Monday, June 26, 2006

Finding Safe Harbor: Beale Street Landing to lay anchor soon

The Daily News [Link to article]
By Andy Ashby

The Riverfront Development Corp. (RDC) has absorbed $500,000 of city budget cuts and appears ready to move ahead on its largest project to date, the $29.3 million Beale Street Landing.

When the Memphis City Council approved the city budget June 6, the RDC received $2.1 million for its operating budget for fiscal year 2007, down 18 percent from $2.6 million last year. The RDC's total operating budget is projected to be $4.2 million, down slightly from last year's $4.3 million.

The RDC was able to fill the city funding gap by reducing expenditures and through a projected revenue increase stemming from the operation of Mud Island River Park. The park includes the 5,000-seat Mud Island Amphitheater.

From disconcerting to concerts

When the RDC took over the amphitheater's operations from the city in 2000, the concert venue made almost no money, said RDC president Benny Lendermon. Last year, eight concerts netted more than $200,000 in profits. Next year, the RDC has a minimum of eight concerts planned, with a potential for more.

The RDC also will not offer raises to its 35 full-time employees next year.

"The normal citizen's experience on the riverfront will not change through these budget cuts," Lendermon said.

The RDC also adjusted the funding structure for its Capital Improvement Projects (CIPs), spreading the city's payments over three years to lessen the impact on each year's budget. Previously, the city was funding Beale Street Landing over fiscal years 2007 and 2008.

Now the money is going to be spread across three years, with the RDC receiving CIP money in fiscal years 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Beale Street Landing, which features a floating dock and five islands set at varying heights along the Mississippi River, is the biggest project on the RDC's CIP budget.

The millions at high tide

In last year's CIP budget, the project would cost the city $7.2 million in fiscal year 2007 and $12.7 million in fiscal year 2008, with $9.2 million in reprogrammed money, which is state and federal funding.

Under the new CIP budget, the city will pay $2 million in fiscal year 2007, $9 million in fiscal year 2008 and $7.8 in fiscal year 2009. The project now will get $10.5 million in reprogrammed money, as more state and federal funding has been found since last year, Lendermon said.

Once completed, Beale Street Landing will consist of five islands set at different levels of a terrace along the bank of the river and will be connected by bridges. Some of the lower islands will flood occasionally as the water level changes. This will allow visitors to get close to the river.

AYE, AYE: Capt. William Lozier, owner and operator of Memphis Riverboats Inc., is concerned the Beale Street Landing project will cause logistical problems for his fleet of three riverboats. Since it started in 1955, the company has operated from the cobblestones at the foot of Monroe Avenue and Riverside Drive. -- PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW ASHBYA 13,000-square-foot building will be constructed on the northeastern edge of the property with glass windows facing the river. The first floor of the building will be 10,000 square feet and could host a gift shop, a ticket terminal for boating companies and a restaurant. The second floor will have 3,000 square feet for utility equipment.

"That building will house what is one of the missing links for that area now," Lendermon said. "If you're in Tom Lee Park or at the cobblestones, you're a long way from a Coke, a burger or a glass of wine."

Hope floats

The project also features grass planted over the roof of the building, which slopes down on both ends, with one side landing in Tom Lee Park to the south and the other ending in a planned plaza to the north.

The RDC also is planning a 70-space garage under the building. This is down from the initial plan's 100 spots, another cost-cutting move.

Beale Street Landing's total project cost will remain $29.3 million, despite rising construction costs.

"Prices are certainly going up," Lendermon said. "Katrina and fuel prices have greatly increased the cost of this project, although we've committed to build this project for a set amount of money ($29.3 million). We deal with the increased price through changes in the project."

One change will be a shortened floating dock, which will rise and fall according to the Mississippi River's level. The original design called for a 580-foot floating dock. The RDC reduced the dock length by 100 feet to save money.

The reduction made the dock long enough to accommodate large steamboats and excursion boats.

"We felt it wasn't worthwhile to spend another million dollars extending this floating dock when it wasn't needed for the docking of vessels," Lendermon said.

When planning the landing, the RDC also reduced the number of islands at Beale Street Landing from six to five.

The first phase of the landing was completed in August 2005, when Great Lakes Docks and Dredge Inc. widened the point where the Wolf River Harbor meets the Mississippi.

Lendermon said he hopes bidding for the second phase of the landing, which involves building a sea wall to allow for construction of the rest of the project, will begin in early July. The second phase of the project should start in September, with the entire landing scheduled to be finished in early 2009.

Voice of reason

Beale Street Landing would change the appearance of Memphis' riverfront, but some citizens aren't sure it's needed.

Friends for our Riverfront, a nonprofit citizens group, has spoken out about several RDC projects, such as the proposed land bridge to Mud Island and the development of the public promenade area along Front Street. While the organization might seem to be anti-RDC, that's not the case, said Friends president Virginia McLean.

"But in terms of (the Beale Street Landing project), we think they really need to be evaluated in terms of the cost, in terms of the need and in terms of whether it's a good investment," she said. "Is there really a need for Beale Street Landing, or would the cobblestone area we already have, with improvements that could cost less, suffice?"

Capt. William Lozier, owner and operator of Memphis Riverboats Inc., said he also thinks the cobblestones are a better investment. The company has been in Lozier's family since 1955 and always has operated from the cobblestones at the foot of Monroe Avenue and Riverside Drive.

"We like where we're at," Lozier said. "Yeah, we'd like a new facility, but a new facility comes with new problems."

The company operates three riverboats, and Lozier said he has plans to put two more into service next year. Once Beale Street Landing is built, it could add another step to his departures.

"We would have to deal with the logistics of another landing and where the boat is going to disembark from," he said.

Setting sail from good to great

Some Memphians are excited about Beale Street Landing as a terminus for one of the city's most famous streets.

"If you go there today, it's in a dismal condition," said Carol Coletta, host of "Smart City," a nationally syndicated radio show that focuses on urban issues. "It's really no way to treat the Mississippi riverfront of a city that has ambition or pride."

Coletta said she thinks Beale Street Landing could be a key development for Memphis' riverfront.

"I think one of the reasons Beale Street Landing is so important is because it will set the tone from an urban design standpoint," she said. "It will set the standard for everything that comes after it. It doesn't need to just be good, it needs to be great."

Lendermon said he agrees with Coletta and thinks Beale Street Landing will provide a connection to the water that Memphians desperately need.

"You can't physically get to the water anywhere in Memphis except for the cobblestones and many people can't walk on the cobblestones," he said. "This will be a place you can get to the water's edge any time and in a very pleasant way."

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Wednesday, May 26, 1999

Riverfront Goal: Get the Public to Believe in the Plan

Commercial Appeal
By Deborah M. Clubb

The headline stretched across a full page of The Commercial Appeal declared: "Memphis' River Front Will Be a Thing of Beauty and Utility If the Planning Commission's Dream Ever Becomes a Reality."

The date was May 25, 1924.

Precisely 75 years later, Memphis's latest Riverfront Steering Committee met high atop a downtown tower to reignite the dream.

"Our job is to create believability that the thing will be done," said John Stokes, committee chairman and vice-chairman of Morgan Keegan Co. "We must, must, must handle this whole thing so Memphis believes in it."

Mayor Willie Herenton appointed Stokes chairman and Kristi Jernigan vice chairman of the committee after the need for it was identified at a half-day riverfront workshop in February.

Stokes is chairman of the Center City Development Corp. Jernigan is a founder of the Memphis Redbirds Foundation and chairman of the UrbanArt Commission.

Seven other members are former City Council member Fred Davis; architect Dianne Dixon of Memphis Heritage; hotel operator Mabra Holeyfield; Dr. James C. Hunt of the Downtown Neighborhood Association; city public works director Benny Lendermon, Bill Taylor of TVA and City Council member John Vergos.

The City Planning Commission in 1924 proposed a ``beautiful park on Mud Island,'' auto parking on an elevated plaza on the levee and a riverfront promenade with barge terminals on the north and south.

Many years and many riverfront plans later, parking garages were built, Mud Island River Park opened and the Bluffwalk is nearly completed.

The 1999 committee's mission is to manage public involvement, attract public/private initiatives and get projects done to revitalize the riverfront.

"If (a proposal) develops any momentum, it will have to come from the entire community of Memphis," Stokes said. "It has not been decided by any city administrators."

For now, they're focused on a 5-mile stretch from the Wolf River to Chickasaw Heritage Park and from the river to a line three blocks east along Second Street.

Their next step to get public involvement will be three half-day focus group sessions.

About 70 people have been invited to attend the sessions on June 15 and 16, under the direction of Matt Arnn from the Waterfront Center in Washington.

Their task will be to look at trade-offs between various needs or suggestions and possible solutions.

They will be joined by City Council members and the steering committee later on June 16 for a wrapup session on the Memphis Queen.

The committee would then meet in July to further put focus group ideas into a concept to be presented to the public at town hall meetings in the fall.

They hope to have a recommendation for Herenton by year's end.

Herenton backed a $50 million plan, developed by city officials two years ago, to dam the Memphis harbor and form a 36-acre lake and a land bridge to Mud Island park.

It failed to win federal funding.

Workshop participants in February largely rejected that concept except for the need to better connect the park to the city.

"The 'lake plan' is a plan, but not necessarily what we will end up with," Stokes said.

"We're way ahead of Louisville and all these other places. Just go see what's going on in Tom Lee Park."

Most of Memphis's waterfront is publicly owned so potential projects would not be delayed by property acquisition.

Everything along the water's edge is public south of Saffarans for almost 5 miles, except for Founder's Pointe housing development and the Church of the River.
Major projects on Mud Island River Park, Tom Lee's expansion and the Mud Island Greenbelt Park are already done.

Much of a 5-mile trail is complete, linking the waterfront from the north end of Mud Island to Chickasaw Heritage Park.

The city has nearly $11.7 million dedicated to the riverfront from federal and state appropriations and a TVA donation.

Further funding for any future projects would come from public and private sources, Stokes said.

With help from an assistant city attorney, the committee will research the best way to form a nonprofit corporation as a public-private partnership to carry out future riverfront projects.

Vergos, Taylor and Rick Haynes of the Plough Foundation will work with Lendermon on plans for the organization's structure.

The committee Tuesday approved a Riverwalk logo design by the Public Works Department. It will be used on signs, brochures, maps and other material noting the city's series of riverfront trails.

The committee also hired Carol Coletta of Coletta & Co. to handle media relations at $115 an hour under an existing contract with the city.

Photo Caption:
Down by the riverside
The Riverfront Steering Committee will focus revitalization efforts on a five-mile stretch of waterfront from the Wolf River south to Chickasaw Heritage Park and east from the water's edge about three blocks to Second Street.

Copyright 1999, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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Tuesday, February 16, 1999

The Waterfront Center: Memphis Riverfront Redevelopment Workshop

Here is the complete text of the written report issued by the Waterfront Center several weeks after the Memphis Riverfront Workshop.

HTML version: [click here] Pagination and formatting does not exactly match the report, but the HTML text is complete and accurate -- and easier to read.

Original (added 6/07): Click here for the entire document scanned into a PDF file (1.1 MB).

For more background, also see the Commercial Appeal reporting: Meeting Aims to Plot Future of Riverfront and 100 Cast About, Snag Some Ideas for Riverfront.

Summary & Recommendations
Memphis Riverfront Redevelopment Workshop

City of Memphis, Tennessee
Tuesday, February 16, 1999

Workshop facilitated and
Report Prepared by
the Waterfront Center
Washington, D.C.

Memphis Riverfront Workshop
February 16, 1999
Consensus Comments of Participants

Importance of Riverfront
  • The Riverfront is an important asset. Development of the riverfront is a priority.
  • Any development should be unique to Memphis, should complement downtown revival and be designed for the benefit of local citizens as well as tourists.

Access Issues
  • Pedestrian linkages should be strengthened:

    • Between downtown and the riverfront
    • From riverfront to Mud Island Park
    • Across Riverside Drive - make Riverside more pedestrian friendly
    • Along the entire riverfront.

  • Uniform sign system needed along riverfront

  • A better, permanent docking facility is needed for river boats, charters, and recreational boats.
  • Investigate options for the dock. Some ideas were: the previously used "river elevator" or locating dock at south end of cobblestones using Tom Lee park for access.

  • It is an historically important asset to preserve and interpret for visitors (tourists and residents
  • Animate by highlighting the historic role of cobblestones and features such as flood gauge.

Mud Island River Park
Make Park more attractive to local residents
  • Overcome barrier of entrance fee
  • Overcome barrier of monorail access
  • Upgrade and enhance current facilities
  • Add programming, events, exhibits and attractions to continuously draw locals.

Parks and Public Space
  • Animate with various activities. Some ideas were: refreshment stand; rentals - bike, roller blades, paddle boats; picnic facilities; children's playground; basketball, volleyball, tennis facilities.
  • Addition of more public art.
  • More interpretation (signs, markers) of sites and events.

Table of Contents


Summaries of WorkGroups

Recommendations of the Waterfront Center Team


"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water."
Loren Eiseley



The City of Memphis convened a Memphis Riverfront Redevelopment Workshop on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 16, 1999. The focus was the Mississippi riverfront and the immediate adjoining downtown, although discussions ranged further up and down river as well as taking into account developments elsewhere in the city. Generous support for the workshop came from the Plough Foundation.

Preceding the workshop was a reception on Monday at AutoZone Headquarters, John Adams and Tim Vargo hosts. Here people unable to take part in the half-day workshop, as well as participants, received a briefing from Mayor Willie W. Herenton, outlining his aims and objectives for the riverfront, and a short illustrated talk by Ann Breen of The Waterfront Center, a "teaser" for the next morning’s slide presentation. John Stokes, Vice Chairman of Morgan Keegan & Co., welcomed the assembled and made introductory and closing remarks.

Mayor Herenton in his brief talk said, "I firmly believe that revitalizing the Riverfront will be a catalyst for bringing the community together. That’s why it's important. That’s why I’m spending the time to go back to the public." He pointed to the great popularity of Tom Lee Park and the growth of "Memphis in May" as an index of the potential of the Memphis riverfront.

Approximately 130 people from various parts of the community took part, representing a portion of the leadership of Memphis and a diversity of viewpoints. The workshop was open to the public. See Appendix for a list of attendees.

The workshop was run by The Waterfront Center, a not-for-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. since 1981. An organizational profile of The Waterfront Center is appended to this report. The Center has provided waterfront community consulting services of varied kinds to over 100 communities of all sizes in North America and elsewhere.

Conducting the workshop were the directors of The Waterfront Center, namely:
  • Matt Arnn, executive director of the Center, with an advanced degree in urban design and planning and finishing a master's degree in landscape architecture, with experience in group facilitation, waterfront design and work with disadvantaged youth;

  • Ann Breen, co-director of the Center, an urban planner by training with involvement in urban waterfront planning and development issues worldwide since 1975, and

  • Dick Rigby, co-director of the Center, with a background in journalism and government/politics before beginning a concentration on urban waterfronts in 1981.

The basic idea of the Memphis Riverfront Redevelopment Workshop was to bring together a group of representative citizens, assisted by outside experts, to begin to develop their own vision for the city's central riverfront. An earlier initiative of the Public Works Division, as was explained and outlined to the workshop by City Engineer John Conroy, that called for construction of dams in the harbor providing links from downtown to Mud Island, had faltered over funding. This provided the occasion to take a step back and reexamine the city’s objectives and aspirations with respect to its Mississippi River frontage. The first major step in this process was the convening of the riverfront workshop.

The workshop recommendations are meant to be the beginning point. Followup — in both the organizational sense and in more detailed planning — is needed, building on the preliminary consensus established in the half-day work sessions.

The recommendations summarized represent a good deal of give and take and a considerable amount of discussion. The citizen's workshop is both a significant community planning event itself and key to the next step — preparation of a citizen-based master plan for the Memphis riverfront and downtown.

This report consists of four parts. First is the introduction and background leading to the workshop. Second is a summary of the work group discussions and recommendations. Third are the preliminary findings and recommendations of the Waterfront Center Team, and fourth is an Appendix.

Note: This report and most particularly the Waterfront Center Team recommendations have not been reviewed by any persons other than the Waterfront Center Team. Any mistakes are the full responsibility of the Waterfront Center and its Team.


Summaries of Work Groups

Attendees were assigned to one of three, color-coded groups, which met separately. Care was taken to see that persons from the same organization were placed in different groups. Ann Breen led the yellow group discussion, Matt Arnn the blue and Dick Rigby the red. The discussions were held at the Marriott Hotel.

Rick Masson, Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Memphis, opened the workshop. He reiterated the mayor’s desire to reach out to the public at this time for its ideas and assured the audience that there was an effective blank slate and the opportunity to build on the expansion of Tom Lee Park, the initiation of riverwalk and other steps along the river. He also introduced and thanked representatives of the Plough Foundation in attendance, Diane Goldstein, Chairman of the Board; Jocelyn Rudner, Board Member; Rick Haynes, Executive Director, and Barbara Jacobs, Program Director.

City Engineer John Conroy followed with a chronological review of the previous riverfront planning, ending in the proposal for dams in the harbor for which Federal funding was not obtained. Ann Breen then gave an illustrated presentation, drawn from the Center’s extensive waterfront slide collection, showing what other cities have done and are doing with their riverfronts. She included an emphasis on design details, opportunities for public art and interpretation, as well as showing commercial mixed-use and other types of uses.

Closing out the workshop was Benny Lendermon, Director of the city's Public Works Division, who assured participants that their deliberations were the beginning of a continuing public consultation. He remarked about the degree of consensus that was achieved during the morning’s group discussions and stated there would be a continuing outreach from the city to the citizens as a revised riverfront redevelopment strategy was devised.

Recommendations of the YELLOW GROUP, summarized by Sonya Walton, Ann Breen, facilitator.

Before discussing priorities and concerns about the riverfront, the group was asked to consider whether or not its redevelopment should be a city priority at this time.

The group concluded that the riverfront is currently very important to Memphis. Future development should have a positive economic development on the city, but at the same time whatever occurs should compliment the central downtown business district (CBD). Any development should be unique to Memphis and simple solutions should be sought. In the words of one participant "KISS (keep it simple)." The riverfront should be open and user-friendly, aimed at the day-to-day users first and foremost.

From an alphabetical listing of topics: access, cobblestones, docking, interpretation, Mud Island's future and parks/public realm, the group added economic development, resource management and visual impact of improvements to the list. After being asked to select which issues were the most important, the group reached consensus in the order of discussion below and agreed on several specific items,

The riverfront was felt to be unsafe for pedestrians (except for Tom Lee Park). Access, both physical and visual, was identified as the most important issue of all with the following as the main points:
  • Don’t obstruct the river view. Concern over the visual impact of either a bridge from the end of Beale Street over to Mud Island and/or a possible dam was expressed.

  • Strengthen parallel and vertical pathways to the river (all modes - vehicles and pedestrians). Some of the ideas discussed to overcome the vertical distance (especially considering elderly) were people movers, a cog railway, pedicabs/rickshaws or cable cars. Taming Riverside Drive was another consideration since it is an obvious hazard to pedestrians. Linkage from the Welcome Center to the Pyramid needs improvement.

  • Strengthen links to the downtown through signage and interpretation.

  • Make the riverfront pedestrian-friendly by creating more shaded areas and improving directional and informational signage. Avoid using gates.

There was a general feeling that this park should be a family-oriented place and needs a number of improvements to make it more viable to the Memphis riverfront and the community.
  • Removal of the entrance fee and keeping the park open year-round were unanimous sentiments. Memphians go once if at all. If the entrance fee was removed more locals might go and use it, especially if pedestrian and vehicular access were improved. Several suggestions including providing a parking area/garage on the island were put forward.
  • More activities for children should be provided, including more opportunities for environmental education. Perhaps an ecology center tied into the school curricula that could also serve as a summer camp could be installed.
  • Overall, the facility needs a general upgrade and enhancement along with improved maintenance.
  • Tied to this is better asset management with the cautionary note of not expanding until the present facility is running optimally.
  • To improve access, the group would like to test the possibility of running the trolley out to Mud Island. It was noted that this could also serve the growing residential communities on the island.

The historic importance of the cobblestones was recognized as well as recognition of the docking problems and the significant water level fluctuation.
  • Preservation of the cobblestones was unanimous. The method of preserving them was up for debate.
  • Docking facilities are key. Further research is needed to solve the various engineering and water level concerns. Different ideas were put forward including a "river elevator" (used historically) as a low-tech solution. The protection of recreational boating was another point raised.

The following points received agreement by all in the group:
  • Tom Lee Park could be improved and made more friendly by installing such facilities as little refreshment stands, picnic facilities and providing more shade either with trees, structures or gazebos. Other suggestions included a monumental sculpture and a sand volley ball court.
  • More public art should be installed throughout the riverfront focusing on and interpreting the river history, as an important feature to the history of Memphis.
  • Fountains and creative play areas should be features included in riverfront improvements.

Miscellaneous. A number of individuals put forward ideas and concerns not mentioned above, that did not receive consensus or have sufficient time for discussion. These included:
  • Identifying and protecting any special natural areas along the riverfront that could be destroyed when development pressures increase;

  • visual access to the river exists but the ability and opportunity to actually touch the water is limited — how could we change this?;

  • a family-oriented hotel on Mud Island;
  • an air-conditioned, enclosed facility to connect the Welcome Center with the Pyramid;
  • planning facilities and activities especially for teens who represent a major market force;
  • having the Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard facilities be more user-friendly;
  • Riverside Drive be reduced to two lanes with buried utilities and,
  • explore possibility of building a retaining wall to stabilize the cobblestones.
  • an air-conditioned, enclosed facility to connect the Welcome Center with the Pyramid;
  • planning facilities and activities especially for teens who represent a major market force;
  • having the Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard facilities be more user-friendly;
  • Riverside Drive be reduced to two lanes with buried utilities and,
  • explore possibility of building a retaining wall to stabilize the cobblestones.

Recommendations of the BLUE GROUP, summarized by Dianne Dixon, Matt Arnn, facilitator.

The group felt that the riverfront should be a number one priority for the city. Important to this objective was to define the area being considered, taken by the group to include the Mississippi River frontage to the Wolf River on the north and DeSoto Park on the south, and including the harbor channel. The role of the west side of Mud Island was not clear.

It was agreed that the riverfront should be regarded within these boundaries and planned as a comprehensive unit. It should not be segmented with piecemeal projects and narrowly-focused plans. Where possible, the riverfront should be seen as an extension of the regenerating downtown and as an amenity aiding downtown redevelopment.

In considering general accessibility to the riverfront, the group noted that this involves pedestrian access, visual access and active use of the river. The river bluff has a major visual impact on the city of Memphis and, it was noted, represents something of a psychological barrier in that it requires ascending to it from the river or overcome it to get down to the river. This reality contrasts somewhat with Memphis' image as a "Bluff City" and a "River City," the group observed.

The first-listed issue was Riverside Drive, where the present speed of traffic was stated to be a problem that has to be overcome. The addition of lighting along the river was recommended to make it more accessible at night. Bridges over the roadway/rail line and connecting the CBD with Mud Island were called for.

The group recommended a bikeway be installed on Riverside Drive and that consideration be given to extending the trolley service to the road — both of which would have the affect of narrowing the existing road and slowing traffic. There was also discussion of changing paving surface, reducing the speed limit, creating a median and adding plantings to make if more like a grand promenade. The whole riverfront area needs a system of signs that tie it together.

Two immediate needs to facilitate greater use of Mud Island Park are the addition of more docking facilities for recreational boats and provision of a ferry service shuttling passengers from the mainland. The ferry idea generated considerable positive discussion.

The group advocated free admission to the island and the provision of more opportunities both for access and enjoyment once there. It was the position of the group that opening Mud Island freely to visitors (not to the museum/Mississippi River model) would encourage people to buy food, drink and concession items and that the revenues from these vendors would contribute to the island’s enhancement. The addition of amenities to Mud Island, that would serve both a visitor population and the residents were recommended. Suggested additions include: Programming the amphitheater with popular music and dance, using re-enactment groups for festivals, bike rentals, volley ball tournaments, environmental education, and generally, more interactive opportunities for young people and families.

Overall, the group saw a need for a public relations campaign on behalf of Mud Island, to refurbish its image in the community. In a related area, the group said an emphasis on security was going to be needed to encourage greater use.

In order to encourage a comprehensive river experience, the group called for a link of the south end of Mud Island to the mainland, near Beale Street. Such a pedestrian link would help overcome now what is seen to be a psychological inhibition for Memphians to use Mud Island.

The group felt strongly about the historic importance of the cobblestone area to Memphis and the overall historic context in which they played such an important role, as in their links to the cotton warehouses above the riverfront.

As a center of riverfront activity, the cobblestone area should be the focus of a ferry operation, should be lined with kiosks selling various items and be a jumping off place for recreational boating and

The cobblestones need repair in order to preserve them and for safety reasons. There's also a need for signs and interpretation of the significance of the cobblestones and their role.

There want to be walkways through the cobblestones to the river boats that dock alongside them. Parking on the cobblestones was thought by the group to be a problem.

Overall, the group's four recommendations were for there to be a balance among use and accessibility to the cobblestones, that there be a program of communication and education about them, that the overall context of their importance be stressed (don't just consider the cobblestones in isolation), and that public-private partnerships be employed to generate the funds needed in their improvement and protection.

The group agreed on the need for permanent docking facilities for major tour boats and that the economic impact of both large and small cruise boats was significant for Memphis. Some negative aspects were noted, such as the wash of the boats damaging the cobblestones.

The issue of the major flux in levels that the Mississippi River undergoes in the Memphis area is a major engineering consideration in locating docks. Given this, the group called for development of a boat landing and dock plan. Considerations to be addressed in the plan, among others, are passenger safety and protection of the cobblestones from wash.

Provision of access to the city's amenities for boat passengers was seen as another issue for a dock/landing plan.

The group was skeptical that the City's "lake plan" would balance the docking, access and cobblestone preservation issues. The hope was expressed that a more comprehensive docking plan could adequately address these as well as the real economic significance of the riverboats.

First listed by the group was the need for better maintenance of the existing public spaces. There was consensus that better park and public space maintenance and operation (litter collection, rat control, basic repairs, lighting) would do wonders for Memphians1 perception of riverfront open space. The group discussed how these basic functions are linked to community pride, or lack of it.

Next suggested was the additional need for better design of the facilities in the parks and for more public art pieces. The establishment of design standards for the city's public spaces was suggested. It was agreed that investment in quality design and details would help change negative stereotypes that Memphians have about the riverfront and its relationship to the city. The desirability of tying together public spaces with amenities and attractions was stated. And, the importance of making all public spaces open to the handicapped was called out.

In order for public space to be attractive, it was noted that the water in the harbor had to be kept clean. On the negative side, it was noted that rats are present along the riverfront.

The group felt it was important to recall the industrial character of the river in considering historic interpretation and how this past shaped the river in Memphis. While the group recognized the importance of preserving industrial uses for their character, visual diversity and heritage, they cautioned against allowing industry to act autonomously along the river and stressed environmental considerations. The group would have welcomed more industrial representation at the workshop. Adequate public access to and through existing or planned industrial use was called for.
The relationship of the city of Memphis to its river and how the citizens embrace the various activities along the Mississippi was cited. A river educational program should keep in mind the various audiences, namely families, teenagers and adults.

For river museum facilities, living history re-enactrnents were suggested to add vitality. Interactive features and storytelling were additional suggestions.

To be the subject of future discussions, the group
suggested: (1) Communication about the riverfront with local news media, (2) a Web site and e-mail capability for exchanging information about the riverfront and (3), establishment of a Riverfront Bureau within the city government to manage future planning and development.

Recommendations of the RED GROUP, summarized by Clifton Harris, Dick Rigby, facilitator.

The group first dealt with the issue of whether riverfront redevelopment should in fact be a priority in Memphis at this time, not to take it for granted.

With the exception of a "maybe" expression or two, the group said it agreed to placing an emphasis on the riverfront at this time. The main reasons put forward for so doing were to advance the economic development of the city, to spur tourism and to encourage investment. It was noted, that redevelopment will generate additional tax revenues to support such other priority needs as the schools.

An expanded riverfront was seen as complementing downtown revival efforts, not competing with same. It was advocated that the riverfront be made accessible to all in the community as it is improved.

Work along the river offers an opportunity to celebrate the heritage of Memphis and the diversity of its people. Along this line, another reason given for a riverfront priority is the cause of historic preservation.

A point about the nature of the river was brought out, namely that it needs to be treated with respect, but it is not as treacherous as is sometimes portrayed.

The problem that Riverside Drive presents for ready access to the river was first-mentioned by the group. One solution suggested was a lower speed limit (35 m.p.h.), perhaps a narrowing of the lanes and/or placing a median in the middle, all in the name of making it more like a boulevard than a high-speed connector. Links of the riverfront and the CBD were noted to be weak.

More boating opportunities were recommended, namely additional boat launches, which were felt now to be inadequate. One specific suggestion was for a launch on the north end of Mud Island.

Improved and free access to Mud Island was suggested (see below), with a Beale Street-to-Mud Island linkage recommended. Another suggestion: a water taxi service in the harbor, tying together various stops (Pyramid, Mud Island, Visitor's Center, Beale Street, Tom Lee Park etc.)

Keeping the harbor open to boat traffic, both commercial and recreational, was recommended by the group.

The issue of renaming one or more parks to make them more inviting came up but failed to achieve consensus. Another issue of accessibility was the need to balance a police presence for security purposes with a non-intimidating appearance, encouraging youth, for instance, to use and enjoy the riverfront. Police in shorts on bicycles help in this regard, it was noted.

The group wanted to see a public walkway beside the Pyramid and was advised that is in current city plans (along the outside perimeter of the flood wall).

Lastly, the need for service vehicle access was noted.

The group was clear in its desire to open up the island to residents and to make admission free. Charging admission to the museum and Mississippi River model was fine. There was solid opposition to the idea that $8 be charged to get on the island (including museum entry).

Again the suggestion was put forward that there be a link from Beale Street to Mud Island, namely a pedestrian bridge.

A hands-on educational program was a suggested addition to the island's offerings. Plus a reconstituted children's playground. Also, the addition of a boat launch (see above).

Additional restaurants were recommended, and a lift of the current ban on concessionaires. It was suggested that the museum itself be updated and that it have changing exhibits so that locals would have reason to make repeat visits. The consensus was that the museum currently is somewhat static as far as Memphis residents are concerned.

Suggested additional facilities on Mud Island ranged from a Ferris wheel to an aquarium, without achieving general consensus.

The employment of local artists, both performing and visual, in enlivening the island did win broad group support. The issue of perhaps renaming the island was again raised, with opposition encountered, but a general re-imaging was seen as needed.

Other suggestions included: extending the monorail and/or extending the riverfront trolley line; expanding the Memphis Belle exhibit to a larger World War II display; adding more parking to the north end, and providing affordable housing on Mud Island.

The group agreed on the historic importance of the cobblestones along the harbor and felt that they should be stabilized and preserved in place. A suggestion that they be moved to Tom Lee Park to again front the river, as they did historically before Mud Island, was not favored.

The cobblestones were felt to be important to the character and atmosphere of the river, and in their uniqueness, a tourist attraction. For this to happen, however, there needs to be explanations and interpretation for visitors (and incidentally, residents) about the role the cobblestone played.
It was recommended that walkways to and along the cobblestones be installed, that the city step up its maintenance of them and that the flood gauge imbedded in the cobblestones be featured, perhaps with a sign. Removal of daytime parking by downtown office workers was suggested as a way of helping maintenance.

One of the major issues facing the city is provision of better docking facilities for riverboats. This is seen as necessary to accommodate existing and prospective vessels which the city is interested in bringing to Memphis. It was noted that the boats now use bow thrusters when they land in Memphis, which damage the cobblestones.
Something of a consensus emerged to locate docking facilities, preferably floating vs. fixed, at the north end of Tom Lee Park, perhaps carving out a piece of land to make this addition. Wherever docks are, there will be a need for safe pedestrian access to and from them, it was noted.

It was recommended that the river boats contribute to the landside facilities serving them. Docks for other types of boats, namely recreational, was also noted. Also, it was suggested that there is a market for small boat charters.

A point was made that Front Street currently turns its back to the river and does not present an inviting facade to people arriving on riverboats. Another point brought up is the need to make the river boats accessible to kids, perhaps having school tours or otherwise opening them up.

In considering how to improve and enhance public park spaces along the river, the group suggested the addition of more public art, more sculptures and the addition of fountains. Artistically lighting various features was also recommended.

Accessible and safe rest rooms in the parks was recommended. A repeat of the suggestion of a major children's playground somewhere in the riverfront was made.

Another consensus area was the expanded Tom Lee Park and how well it is enjoyed and used in the community as a whole. The suggestion was made that festivals there be made free and donations be requested, rather than charging an admission.

Additional offerings recommended include such sports facilities as basketball and tennis courts, and the provision of kiosks renting bicycles or rollerblades and perhaps paddleboats in the harbor.

The parks need interpretive signs and historic markers, the group said. Overall, the group said the city needs to do a better job of marketing itself, certainly to outsiders, perhaps even to its own.

The last recommendation was to convert the Post Office to a city museum, taking advantage of its commanding site overlooking the river.


Findings and Recommendations of
The Waterfront Center

Below are a set of findings about Memphis and its riverfront, both positive and negative, by The Waterfront Center team during its several day reconnaissance and interviews. Accompanying are a series of recommendations to the community. Obviously preliminary in nature, these were presented at the conclusion of the workshop summary session.

Positive Findings
  • The beginning point: the tremendous asset that the Mississippi River represents to the city.
  • The resourcefulness of and demonstrated ability to accomplish things by the people of Memphis.
  • The surprising amount of residential living downtown, in contrast with, for instance, Louisville.
  • The richness in the architecture of the downtown.
  • Most of the riverfront is in city ownership, giving the city complete control of what happens — unlike many cities.
  • A riverwalk is developing with major pieces in place — an asset to build on.
  • The riverfront trolley and stations are well done; the horse-drawn carriages downtown are colorful.
  • Revived Beale Street is a major plus and reflects the city's wonderful musical heritage.
  • The arts community appears strong and an asset to be brought into play in future riverfront projects.
  • The cobblestones are unique and have an evocative aura.
  • The literary heritage of the Memphis area, past and present, is strong.
  • Memphis is a funky city, a welcome contrast with many homogenized and sanitized urban environments.
  • There is a strong private sector and major philanthropic assets in Memphis.
  • The vibrancy downtown, declining retail sector notwithstanding, evident in the restaurant scene and the many museums, for instance.
  • The relatively benign climate. While summers are hot, it also is a time of major visitation ("Don't come to Sun Studios in August!").
  • Memphis does festivals well, most particularly the month-long "Memphis in May" celebration.
  • The range of museums represents a cultural richness today and is expanding.
  • The downtown baseball stadium will add a new dynamism to the center city.
  • The Mississippi River model and Maritime Museum at Mud Island are both impressive.
Negative Findings

  • The riverfront at present is generally speaking underused (Tom Lee Park a notable exception).
  • There is a serious disconnect between the city and the riverfront with high-speed Riverside Drive a major barrier.
  • There is a detectable undercurrent of racial divide still palpable in Memphis.
  • The weakness of the retail sector downtown, given the emphasis on revival and other positives, is dramatic.
  • The facilities and design at Mud Island seem antiquated.
  • There is a lack of historic/cultural interpretation along the riverfront.
  • There would seem to be a lack of communication within the city and a somewhat confused governmental apparatus.
  • Street crime is a major concern of the citizens.
  • The new Visitors Center isn't well connected to the city.
  • There is the absence of a lead agency in charge-of riverfront planning and redevelopment.
  • There is an absence of public art or artist participation along the river.
  • The overall public realm in the city suffers from neglect.
  • There would seem to be a collective poor self-image in Memphis.
  • There is reported a lack of consistency and follow through in public initiatives.
  • Despite features like Graceland and Beale Street and events like Memphis in May, the marketing of the assets of Memphis seems relatively weak.
  • There is an apparent underestimate of the potential of recreational boating in Memphis.
Preliminary Recommendations

  • There should be continued, meaningful public involvement in riverfront planning, building on the workshop of February 16. Perhaps members of the workshop could constitute a Mayor's Riverfront Advisory Committee.

  • The biggest issue to tackle is overcoming the barrier of Riverside Drive to the river — one or more pedestrian bridges, narrowing the road and reducing its speed, changing its paving, or a more radical partial burying — major action is needed.

  • We question the stated objective of Mud Island River Park to turn a "profit." Better in our view is opening the island free at least to residents and provide concessions and vendors. A major redesign is needed, but we would favor a cautious approach to redoing the island rather than looking for some "big bang" solution. We suggest the decision-making at Mud Island be broadened to include a citizens advisory panel -- "Friends of Mud Island"?

  • Can the north end of Tom Lee Park be a suitable site for river boat docking? Some solution is clearly needed. Raising the. question of who pays for new docks?

  • We would like to see significant involvement of the artistic community on the riverfront beginning now, in the planning stages. It's our feeling that this community, given encouragement, could develop creative solutions to such issues as how to make the parking lot and highway pylons at the Pyramid more attractive.

  • There probably will want to be established some riverfront coordinating entity within local government, given a clear mandate and a fulltime focus, given the complexity of the issues to be dealt with — and the opportunities.

  • The developing walkway needs a local place name — perhaps a contest in the schools, or the newspaper. Plus banners, a logo and locational and interpretive signs.

  • Before residential development pressure heats up, the issue about whether or not to retain industry at the north end of the harbor (blue collar jobs vs. higher-value land use) should be carefully thought through.

  • Could the major museum assets of the area be tied together in a joint promotion, joint ticket effort. And could the Mississippi River Museum be included in such?

  • Would small police substations in the parks be a good idea. Many cities employ these (New York, Rio de Janeiro — in 7-11's in Washington, D.C.).

We note again that these findings and recommendations are prefatory only. They are meant to be the beginning point. Real results will only come from a continued commitment to the planning and organization process, building on the preliminary consensus established in the half-day work sessions. It is this commitment that will allow Memphians to realize the potential of their Mississippi Riverfront.


Memphis Riverfront Redevelopment Workshop

Ms. Lisa Andrews
Mr. Ralph Bagwell
Mr. Steve Barlow
Ms. Regina Bearden
Ms. Kathy Bingham
Mr. Antonio Bologna
Mr. Sam Bond
Mr. Williams Boswell
Ms. Tarina Boswell
Ms. Patti Bowlan
Mr. James Boyd
Mr. Richard Brewer
Mr. Clifton Brown
Mr. Ray Bryant
Ms. Cindy" Buchanan
Ms. Madge Clark
Ms. Carol Coletta
Ms. Bonnie Collins
Mr. Ray Colson
Mr. Boris Combest
Mr. John Conroy
Mr. Darrell Cozen
Mr. Ed Cross
Mr. John Currin
Mr. Walter Cygan
Ms. Dianne Dixon
Ms. Mary Douglas
Mr. John Dudas
Mr. Timothy Duke
Ms, Shelly Durfee
Ms. Lorraine Ferguson
Mr. Brantley Feuzer
Lt. Bruce Fisher
Ms. Karen Focht
Mr. Van Ford
Mr. Patrick Frese
Mr. James Fri, Jr.
Mr. Andy Gaines
Mr. Charles Galatt
LCDR Michael Gardner
Mr. Charles Gaushell
Ms. Dione Gerber
Mr. Frank Gianotti
Ms. Tandy Gilliland
Ms. Diane Goldstein

Mr. Chad Greer
Mr. Andy Griffin
Mr. John Hager
Mr. Reb Haizlip
Mr. Erin Hanafin Berg
Ms. Kelley Hankins
Mr. Vernua Hanrahan
Mr. Clifton Harris
Mr. Roy Harrover
Mr. Rick Haynes
CMR John Hollowell
Mr. John Hopkins
Ms. Constance Houston
Mr. Will Hudson
Ms. Carissa Hussong
Mr. Steve Hutcherson
Mr. Phil Hwang
Ms. Suzanne Jackson
Ms. Barbara Jacobs
Ms. Kristi Jemigan
Ms. Judith Johnson
Ms. Susan Jones
Ms. Brenda Jones-Sanford
Ms. Gale Jones Carson
Mr. Larry Keenan
Mr. Carl Kemodle
Ms. Diane Kroll
Mr. Tom Krolf
Ms. Verna Lambert
Mr. Pierre Landaiche
Mr. Benny Lendermon
Mr. Michael Lewis
Mr. Brent Little
Ms. Dale Lozier
Mr. Larry Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Rick Masson
Mr. Wayne Max
Mr. Don McCrory
Mrs. Pat Merrill
Mr. Burt Merrill
Mr. Lee Millar
Mr. James Murray
Ms. Ronna Newburger
Ms, Janay Nienhuis
Mr. Jimmy Ogle

Ms. Jill Owens
Mr. James Parker
Mr. Tim Parker
Mr. Brent Perkins
Ms. Janet Pfaff
Ms. Libby Pritchard
Mr. Kevin Quinn
Mr. Tom Reeves
Ms. Cindy Roberts
Mr. Joe Royer
Ms. Jocelyn Rudner
Mr. Jeff Sanford
Mr. Linley Schmidt.
Mr. Jerry Sexton
Mr. Joe Sills
Mr. Ritchie Smith
Mr. Ham Smythe
Mr. Robert Snowden
Mr. Mark Stansbury
Mr. Michael Starens
Mr. Michael Stevens
Mr. John Stokes, Jr.
Mr. Troy Taylor
Mr. Granville Taylor
Mr. Eugene Thibodeaux
Mr. Blanch Thomas
Mr. Gary Thompson
Ms, Lissa Thompson
Mr. Henry Turley
Mr. Tom Turri
Ms. Jodie Vance
Ms. Cecilia Varino
Ms. Sonya Walton
Ms. Karen Ward
Mr. Lee Warren
Mr. Guy Weaver
Ms. Cheri Wells
Mr. Jason Wexler
Ms. Eldra White
Ms. Sue Williams—
Mr. David Williams
Mr. Phil Woodard
Ms. Pattie Woods
Mr. Clarence Wright

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Wednesday, June 17, 1998

Sidebar: Small World: The Downtown Daisy Chain ... Or Zero Degrees of Separation

Eliminating conflicts of interest downtown is easier said than done.

Memphis Flyer [link to original]
by John Branston

(See also main article: Stormy Times for the Rainmaker)

The problem: Almost everyone’s an insider, not to mention neighbor, drinking buddy, spouse, customer, partner, tenant, or employer of some other insider.

Downtown Memphis is basically an overgrown small town where, like Mayberry’s Andy Griffith, the players wear lots of different hats. Or, some say, a “Downtown Mafia.” The media, real estate firms, developers, and public relations firms are key links in the downtown daisy chain, and the same names show up again and again. This is one reason such a fuss is made when new faces appear, such as Dean and Kristi Jernigan.

By their nature, boards of directors are stocked with people who can raise money, provide expertise, bring in new business, and do favors as well as offer wise, independent counsel. And contracts tend to go to the same well-known, well-qualified firms with proven track records.

You can’t tell the players without a program. We offer Zero Degrees of Separation, a by-no-means comprehensive list.
– John Branston

Looney Ricks Kiss
Downtown architectural firm, credits include Harbor Town, AutoZone headquarters, baseball stadium, downtown school. Also did work on Armentrout’s Harbor Town home which he billed to CCC. Frank Ricks is on CCC Development Corp. board.

Pat Halloran
President of Memphis Development Foundation, runs the Orpheum. Former chairman of executive committee of CVB. Former City Council colleague of Jeff Sanford. Blufftop homeowner.

Kevin Kane
Head of Convention and Visitors Bureau. On boards of Memphis Development Foundation, Sports Authority. Co-owner of Blues City Cafe on Beale Street. Blufftop homeowner.

Contemporary Media
Publisher of Memphis magazine and The Memphis Flyer. Also produces CVB Visitors Guide. Ownership group includes Turley, Belz, and Archer. Coproduced special downtown issue of Memphis with CCC. Blufftop office.

Deborah Clubb
Commercial Appeal reporter, wrote conflict-of-interest stories that led to Armentrout’s resignation. Married to former CA executive editor David Wayne Brown, now partner in Conaway Brown downtown ad agency.

Ron Walter
CCC board member, cast key vote to reject Armentrout’s buyout package. Operations manager at WREG-TV Channel 3. Blufftop office.

Front Street architectural firm, jobs include trolley mall, Peabody Place, Tennessee Welcome Center, train station renovation, Fire Museum, Crump Building. Greg Hnedak is on CCC Design Review Board, Kirk Bobo is on CCC Development Corp. board. Both Harbor Town residents.

Pat Tigrett
Organized Blues Ball and Bridge Lighting. Husband John is father of The Pyramid.

Kim Hindrew
Channel 5 anchor. Board member of Memphis Development Foundation. Married to Mason Granger who also has served on downtown boards and had contract to sell trolley sponsorships. Wedding at Tigrett’s penthouse.

John Dudas
Former head of CCC, now works for Belz Enterprises, mainly on Peabody Place.

Jack Belz
Developer of The Peabody, Peabody Place, South Bluffs and Harbor Town. On board of Contemporary Media.

Ward Archer
Head of Archer Malmo Advertising, clients include CVB and Belz Enterprises, on board of Contemporary Media. Recently sold Memphis Business Journal. Moved Memphis Belle to Mud Island.

Henry Turley
Developer of South Bluffs, Harbor Town, and Union Commons. On board of Contemporary Media. Adviser to Armentrout. Political contributor to Herenton and Rout. Blufftop home.

John Elkington
Developer of Beale Street, head of Performa Real Estate. Partner at Performa is Paul Gurley, former city division director, who complained about CCC insider deal with Henry Turley.

Carol Coletta
Public relations specialist for Gibson Guitars/Smithsonian exhibit and others, downtown resident and investor, married to architect John Montgomery who also has CCC contracts.

Norman Brewer
Commentator for Channel 3. Partner of Jeff Sanford in consulting business. Former head of Downtown Association and editorial writer for the CA, wrote book about breakup of his marriage to Carol Coletta.

Cynthia Ham
Head of public relations for Archer Malmo Advertising. Former head of Memphis in May. Also ran or helped run Mud Island and Beale Street. Owns blufftop lot.

Jeff Sanford
Interim successor to Armentrout. Go-to guy when downtown needs an interim leader. Former interim head of Memphis in May and Convention and Visitors Bureau. Married to Cynthia Ham, former head of MIM. Partner with Norm Brewer in consulting business. Consults for CVB.

Rick Masson
City of Memphis CAO, finance expert, and holdover from Hackett administration. Herenton’s chief liaison with CCC and county government.

Shep Wilbun
Shelby County Commission member, downtown resident, CCC board member, has developed buildings on South Main. Urged CCC to make problems public, voted against buyout.

Tom Jones
Head of public affairs for Shelby County government. Board member of CCC and CVB and MIM, liaison with city government. Helped hammer out Armentrout’s resignation and buyout package.

Earl Blankenship
Head of real estate firm, chairman of CCC. Has office and leases space in Peabody Place. Signed Armentrout’s contract.

Pitt Hyde
Recently retired as top man at AutoZone, downtown’s biggest corporate catch of 1990s and title sponsor of new ballpark. Headquarters is key part of Peabody Place. Patron of Civil Rights Museum.

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Thursday, June 26, 1997

Editorial: Rising Cost Disturbs Picture-Perfect Lake

Commercial Appeal

THE WORD pictures and architectural renderings of a renovated Memphis Harbor may be captivating, but do the odds for success justify the price? A price that has just jumped at least $13 million.

Right now, it's the federal and state governments that will tackle the question. If they decide the game has gotten too rich, local taxpayers will have their turn.

Mayor W. W. Herenton had a great idea: Continue to develop and renovate the downtown riverfront so it would entice tourists, puff up local pride and generate economic growth. In the process, he said, the different parts of downtown - from South Main and Beale Street to Mud Island and the Wolf River - should be tied together to allow and encourage people to move along the whole length of the riverfront.

The mayor had a substantial amount to build on. Redevelopment has been proceeding, sometimes erratically, for two decades. Even so, he has given the project new life and enthusiasm and an expanded mission.

But will enthusiasm be mugged by rising costs?

A feasibility study released Tuesday estimates that Herenton's harbor plan, including a 36-acre recreational lake enclosed by dams that would link Mud Island to Beale Street and the Interstate 40 welcome center, will cost $43.2 million instead of the $25 million to $30 million that Herenton announced last September.

The higher cost is attributed to the need for a channel at the northern tip of Mud Island, a bridge over the channel and upgraded docking facilities for riverboats. The new channel would connect the harbor north of the lake to the Mississippi River. For safety reasons, it would replace plans for a channel closer to the Hernando DeSoto Bridge.

Some of the details even have downtown residents scratching their heads. Can the southern tip of Mud Island, for instance, really be raised for private development? In this year's flooding, the Mississippi rose almost to the flagpole on the top of the tip. It sounds like a massive, lengthy job of dredging and filling.

Herenton maintains a positive attitude. His plan, he insists, ''will serve as a catalyst for even greater downtown residential and commercial development.'' He says a ''major riverboat company'' is considering a move to Memphis - something more solid, one would hope, than a ferry service to Tunica.

Publicist Carol Coletta reports that ''some of the biggest entertainment folks around'' showed interest in the harbor plan at an urban entertainment meeting in Los Angeles last spring.

''When you say we're extending Beale Street to an island out in the middle of the Mississippi River, that gets people's attention,'' she said. Well, it's really not out in the middle. Sidney Shlenker thought he had captured the attention of his California friends with his grand plan for The Pyramid. Memphians are likely to feel more reassured when those entertainment folks start investing.

As things stand, the state has committed $7 million for the harbor plan and the city says it is seeking at least $20 million in federal funds. The new cost estimate, presumably, will raise the city's requests. Herenton will host U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater for a riverfront tour this weekend.

Public works director Benny Lendermon suggests that Memphis is due the same federal help that Indianapolis and New Orleans got for similar projects. Memphis has been singing that blues song for decades, but maybe Lendermon is right. Maybe Washington, in the midst of a drive to balance the budget and deep cuts in urban programs, will develop a sudden soft spot for one neglected Southern city.

Or maybe Memphians will have to decide whether they want to find more millions on their own. There's no disputing the attractiveness of the plan - or the difficulty of paying for it.

Copyright (c) 1997 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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Wednesday, June 25, 1997

Harbor Lake Cost Rises by Millions; City Hopes to Land Federal Dollars

The Commercial Appeal
by Cornell Christion

The riverfront development plan that calls for converting part of Memphis Harbor to a recreational lake could cost at least $13 million more than first expected.

A feasibility study released Tuesday estimates that the plan will carry a $43.2 million price tag, compared with the $25 million to $30 million projected when the ambitious proposal was announced last September by Mayor W. W. Herenton.

The cost has increased, according to city officials, partly because a channel would be dug at the northern tip of Mud Island instead of just north of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge to connect the Mississippi River to a section of the harbor that would be outside the lake.

That construction would require building a bridge over the channel to maintain vehicular access to Mud Island from the northeast via Mud Island Road.

Other factors for the higher cost include upgrading a proposed riverboat docking facility and adding design expenses not included in the original price estimate.

The state has earmarked $7 million for the project, and city officials say they are aggressively pursuing more than $20 million in federal funding. They won't say whether the city would fund the bulk of the project if that effort fails.

''We're not recommending that at this time. This whole project is being pursued under the assumption that we can gain additional either federal or state funding,'' said public works director Benny Lendermon.

''Other cities have gotten federal funding for similar projects. Indianapolis got a lot of Corps of Engineer money to do something very similar but much more costly. New Orleans got a lot of federal money. It's been done a lot of different places the same way we're doing it.''

The funding pitch is expected to be made Saturday to Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, who is scheduled to join Herenton and others for a walking tour of the riverfront.

The feasibility study released Tuesday was prepared by Hnedak Bobo Group and PDR Engineers, who are working as project consultants. Hailed by Herenton, the 37-page study was distributed to City Council members during a council committee meeting.

The plan would convert part of Memphis Harbor into a 36-acre recreational lake enclosed by dams that would link Mud Island to Beale Street and the Interstate 40 welcome center.

A floating riverboat mooring facility would be connected to the ''south dam,'' and the southern tip of Mud Island would be filled for private development. City officials say they have been contacted by a prospective developer whom they declined to name.

''I firmly believe that this development will serve as a catalyst for even greater downtown residential and commercial development,'' Herenton said, adding that the proposal would connect several ''disjointed'' amenities, including Mud Island and Beale Street.
Herenton said riverboat-related tourism and business would increase and that a ''major riverboat company'' is considering moving to Memphis.

Besides the higher cost, the major change in the plan as first announced in September is the location of the channel that would be dug to provide Mississippi River access to industries north of the lake.

The site was moved because putting the channel just north of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge could have created safety problems for barges.

''The close proximity of the bridge to where the outlet channel would have been was something that the navigation community expressed a concern about. Not that it couldn't be navigated safely, but they would just prefer another alternative,'' Lendermon said.

He said the new navigation channel site, which would require widening the Wolf River where it empties into the Mississippi, was suggested by the Corps of Engineers.

City officials think it would increase pleasure boat and other traffic on a largely stagnant portion of the harbor, which could spur development north of The Pyramid.

Lendermon said the city is pursuing more than $17 million in Corps of Engineers funds for the channel and south dam.

He said additional state funding will also be sought, as well as more federal funding through the current reauthorization of a major transportation bill.
The feasibility study divides the projected $43.2 million cost into seven areas:

-- $5.77 million for the north dam connecting the welcome center to Mud Island.
-- $9.90 million for the south dam.
-- $7.81 million for the new navigational channel and bridge.
-- $9.76 million for the riverboat dock.
-- $1.48 million for cobblestone restoration.
-- $3.58 million for Mud Island improvements.
-- $4.93 million for project fees.

The price estimate does not include the cost of developing an estimated 7 to 12 acres that would be created from filling the southern tip of Mud Island and possibly absorbing part of the Mud Island river park.

That land would be privately developed, and the city expects keen interest.
''I had a chance to present this project very informally in Los Angeles . . . at a meeting on urban entertainment districts in March,'' said Carol Coletta, who heads a local firm handling public relations on the project.

''The room was full of people from Disney and Gaylord and some of the biggest entertainment folks around. And it's interesting. When you say we're extending Beale Street to an island out in middle of the Mississippi River, that gets people's attention.''

Copyright (c) 1997 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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