Memphis is located on a great bluff rising above the Mississippi River. Since the early 19th century, the riverfront has been a trading hub for industry and transport — but today, as Memphians embrace a renewed relationship with the Mississippi, a new Tom Lee Park will transform a significant piece of the riverfront into a signature waterfront park where community life can flourish along the water’s edge.
Developed in collaboration with Studio Gang, the park’s design is informed by the Mississippi River’s dynamic hydrology and sediment flow patterns — with portions of the park corresponding to riffles, pools, micro-deltas and tailouts — weaving together circulation and topography into intimate and expansive spaces that showcase the hardy riparian ecology of the Mississippi. A restored soil system beneath the park will support native trees, shrubs and vibrant perennials inspired by regional landscapes across Tennessee.
Designed for a more accessible, welcoming sense of arrival, the design also includes five improved entrances with defined landing points extending from major streets, including an ADA-accessible switchback trail to Beale Street Landing at Cutbank Bluff (the first portion of the park under construction). These, in turn, connect to a city-wide network of civic spaces — including the Cossitt Library, National Civil Rights Museum and the future Brooks Museum.
Incorporating the ideas and input of thousands of Memphians, the park features a range of flexible spaces for sports and fitness, children’s play, outdoor education, community dinners and dances, private events, concerts, festivals and more.
Tom Lee Park broke ground in Winter 2020 and is currently under construction. In Fall 2021, the Memphis River Parks Partnership announced a $1.4 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support A Monument to Listening, an original work by artist Theaster Gates. The park is named for Tom Lee, a Memphis hero—read more about his story here.
To learn more about the park’s design and progress:
- Memphis River Parks Partnership (MRPP)
Studio Gang (Master Planner & Architect)
Theaster Gates (Artist & Social Innovator for 'A Monument to Listening')
Kimley-Horn (Civil Engineer)
Thornton Tomasetti (Structural Engineer)
Applied Ecological Services (Ecologist)
Innovative Engineering Services (MEP)
Randy Burkett (Lighting Design)
Montgomery Martin (Construction)