A NEW GUIDE TO BALANCING MOBILITY AND HUMANITY ON MAIN STREET
Case Studies 

Please note that these Hall of Shame nominations were written in a moment in time (most over a decade ago) and likely have since changed or even been transformed. If the above entry is now great, or still not so great, go ahead and comment below on how it has evolved or nominate it as a great place.

*Nominee 

River Garden

Memphis

TN

USA

Contributed by 
George Abbott
Project for Public Spaces
 on 
November 20, 2019
November 22, 2019

What makes it Great?

Why it doesn't work?

River Garden is a one-acre park on the banks of the Memphis harbor. Formerly known as Jefferson Davis Park, the park was renamed in 2013 as Mississippi River Park. Last year, after a $1.6M renovation, it became River Garden.

River Garden features native meadow plantings ringing the park, an all-ages treehouse and play structure, human-size nests constructed from Mississippi River driftwood, a dining pavilion, swinging benches, a coffee shop, and fabulous harbor-side views. Kayak rentals are available every day from the 4th Cup.

Since the park opened, visitor numbers have increased by more than 180% and a busy day can see more than 4OO people spending time in the park. An evaluation of the income diversity of site visitors—the likelihood that two individuals selected at random would be from the same income bracket—was ranked 79 out of a possible 80. Programs regularly draw participants from more than 40 different ZIP codes.

In a divided city like Memphis, River Garden plays an important role as a truly shared, inclusive public space that connects people across backgrounds.

Access & Linkages

The park is at the heart of the five-mile River Line pedestrian and bike trail that connects the riverfront from north to south. It sits adjacent to downtown with artistic crosswalks and new traffic lights to facilitate travel from Main Street to the park.

Comfort & Image

The park is clean, welcoming, and beautiful. Staff are usually in the park at least eight hours a day, ensuring that it is clean and well-maintained. Staff are trained to welcome visitors and answer any questions that they may have. Visitors have reported "a country-club experience" in a city park.

Uses & Activities

The park's design facilitates and supports multiple forms of passive recreation within the same footprint. There are areas to sit, rest and enjoy the park quietly, as well as more active zones concentrated around the coffee container, play structure, and pavilion in the north. The park plays host to a wide variety of programs from yoga to dance to sports to music to fitness.

Sociability

The beautiful, relaxing and engaging environment of the park immediately places visitors in a calm, relaxed mood. About 45% of visitors are from within the core city, 20% suburban, with the remaining 35% being tourists. The park is located immediately adjacent to the Tennessee Welcome Center which supports higher tourist use. The park is seen as a meeting place by students from the University of Memphis Law School, one block away, and major downtown employers often using the park to meet, study, or eat lunch.

How Light?

How Quick?

How Cheap?

History & Background

Related Links & Sources

River Garden
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River Garden

*Please note that these Hall of Shame nominations were written in a moment in time (most over a decade ago) and likely have since changed or even been transformed. If the above entry is now great, or still not so great, go ahead and comment below on how it has evolved or nominate it as a great place.

NOMINATE A PLACE

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A NEW GUIDE TO BALANCING MOBILITY AND HUMANITY ON MAIN STREET