Riverside Drive reopening permanently after months of keeping large crowds away

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Downtown Neighborhood Association received notice on Friday from the Mayor’s Office that Riverside Drive is going to be reopened permanently to car traffic, according to Jerred Price, President of DNA.

In an email obtained by FOX13 from Steve Shular, special assistant to Mayor Jim Strickland, to Price, the road reopened Friday.

There will be no more weekend closures.

The closures started one year ago when Mayor Strickland closed the street to prevent large gatherings in the park during COVID’s “Safer At Home” order was put into play to keep people home and quarantined.

Baptist Memorial Hospital Infectious Disease Specialist Stephen Threlkeld said that, with the advancements we’ve seen in the past year, people are able to gather safer.

“We had the steroids that cut mortality by 20 percent. We now have the monoclonal antibodies,” Threlkeld said. “Above everything else, is the vaccine. People who get the vaccine do not die.”

The Downtown Neighborhood Association had been asking for the street’s reopening since the other parks were reopened a few months after the “Safer At Home” order was lifted, a release said.

Now that Riverside Drive is back open, Memphians like Anders Beard say they can feel a difference.

“It just makes me feel good to be out and around and to see all these other people out,” Beard said.

The idea to keep the road closed was approved by the City of Memphis’ Riverfront Steering Committee.

The Riverfront Steering Committee was using the closure to create “a new park experience” and utilizing the street for skating, parking, and to add footage to the park to allow for more social distancing, a release said.

The Downtown Neighborhood Association said:

In closing, we are happy this taxpayer paid-for byway is restored once again. However, we are not blind to the safety challenges and issues we face with this street. As with many other streets in our city, cruising and lawbreakers make this street sometimes unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists. We will continue to work with the City of Memphis, Downtown Memphis Commission, and other downtown stakeholders to ensure we come up with common sense, equitable solutions for safety. We would like to thank Mayor Jim Strickland, City of Memphis COO Doug McGowan, Councilwoman Michalyn Easter Thomas, Councilman Ed Ford, Councilman JB Smiley, and all those who heard concerns and took the time to meet with us with open ears and minds.

Thank you to all others who assisted in this effort.