Agency. (submitted)The renovations will also feature a new amphitheater-style gathering area set up for community performances and events with a shade structure and picnic tables. The Memphis Medical District Collaborative has stepped up to provide planning, funding, and support for details like traffic calming, increased accessibility, and free wireless internet access in the park.

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Landscape architecture firm Ritchie Smith Associates and the Community Redevelopment Agency engaged the public concerning improvements to this historical park. They facilitated surveys, virtual meetings, and finally a hybrid town hall led by City Council member Michalyn Easter-Thomas a few days before the groundbreaking in September of 2021.

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Uptown community anchor areas, according to the Community Redevelopment Agency. (submitted)The Community Redevelopment Agency is consistently active in talking to and helping Uptown TIF residents move toward a better quality of life. Some of their work includes rehabilitating homes through their Single Family Homes Rehab program and organizing blight clean-up efforts in the area. The CRA’s 2018 Uptown Plan identified Morris Park as one of nine “anchors” of Uptown—key places where neighbors and visitors can gather.

Related: Uptown & The Pinch: How Memphis’ oldest subdivision became its newest boom town

In his state of the city speech in January, Mayor Jim Strickland announced his plan to spend $200 million on rejuvenating our aged park system. The plan includes giving Mud Island a new look and possibly tearing down the neglected 100 North Main, Memphis’ tallest building. The progress in Morris Park is a part of this plan.

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The redeveloped Morris Park is scheduled to open in summer of 2022. Since the park sits along one of the busiest streets in Memphis, we’ll all get a good view of what it looks like to prioritize what might be the city’s most valuable asset—the people who live, work, and play here.
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Read more articles by Tafui Owusu.

Tafui Owusu (formerly Shelia Williams) is a resident of the Bickford-Bearwater area of North Memphis and a graduate of the second High Ground News Community Correspondents program. She is also a board commissioner for MATA.