Thursday, May 20, 2004

TV: Riverfront Belongs to Public And Heirs

Channel 3 News
By Stephanie Scurlock

It's the city's most prized piece of land: the riverfront promenade. It overlooks the Mississippi River and is considered prime property by developers. City council members are hearing arguments about how it should be developed and how much green space should be left. But in the end, it's not totally their decision. It's a decision the relatives of three founding fathers will help make.

Virginia McLean is from the Overton family. She leads the grass roots group Friends For Our Riverfront. She wants improvements to the riverfront, like the removal of unsightly parking garages and vacant buildings. But she doesn't believe apartments and businesses belong there.

McLean and other descendents of John Overton, John McLemore and James Winchester are heirs to the riverfront property. In 1828, the three founding fathers of the city of Memphis set aside a portion of their land, called the Promenade, to give to the city. The one stipulation is it can only used as public land. Descendants are in a dispute on what constitutes public land.

Descendants like Happy Snowden Jones back the Riverfront Development Corporation's proposal. She says it's for the good of the city, not her bank account. She says there are far too many heirs to gain anything substantial financially. Jones prefers a mix of residential and activities on the riverfront. She doesn't believe, as McLean does, that a park alone will attract people downtown.

If the descendents can't reach common ground about what constitutes public use, they'll have to let someone else, like a judge, make the decision.

Copyright 2004, WREG Channel 3 - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.

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