New Downtown fire station would create a ‘superblock’

By Updated: June 12, 2019 4:00 AM CT | Published: June 11, 2019 4:52 PM CT

In what local government planners call an “unusual proposal” that will create the longest block in the Central Business District, the Memphis Fire Department seeks to close an entire block of a cross street to accommodate a planned fire station.

The Office of Planning & Development seems to like nothing about the Fire Department’s proposal to close High Street, between Adams and Washington, except for one, important thing:

“… Staff defers to the Fire Department on the best way to use land to keep the city safe,” states the planners’ staff report.

They recommend the Land Use Control Board approve the request as long as certain conditions are met. The board is to review the case in its June meeting at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at City Hall.

Plans for a new Memphis Brooks Museum of Art are forcing the Fire Department to move Station No. 5 from the northwest corner of Front and Union. The department plans to build a replacement station immediately east of its maintenance shop at 354 Adams.

High Street borders what will become the east side of the new station. The closed section of street would become the station’s private drive. Fire vehicles would access the station from both Adams and the private drive, and bollards or a gate would block public access at Washington.

“It is my understanding from our conversations with the Fire Division that they desire a site that can accommodate forward movement both to and from the station,” Planning Director Josh Whitehead told The Daily Memphian in an email on Tuesday.


“In other words, a situation where fire trucks need not back into the street leaving the station or back into the station from the street entering the station,” he said. 

The request “is an unusual proposal, as most fire stations have access on public rights-of-way, not private driveways,” the OPD staff report states. “The applicant prefers such a driveway in order to minimize the likelihood of traffic accidents as fire engines return to the station.”

The proposal would create a “superblock” bordered by Danny Thomas, Washington, Orleans and Adams, the report states.

The document criticized the proposed closure, stating it would:

  • Remove on-street public parking.
  • Create an “extraordinarily long block” of four-tenths of a mile on Adams and Washington, from Danny Thomas on the west to Orleans on the east. “A block of this length would reduce connectivity between neighborhoods and would have a substantial effect on pedestrian traffic in the surrounding area. The report cites the Memphis 3.0 growth plan, which states, “Smaller block sizes allow for better street network connectivity which encourages walkability by providing more route choices and reducing walking distance to get between destinations.”
  • And also be inconsistent with the purpose of the Medical Overlay District, which is “intended to have a more urban, pedestrian-friendly, walkable character in the future.”

The Office of Planning & Development has asked that the Fire Department allow continued pedestrian access through the private drive by carving out a 13-foot-wide easement.

Another condition planners request is the planting of 11 trees along the proposed drive.


Memphis Fire Department Planning And Development
Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey covers business news for The Daily Memphian. A Tupelo, Mississippi, native, he graduated from Mississippi State University. He's worked in journalism for 40 years and has lived in Midtown for 36 years.

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