Tom Lee Park breaks ground at Cutbank Bluff

Dec 3, 2020

Decades in the making, the new Tom Lee Park designed by Studio Gang and SCAPE broke ground on Wednesday, December 9 at 3 PM CST.

The ceremony was virtual, broadcast live on the Facebook page of the Memphis River Parks Partnership.

“The groundbreaking of Cutbank Bluff represents a major benchmark for public space in Memphis,” said Kate Orff, Founding Principal of SCAPE. “It’s fitting that the first area of Tom Lee Park to break ground is a gateway to downtown—the new design aims to improve connectivity and equitable access across the park for all Memphians, celebrating the environmental and cultural history of the Mississippi riverfront.”

Work begins at Cutbank Bluff, the northern entrance to the park. Overall, the new park will feature four zones of activity separated by generous, flexible lawn spaces. Together, the park features combine to create a dynamic and engaging experience with sweeping views at every turn, from north to south.

  • The Civic Gateway features the Cutbank Bluff, a radically redefined park entrance and access point from Vance Ave. and the first ADA-accessible route up and down the bluff. The new access leads to the Gateway Plaza hosting a major water feature and natural stone seating nestled beside a shaded community tree grove.
  • The central Active Core will buzz with activity as the home to the park’s signature all-ages play space and outdoor exercise equipment at River Fit. The one-of-a-kind 20,000 sq. ft. Civic Canopy will host music, sports, events and more with the unrivaled backdrop of the river. A river deck and two river lawns will play host to the free nightly show of spectacular Mississippi River sunsets while pavilions and shaded seating provide options for food and restrooms.
  • Designed as the quieter, more serene and peaceful part of the park, the Community Batture will feature topographic changes that unlock new river views, sloping lawns for family enjoyment, meditative paths, a Peace Walk and a River Overlook that will accommodate smaller outdoor gatherings. Community Tables and Hammock Groves provide places to relax, unwind and gather in small groups.
  • The Habitat Terraces, at the southern-most end of the park offer an intimate and immersive experience with nature, featuring educational spaces, sound and sensory gardens, and plenty of native plants and wildlife.

Throughout, Tom Lee Park prioritizes resiliency, survivability and sustainability with native plantings grown from seeds collected as part of the first-ever Massive Seed Project.

To learn more about the park, visit: