News & Insights

Memphis STEM Students Help Redesign Historic Tom Lee Park

Kimley-Horn and Project Team Reimagine Riverfront

Image © Studio Gang and SCAPE

Named in honor of a Memphis hero, Tom Lee Park sits on 30 acres along the Mississippi River. In 1925, Tom Lee was on his boat when he saw a steamboat carrying more than 100 people capsize. Though he couldn’t swim, Lee navigated his boat towards danger and filled it with as many people as he could. Making five trips to shore, he saved 32 lives that day.

The park that bears his name and features a memorial commemorating his heroic efforts is being redesigned to tie the Memphis community to that same river. Alongside Studio Gang and SCAPE, our civil engineers are drawing inspiration from the rhythms and patterns of the Mississippi River and the culture and geography of Memphis. We’re also coordinating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure the concrete mat that supports that park won’t interfere with river navigation.

To encourage movement throughout the space, Tom Lee Park is divided into four distinct and unique zones:

  • The Civic Gateway welcomes visitors from historic Beale Street and Vance Park, offering a new entry plaza and water feature.
  • The Active Core is highlighted by a 20,000 square-foot canopy and has beautiful river views and a café.
  • Community Batture includes elevated grounds featuring walking paths through the forest and shared spaces for family picnics—and is home to the Tom Lee Memorial.
  • Habitat Terraces provide a closer tie to nature and connects to the city via an elevated path.

The park is also connected to the community through an outreach program with local inner-city schools. On a regular basis, students in area STEM programs meet with project team leaders to share their thoughts on how potential park upgrades could provide optimal enjoyment. The students work in tandem with the design team, participating in design workshops, attending site visits, and engaging in public engagement sessions. Thanks to the input of these students, and thousands of their fellow Memphians, the park will accommodate spaces for all types of activities that match the energy and motions of the adjacent Mississippi River.

With an anticipated groundbreaking later this year, Tom Lee Park will help Memphis complete its riverfront transformation, providing an enjoyable place for the community to come together to celebrate the city’s rich history.


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