Burch, Porter & Johnson Attorney Charlie Newman accepted one of the first “Mojo of Midtown” Awards on behalf of the Citizens to Preserve Overton Park at an event on March 25, 2015. Mr. Newman worked on the case, ultimately involving the Supreme Court, for more than twenty years.
As he tells it, the Citizens to Preserve Overton Park (CPOP) were a small but passionate group (sometimes derisively referred to as “Little old ladies in tennis shoes,” though there were some men among them) who fought and won a lengthy legal battle against the Federal, State, and Local governments and the Memphis business establishment.
At issue was whether Interstate 40 would be built through the Overton Park, taking twenty-six of the park’s three hundred and forty-two acres, dividing the park and the adjacent neighborhoods.
The case moved quickly at first, leading to a 1971 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States requiring that it be demonstrated that there were no “feasible and prudent” alternatives to the I-40 route and defining those words more clearly.
But the Supreme Court ruling was barely the beginning.
It took more than 10 additional years of determined work by CPOP, involving extensive litigation in the lower courts and complex administrative proceedings, before proponents of the route through the park were persuaded to give up and exchange the expressway for $320 million in Federal funds that could be used for other transportation purposes.
Instead Overton Park is what it was designed to be: a verdant, quiet place with an old-growth forest in a major urban center. And the centerpiece of Midtown.
News Release provided via Mojo of Midtown, March 2015
Honorees Named For Mojo of Midtown Awards
The Midtown Memphis Development Corporation is pleased to announce the recipients of the 1st Annual Mojo of Midtown Awards. The Mojo Awards honor those individuals and organizations whose contributions ensure the integrity, vitality and viability of Midtown Memphis. They have helped make Midtown a great place to enjoy life and conduct business. “We are thrilled to recognize these recipients for their contribution(s) in helping give Midtown it’s Mojo,” said Sam Goff, President of the Midtown Memphis Development Corporation.
Citizens to Preserve Overton Park: For tireless efforts, using the law and community activism, to prevent Interstate 40 from being built through Overton Park. In doing so CPOP preserved Midtown Memphis’ most important public space.
Ben Woodson/Overton Square: For his vision of Overton Square as a place where dining, nightlife and shopping could come together and become a magnet for the tri-state area.
Bob Loeb of Loeb Properties: For believing that Overton Square could make a comeback and for putting his money where his ideas are. Loeb’s enthusiasm for Midtown is infectious.
Cooper-Young Festival: Since1988 the Festival has drawn hundreds of thousands from the Mid-South to see what Midtown is about. The Cooper-Young Festival is the biggest single day event of its kind in Shelby County.
The Levitt Shell: Since 2008 the Shell has hosted fifty-plus free concerts every summer. Families and friends from all across Memphis are entertained and a Midtown landmark has been given a new life and purpose.
City of Memphis-Bicycle lanes: The City has carved out two hundred miles of bike lanes and paths with another hundred miles already planned. This gives us a clean, safe and slower way to see Midtown and Memphis.
The awards will be presented on Wednesday, March 25th at 7:00pm at Circuit Playhouse, 51 South Cooper. In keeping with the spirit of Midtown, the party will start at 6:00. Tickets for the event can be purchased in advance (cash or check until night of show) at Playhouse On the Square (66 South Cooper), Otherlands Coffee Shop (641 South Cooper), Sowell and Company Realtors (54 South Cooper). Tickets will a available for $40.00 the night of the event.
The Midtown Memphis Development Corporation was established in 2007 as a not-for-profit organization with the goal of encouraging the growth, stability and vitality of Midtown Memphis.