Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Promenade makes state list, called endangered; supporters applaud

The Commercial Appeal
By Richard Locker

Memphis's riverfront Public Promenade made the Top 10 list of Tennessee's "most endangered public treasures" issued Monday by the Tennessee Preservation Trust because of plans to lease it for private development.

The green space stretching atop the downtown bluff was laid out as permanent public space in the original plan for Memphis by the city's founders, including future president Andrew Jackson. But the City Council is considering a plan by the Riverfront Development Corp. to lease part of the Promenade for private development, including high-rise office towers.

The plan has prompted an outcry from preservationists and others. The City Council has scheduled a public hearing May 18 and will likely vote afterward.

The inclusion on the Trust's "Ten in Tennessee" list offers the space no legal protection but does call statewide attention to the issue. TPT is a statewide nonprofit historic preservation education and advocacy group and is the state partner of the prestigious National Trust for Historic Preservation. The annual list is compiled by a committee of historians and preservationists, from nominations submitted by the public.

"This year's list addresses a wide range of places that help give our state its unique identity," TPT Executive Director Patrick McIntyre said during a ceremony in the state Capitol's Old Supreme Court Chamber. "We have found that lack of awareness is the single biggest hindrance to the preservation of historic places, and the list serves as a means to generate awareness of the most critically threatened."

The Promenade is the only Memphis site on this year's list. Two other sites in West Tennessee are included: the Alex Haley House in Henning, and the Sons and Daughters of Charity Hall in Bolivar.

The 2004 list is the third issued by the Trust. Memphis sites on previous lists are the Chisca Hotel in the South Main Historic District, in 2002, and Chucalissa Indian Village and Melrose School, both in 2001.

The Riverfront Development Corp. is a nonprofit organization that contracts with the city to manage public properties along the riverfront. Asked to comment on the Promenade's inclusion on the list, RDC President Benny Lendermon said, "I wish everyone would come and see it today. I don't think anybody wants it to stay the way it is.

"There's a fire station, a falling-down library and two parking garages on it, that block the view and prevent public access. It's a wall of inactivity between the riverfront and downtown Memphis," he said.

Virginia McLean, president of Friends For Our Riverfront, which opposes the RDC's plan, said she "is thrilled" with the Promenade's inclusion on the list and hopes it helps save it. "I think people in Memphis feel passionately about our river. That land's been our parkland for 185 years, and basically this RDC plan is going to plop down 400-, 300- and 150-foot high-rises on it."

Copyright 2004, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN.

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