The idea that the Memphis Zoo and the Overton Park Conservancy should equally split the costs of parking on the greensward isn’t logical or fair.  After all, it’s the zoo that has the much larger budget, and as a result, we’ve written previously that the organizations should pay proportionally based on the sizes of their budgets.  Dennis Lynch of the Sierra Club has now done the calculations.

His memo on this subject follows: 

Analysis of Memphis Zoo and Overton Park Conservancy
Relative Size and Financial Capacity

After careful analysis of a multitude of factors regarding the relative size, financial strength and years of experience of the Zoo compared to the Overton Park Conservancy, a fair and reasonable ratio for splitting the expenses associated with the design and construction of the expanded Zoo Parking Lot has been developed.

Based on the numerous factors, documented below, it is shown that the cost should be shared 95-5, by the Memphis Zoo and the Overton Park Conservancy.  Any larger percentage charged to the Conservancy fails to recognize the relative sizes and capacities of the two organizations.  Additionally, the benefits received by the 2 entities skews very much in favor of the Zoo, but no financial calculation of such benefits is attempted.  Finally, whatever land is taken from the Park and given to the Zoo for expansion of the parking lot should be considered as a portion of OPC’s contribution to the cost.

NOTE- the City Council’s July 19 resolution allows for nearly any cost-sharing ratio since it gives no specific ratio or even any guidance how to determine the ratio.  The specific wording is- “The Memphis Zoological Society and the Overton Park Conservancy are expected to share in the cost of implementing this parking plan.”

Here is a summary chart of the major items.

Zoo Conservancy Zoo proportion OPC proportion
1. Annual Budget

Form 990’s- Line 12

$21,004,239  $830,501 96.2% 3.8%
2. Fund Raising Receipts

Form 990’s- Sched G, Part II Line 1

 $1,681,042  $83,057 95.3% 4.7%
2b. Fund Raising Net Income

Form 990’s- Sched G, Part II Line 11

 $469,348  $2,441 99.5% 0.5%
2c. Fund Raising Net Income+Contributions

Form 990’s- Sched G, Part II Line 11+Line 2

 $1,013,098  $8,441 99.2% 0.8%
3. Years of Experience Raising Funds

Zoo started in 1906; OPC in 2011

110 5 95.7% 4.3%
4. Net Assets

Form 990’s- Line 22

 $20,033,825  $1,339,284 93.7% 6.3%
5. Total Staff

Form 990’s- Line 5

383 5 98.7% 1.3%
6. Contributions from City of Memphis

(Unaudited figures from different sources)

$3,550,000 $229,000 93.5% 6.5%
Note to item #3- Years of Experience Raising Funds- From the Zoo’s website- “The group held a baseball game, its first fundraising event, in August 1906 where they raised $3,628.”

** Other Points *

7 – Benefit received from the Parking- There is no satisfactory way to calculate dollar values or an “arithmetic” ratio for this item. One could argue that all of the dollar benefit is received by the Zoo, and no dollar benefit is received by the Park. However, the Conservancy does receive the benefit of never again having Zoo overflow cars on the Greensward. In addition, the various Park Partners (especially Levitt Shell, Brooks Museum, and College of Art) might benefit if allowed to use the Zoo’s parking lot from time to time when not conflicting with the Zoo’s schedule

8 – Control- It is not clear whether or not this point has ever been discussed publicly, but traditionally, the Zoo has maintained complete control over their parking lots, including the Prentiss Place lot (which is not technically within their boundary). The future lot might be under complete control of the Zoo as well. Thus, 100% control would suggest that they should pay 100% of the cost.  The other side of the Control point is that if the OPC contributes to the cost of the parking lot, they should certainly be allowed use of the lot from time to time.  Further, the concept of “community partnership” would suggest that the Zoo should allow the Park some control, or at the very least, some reasonable opportunities to use the new parking lot.

9 – Value of Contributed Land from Overton Park- Based on Memphis’ 2017 Appraisal, the land close to Overton Park is worth about $212,000 per acre (average of 5 properties in the Evergreen neighborhood facing the Park and closest to the Zoo), which means that the Park’s contribution of land will be worth between $265,000 and $424,000, based on land requirements of 1.25 to 2 acres of land.

Summarizing all of these points, suggests that 5% would be a very reasonable and appropriate share of the cost for the Conservancy to pay.  Further, a portion of OPC’s dollar contribution to the project should be a credit of $265,000 to $424,000 for their contribution of land to the project.

NOTE- This analysis has been independently performed, and was not commissioned by any other entity- the City of Memphis, the Memphis City Council, the Memphis Zoo, the Overton Park Conservancy, or by any other person or organization.

Dennis Lynch, BS MechEng MIT, MS CivEng MIT
Sierra Club Chickasaw Group (West Tennessee) Chair
Sierra Club Tennessee Chapter Transportation Chair