Friday, March 05, 2004

Cybill condemns promenade plan

The Commercial Appeal
By Tom Charlier

When the Riverfront Development Corp. board approved a land-use plan for the Memphis promenade without dissent last week, its most famous member wasn't present.

But that doesn't mean Cybill Shepherd endorsed the action.

The actress and native Memphian on Thursday condemned the plan - which envisions some private development and perhaps high-rise buildings - as "historically and aesthetically inappropriate" for the four-block site atop the downtown bluff.

"What I didn't like about that was that it (the promenade) has never been used by private investors. It's always belonged to Memphians," Shepherd saidfrom her Los Angeles home.

Allowing structures as tall as 400 feet on the promenade represents "the worst idea I've ever heard," she added. "We might as well be Atlanta."

Her comments came eight days after fellow members of the RDC board voted 17-0 to adopt the plan, which would transform an area of parking garages and largely inaccessible and neglected structures into a network of walkways and open spaces lined with shops, restaurants and other developments.

The private developments would fund such projects as a two-level promenade and the relocation of parking underground. In all, the improvements could cost up to $50 million, officials say.

Shepherd, who also opposes RDC proposals for a lake and land bridge on the riverfront, said she now will focus her efforts on the City Council, which is expected to vote on the promenade plan in April.

But even if the measure passes, legal questions hover over the promenade area because the city's founders set it aside for public use.

Informed of Shepherd's concerns, RDC president Benny Lendermon noted that there are 21 voting board members. "We think every board member certainly is entitled to their opinion," he said.

Lendermon said Shepherd and other critics have had plenty of opportunity to air their concerns. The promenade plan has been the focus of recent board meetings and three public sessions since November that were attended by some 300 people.

Although she returns to Memphis five times a year and has a bluff-top home, Shepherd acknowledges she has not been able to make it to any RDC meetings in the approximately two years she's been a board member. But she has kept in contact with Lendermon and other officials.

"I guess I just kept thinking this plan would go away," Shepherd said. "I think I'm to blame - I wish I could've been more active."

Copyright 2004, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN.

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