Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Branston: A Victory Lap for the Riverfront Development Corporation

Memphis Flyer [link]
By John Branston

When you’re selling the glories of Mud Island River Park to people old enough to remember its grand opening 25 years ago, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. That's what the Riverfront Development Corporation's support tag-team did at the Memphis City Council. The purpose of the presentation wasn't clear. The council voted to keep $29 million Beale Street Landing in the budget last week. The RDC won. So move on, and make the best of it. The RDC may, after all, be right.

But RDC President Benny Lendermon and his board members sound more like they are trying to talk themselves into believing their own Power Point propaganda.

One slide displayed Tuesday called the intersection of Beale Street and Riverside Drive the most important historic tourist destination in America. Take that, New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington Monument, Golden Gate Bridge, and Grand Canyon!

Beale Street Landing's biggest fan is city councilman Joe Brown, who thinks it will put the Memphis riverfront on par with the Chicago lakefront and the St. Louis Arch. He praised the tranquility of the Mississippi River and its benefits on community mental health.

Miraculously, other council members in the meeting managed to keep from bursting out laughing. A couple of weeks ago Brown publicly called a colleague "retarded," prompting a memo to all council members urging decorum.

Board members said they had rounded up $10 million in state and federal funds for Beale Street Landing that would go unused if the project is stopped. In other words, we are spending $19 million in local money to save $10 million in "free" money.

The presentation on Mud Island, which is part of the RDC domain, was condescending. Whatever you think of their arguments, Friends For Our Riverfront is comprised of conscientious long-time Memphians who don't need to be lectured and -- unlike the RDC’s staff and consultants -- work for nothing. As anyone who goes there knows, Mud Island River Park is nicely maintained and the river model is impressive -- to visitors seeing it for the first time. The concerts have been a welcome addition.

But attempts to jazz up the park with boats and overnight camping suffer from one obvious problem: It is too damn hot in Memphis in the summer, especially before 5 p.m. when the park closes. The place downtown where you can actually see people on the riverfront at all hours of the day is the Mud Island Greenbelt, which offers nothing more than a sidewalk, parking, acres of well-cut grass, pretty views, and some shade.

A few years ago, Memphis architect Frank Ricks proposed putting a ferris wheel at the tip of Mud Island. Throw in a sprinkler park for kids along with some shade and a portable concession stand at Tom Lee Park and clean up the cobblestones, and that's still the best and most economical idea I have heard for improving the riverfront.

But it looks like the battle is over. Bring on the boat dock, and let's hope it works.

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Sunday, March 23, 2003

ULI Briefing Book

In the late summer 2003, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) released the final report [PDF, 1 MB] of their review of the RDC's plans for the Memphis Riverfront. Their study was based on briefings and materials provided by the RDC during the ULI Panel's visit to Memphis, March 23-28, 2003. Much of this material was prepared by other RDC-paid consultants. Virtually all of it can be downloaded below.

The "ULI Briefing Book" refers to a looseleaf binder containing hardcopy of the presentations and other documents given to the ULI Panel for their study. Each participant received a copy.

Except for Appendix B, the contents of the ULI Briefing book, scanned into PDF files, can be downloaded at the links below. The contents of Appendix B (the cash flow projections) are posted in an earlier article. The documents are highly relevant because they form the study basis for the ULI's final report and conclusions.

Click here to download Tabs 1 through 6 of the Briefing Book binder. [Warning to dial-up users: This file is in excess of 5 MB.] Sections include:
  • Sponsor & Summary of the Problem
  • Questions to be Addressed
  • History
  • Boundaries and Context Map
  • Description of the Study Area
  • Economics

Click here to download Tabs 7 through 13 of the Briefing Book binder. [Warning to dial-up users: This file is in excess of 7 MB.] Sections include:
  • Demographics
  • Metro Memphis and MCBI Maps
  • Housing Market
  • Commercial Development
  • Government
  • Private Sector Involvement
  • Interview List

Click here to download the contents of Appendix A (Tab 14 of the binder). [Warning to dial-up users: This file is in excess of 7 MB.] This is a Powerpoint presentation of a Preliminary Market Analysis done in November, 2000.

Appendix B (Tab 15) can be found in this earlier article.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2003

ULI Briefing Book Appendix B: Projected Cash Flow Analysis

In 2003, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) released the final report of their study of the RDC's plans for the Memphis Riverfront. Their study was based on briefings and materials provided by the RDC, much of which was prepared by other RDC-paid consultants. The "ULI Briefing Book" refers to a looseleaf binder containing hardcopy of the presentations and other documents given to the ULI for their study.

One of those documents, inserted as "Appendix B" in the binder, was a cash flow forecast for the Riverfront project, including the land bridge, lake, and Mud Island development, but not including the fruits of the Promenade Land Use Plan still under development.

A copy of that Appendix, scanned into a PDF file, can be downloaded by clicking here. [Warning to dial-up users: The file is well over 3 MB.] The spreadsheets are dated January 15, 2003.

Here are some highlights, taken from page 13 of the Appendix (page 14 in the PDF):
  • The projections assumed that the City of Memphis would contribute $200 million toward the capital cost of the project.
  • The projections assumed the rest of the $340 million capital cost would be financed by the issuance of bonds.
  • It was calculated that the RDC (on an operating basis) would go into the red by another $131 million before it went cash flow positive in the 21st year. "Public revenues" would apparently be needed to cover the shortfall.
  • The unpaid bond debt would still be over $116 million in year 30.
That was Scenario A. Scenario B was based on more pessimistic assumptions.

Click to enlarge

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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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Monday, January 01, 1990

1987 Center City Development Plan for the Riverfront Sub-Area

Here is the entire text of the Center City Development Plan for the Riverfront Sub-Area, January, 1987, by Venturi, Rauch & Scott Brown and others.

HTML version: [click here] Although our pagination and formatting doesn't match the original document, the HTML text is complete and accurately reproduced.

Original (added 6/07): Click here for the entire document scanned into a PDF file (803 KB). Click here for letter-size versions of the double-page maps (847 KB). They are also downloadable individually at the end of this HTML page.








1. Public Places, Civic Places
2. Historic Character
3. Scale
4. Views and Vistas
5. Rivers Edge—Inner Grid Linkages
6. Landscaping
7. Lighting
8. Signage

1. The Cobblestones
2. Riverside Drive and Torn Lee Park
3. The Bluffs and the Bluff Walk
4. Pedestrian Bridges
5. Confederate Park and West Court Street
6. Front Street (Union Avenue north to Adams)
7. Aquarium on Mud Island
8. Vietnam Memorial
9. Wolf River Harbor (Monorail north to Auction)

Map 1. Site Plan
Map 2. Pedestrian Circulation
Map 3. Vehicular Circulation—Inbound
Map 4. Court Square to the Cobblestones
Fig. A. Pedestrian Bridge across Wolf River
Fig. B. Cobblestones
Fig. C. Wolf River Harbor
Fig. D. Bluff Walk with Housing
Fig. E. Incised Bluff Walk
Fig. F. Bluff Walk between Huling and Vance


The Memphis riverfront is completely unique with its unspoiled natural amenities, its lack of industrialization, and its general accessibility and proximity to Downtown. Historically, the river and the bluffs determined the very establishment of the city at this point. Favored by the natural beauty of the river and a dramatic view to the fertile Arkansas flood plain, the Memphis riverfront offers young and old a serendipity for the senses and an easy escape to nature.

Although the original economic value of the riverfront and its hubbub of commercial activity have changed, the riverfront has, luckily, not been hardened by unsightly industrialization. Through its close physical relationship, Downtown Memphis has always been closely tied to its riverfront. The riverfront is Downtown’s greatest unrealized physical asset—its main competitive edge. Still a rich, virtually unspoiled resource for the future of the city, the riverfront is a reminder of its heritage, a powerful symbol, and a link to new economic opportunity for Downtown Memphis and the entire city.
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1. Public Places, Civic Places

The Memphis riverfront is part of the Downtown "’public realm’ …the public sector seen in physical terms.”

Within the public realm itself, a differentiation can be made between public and civic, Mark Lilla defines public places as those, like the mall, market­place and beach, that "serve our shared but still private needs,” whereas civic places are where we "share places and purposes," by virtue of sharing citizenship. In the one, he says, we share private enjoyment publicly; in the other, we act civilly. [“The Public Realm in Urban Design,” Denise Scott Brown, 1985]

This distinction between the public and the civic is an important one as it relates to the design of riverfront elements. Tom Lee Park, for instance, functions as both a public and a civic place, but at different times. It serves public needs as a field for kite-flying and river watching on a Sunday afternoon; it serves civic needs during the Sunset Symphony and the barbecue' contest,

Designs for riverfront elements should recognize this dichotomy; both should be accommodated. Moreover, a variety of public and civic needs should met. Intimate public plates should be provided where crisp autumn leaves crackle beneath your feet during an arm-in-arm stroll with your sweetheart; expansive public places should be provided where so softballs soar and Frisbees fly.
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2. Historic Character

The river has shaped the city; it has made a place for it. Thus the river is at the crux of what Downtown Memphis is and what it wants to be. Yet the river's central role in determining the future has been eroded somewhat by decisions of the past that have moved the riverfront away from the spirit of its founders' dictum to keep it "forever public." Parking garages, the Post Office, and the Cossitt Library all vividly attest to this change.

The riverfront has been shaped by four epochs: the Promenade of the original town plat; the cobblestone wharf of the steamboat shipping era; the public works projects of the 1930’s (Riverside Drive and the riverfront parks); and urban renewal, parking structures and Mud Island in the Post-war period. Each of these epochs should be recognized and accounted for in new development to ensure that its imprint remains recognizable

Future development in the promenade should conform to the founders' vision of the original plat. Future uses should address the civic more than the public. The existing parking garages, for example, are public, not civic, in character. The Post Office was constructed as a Federal office building— civic in character, monumental in architecture. Today, its role as a branch postal station is simply public. The Cossitt Library's role has similarly changed from civic to public.

The Cobblestones is the city's historic "front door." It is where the cotton landed and took off. Memphis is a rarity among American river cities. Its waterfront has not followed the typical development of other similar cities, which have seen a successive hardening at their river's edge. Because of flood control measures, industrialization and tie population rise, cities nave frequently lost their riverfronts. Other cities have been cut off from their river's edge by expressways.

Luckily for Memphis, the riverfront has not been compromised over the years. The bluffs took care of the flooding problem; cotton was handled at the water's edge; the space between the river and the bluffs was too narrow for heavy industry; water-related industries moved north or south of the city. During the period of urban expressway building, the riverfront was ignored because the city's growth pattern had already shifted south and east, Fortunately, during the 50's and. 60’s the perimeter expressway system was never completed by a section along the river.

Downtown has an absolutely unique location — one where the earliest origins of the city and its present are in close juxtaposition, without the intervening industrial and automobile patterns that reduce the level of amenity in other cities.

Today the Cobblestones' role in the public realm is that of a “commons."

This is land over which different members of the community have different rights: some to cross it, others to graze it, yet others to cultivate it or gather its brush wood. Although many pre-industrial societies have commons, modern U.S. examples are hard to find. [ibid.]

On the Cobblestones, same people park while others dock. Still others use it for industry, while tourists use it for "touring." The Cobblestones should continue to be a commons. This suggests that while it should not be used solely for parking, parking should not be altogether banished either, at least in the short-term future. Rather, an interesting agglomeration of uses should be encouraged to infuse the area with vitality.

Riverside Drive and the three riverfront parks were born out of a civic desire to stabilize the bluffs and to beautify the riverfront, which had been a garbage dump at the foot of a crumbling bluff. Accordingly, the bluff face was graded and landscaped, a winding boulevard was constructed to provide a scenic motoring experience along the mighty Mississippi, and parkland was created so that one might be able to stop and enjoy the river view. Riverside Drive was built as a civic boulevard for local use, not as a major arterial; reconstruction to stabilize the roadbed should not he required to meet state standards for a four-lane arterial, but should he guided by and designed to preserve its character as a civic boulevard.

The four riverfront parks (Confederate Park, Jefferson Davis Park, Tom Lee Park, and Mud Island) are not neighborhood public parks; they are great civic parks with unused potential. Much of their civic potential lies in the way. They can be connected to Ike city's urban fabric through processional routes and carefully delineated axes. These are described at greater length later in these guidelines; their implementation will entail some redesign of the parks. The redesign should cover the civic as well as the public aspects of their use.
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3. Scale

The flowing currents of the Mississippi and The sweeping scale of the river and the Arkansas flood plain, suggest that the major elements of the riverfront be developed boldly, It is important that the riverfront "read" from distant vantage points: Hernando De Soto Bridge; Ashburn Park; the top floor of skyscrapers. In this way, we build up a mind's eye image of the relation of various riverfront elements to each other, which in turn helps us find our way about the riverfront by orienting ourselves to a particular landmark already found.

Conversely this grand scale can be so overpowering that we can lose our sense of place as an individual—an uncomfortable feeling indeed. Imagine for a moment that you are alone in the center of an empty Houston Astrodome. The scale of the Memphis riverfront is far greater. Thus it is important that we provide in all our design human-scale details which can anchor a person in this vast space. Even though the cobblestone wharf is expansive, we can relate to it because it is composed of individual cobblestones about as large as a pair of footprints.
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4. Views and Vistas

Tie riverfront is Memphis’ treasured repository of views. Few urban areas can offer views of such unlimited distance-as looking up or down the river or across the Arkansas flood plain.

There is an order to the views and vistas of the riverfront area. Approaching the river, one experiences a series of vistas. From the river and riverfront there are memorable views eastwards of the city. Views up and down the river give a true sense of the sweep of the mighty Mississippi and thus are more dramatic than views west across the river from within the city grid.. Framed by buildings, these views give no feel for the river's linear character—the water we see could be a small lake.

Designers active across the riverfront should be cognizant of the views and vistas diagrammed 'in liie Urban Design and Planning issue area report. The planting of trees along Riverside Drive and in the riverfront parks should be carefully planned with their mature size in mind to prevent eclipsing views and vistas in years to come,

Designers should walk their site and look freshly at the river, Arkansas, and the downtown skyline. Preserve the views: identify new vistas and frame them with the elements of the design.
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5. River's Edge—Inner Grid Linkages

For the riverfront to be a true asset to Downtown, it must be a place to be, as well as a place to look at. We must therefore make it easy to react. The original plat placed a grid of streets oriented to the river atop the bluff, "with a promenade, connecting bluff top and river's edge. This historic grid's pattern of linkages to the river should be reasserted and strengthened, preserving the contrast between the regular pattern of streets and the freedom of the river and its edges.

The Riverfront Sub-Area Plan presents a connecting framework within which opportunities to reach the river are maximized and obstacles are minimized. Opportunities include: lower West Court Street (historic mule route); a new emphasis on the pathway from Court Square to Confederate Park (strengthened through redesign of Confederate Park); a new pedestrian connection to Mud Island on axis with Monroe Avenue (another historic route); a processional route along Beale Street connecting Church Park with Tom Lee Park; and a new pedestrian route from the National Civil Rights Center to a new Tom Lee Memorial along the Huling Avenue axis (common themes of interracial cooperation).

Pedestrians trying to move between downtown and the river encounter not only the topographical fact of the bluff but also the railroad tracks and Riverside Drive. Several measures can minimize the obstacles although some danger to pedestrians will remain. The plan proposes that the railroad's west track be removed and replaced with a paved path that at the outset would provide a dedicated north-south connector for bicycles and pedestrians. It should be designed to accommodate a future rubber-tired "people-mover" for the day when large numbers of people will want to move along the riverfront. A light rail system should not be utilized to move people through this corridor; it would negate the benefits to the pedestrians gained by eliminating the railroad track. Pedestrian crossing points over the remaining track should be very clearly designated and paved, with the paving kept flush with the lap of the railroad rails. The CCC should discuss with the railroad measures to reduce hazards to pedestrians as use of the riverfront increases.

In certain areas, such as Wagner Street between Union Avenue and Beale Street, new uses such as restaurants and housing exist side by side with older commercial uses, such as warehouses and their associated loading docks and truck traffic. In the short-term future this juxtaposition of uses should be allowed to continue. It can even lend a sense of atmosphere and romance to the downtown scene. In the long term this area may lose its economic appeal as a warehouse district and other new uses will emerge. In the case of the Goldsmith's warehouse on Wagner Street, mixed use such as retail at street level with housing above would be appropriate.

Proposed improvements to Riverside Drive should be in. keeping with its civic character. The section from Beale Street north to Jefferson Avenue "should not be widened, in order to prevent incursion into the historic Cobblestones and to lessen the distance the pedestrian must cross. At-grade pedestrian crossings have been generally recommended at the location of existing streets. This helps reinforce the connection of the Historic grid with the riverfront as well as takes advantage of existing or proposed traffic control devices. Pedestrian crossings should be delineated by textural changes in paving. These crossings should be given further visual emphasis through the incorporation: of special lighting standards which call attention to the pedestrian way, such as the flashing "Belisha Beacons" used extensively in England.

Above all, the temptation must be avoided to deal with the problem of pedestrian crossings by elevating Riverside Drive. While such a proposal might solve the vehicular pedestrian conflicts through grade separation, the resulting visual and psychological amputation of the waterfront from the core of Downtown would be disastrous.

Pedestrian bridges over Riverside Drive are proposed only where traffic-control devices for at-grade crossings are inappropriate, such as where there is no intersecting street, or where an unusually high hazard to the pedestrian exists. Four locations have been identified: Ashburn Park (to connect the bluff top wall with the riverfront walk at the south end of the riverfront); Butler Avenue; Vance Avenue; and Confederate Park (to connect it to Jefferson Davis Park). The bridges are discussed in greater detail in the guidelines. Also a new pedestrian bridge across Beale Street is proposed as a vital link in the bluff walk.
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6. Landscaping

Trees on the riverfront provide shade, frame views and vistas, and establish buffer zones, but careless use of planting can block views and vistas.

Whenever possible, indigenous or proven species that are hardy and maintenance-free should be selected. If exotics must be used, management provisions must be made for routine maintenance (water, fertilizer, pruning, etc.). Plantings should be appropriate to their site in terms of microclimate, intensity of use by people, mature size, etc. For example, flowers planted in the recently constructed Mid-America Mall planters will die no matter how much their automatic sprinkler runs because the microclimate on sunny summer days is inimical to their survival; crepe myrtles planted several years back in Tom Lee Park were trampled to death by the crowds during civic celebrations.
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7. Lighting

Lighting, properly designed, can add sparkle to Downtown. To create sparkle there must be a hierarchy of lighting. Uniform, very high intensity lighting along the riverfront is not a panacea for the issue of safety and security and can result in monotony rather than enhanced drama. Instead, a moderate ambient lighting level should be sought, sufficient for public safety, with carefully illuminated highlights of civic importance (e.g., the Post Office building, Jefferson Davis statuary, etc.) to the floodlighting of landmarks to atmospheric glows.

The river itself provides a wonderful opportunity to animate our image of Downtown. Gently undulating river currents reflecting the carefully placed sparkling lights of floating restaurants, river’s edge kiosks, bridges (including the current lighting of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge), boats, and docks can create an enchanting mid-summer night’s aura. The illumination of the concrete bulwarks of Mud Island should also be considered; this would lend shape and form to what is now a rather dark hulk on the river.

Atmospheric lighting of tree canopies should be considered for appropriate civic locations, including Court Square, Confederate Park, and perhaps even selected trees along the bluff south of Beale Street above Riverside Drive.
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8. Signage

The guidelines contained in the Urban Design issue are describes the three elements of the signing system—private, public, and civic. Signing along the riverfront will be primarily public and civic, The character of riverfront signs should be consistent with those throughout the Downtown area, yet possess its own identity.

Signs for parking in the riverfront area should be an integral part of the Downtown parking signing system and should be identical in design to the others, so as to minimize confusion. In addition, specially designed large-scale signage should be used to help animate the existing parking garages along Front Street. These signs should be large enough to help transform the entire facade to which they are applied, and should be illuminated, perhaps using neon lighting.

The civic signs should be part of the Downtown “family” of civic signs, perhaps using similar colors, sizes and/or shape. (See civic sign designs in Beale Street—Peabody Place Sub-are Plan.) However, some distinguishing element should set them apart as “riverfront” signs, perhaps a distinctive curvilinear profile which imbues them with the character of the Mississippi.

Because of the historic nature of the riverfront, many of its civic signs will be interpretive. A network of signs documenting thje historic development of the riverfront should be created and an accompanying “walking tour” brochure might then be prepared to guide the interested visitor along the riverfront. Suigns on the riverfront should give information fopr attractions on Mud Island.

Signs should articulate the historical reasons for the physical form of the city. The visitor should learn the reason for the extra width of West Court and Monroe Avenues (both of which were used by mule teams pulling cotton bales up from the wharf), or of how the Cobblestones came to be built (the stones were used as ballast by early riverboats).
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1. The Cobblestones

Preservation of the historic Cobblestone wharf is of paramount importance to the character of the Memphis riverfront. Physical modifications to accommodate new uses for this “commons” area should be of a minimal and non-intrusive nature.

High on the list of priorities should be the simple restoration of the Cobblestones. The rate of deterioration is accelerating, noticeably even during the two-year duration of this planning study. During the restoration process, structural provisions should be made that will permit the paddlewheel riverboats to dock once again at Memphis' front door, rather than downstream at Edgar Point.

The pedestrian bridge to Mud Island should be designed to touch the Cobblestones lightly, and then soar gracefully over the Wolf River with a gossamer structure. The structure should begin at the level of Riverside Drive and clear-span the Cobblestones as they fall away. (If necessary to allow headroom below the bridge at the upper edge of the Cobblestones, the bridge may need to spring from a "pedestal" elevated slightly above the level of Riverside Drive.) A support should be located in the Wolf River just beyond the low-water point, to avoid the image of a bridge left "high and dry' (See Figure A.)

Figure A

Walkways should be used sparingly. Their material should be complementary to the Cobblestones, probably wood. They should be level where they parallel the river and form a section of the riverwalk. We propose that this walkway system be breached for a brief stretch, say ten feet, so pedestrians can experience the texture of this historic wharf. Sometimes in our bus-tour culture we forget to get out and touch the world.

A "history wall" should be constructed at the head of the slope to interpret the history of the riverfront wharf. It should not stretch the full length of the Cobblestones, but should be related to the pedestrian bridge to Mud Island. The surface of the wall should be smooth slate, marble, or limestone, and it should contain historic descriptions, quotations, and perhaps images engraved through a. laser process into tie wall's surface. (See Figure B.)

Figure B

Nearby might stand a commissioned sculpture depicting a grizzled mule driver, his team of mules, and their load of cotton bales being dragged up the Cobblestones. The sculpture should be life-sized and realistic to impress upon the visitor what the Cobblestones might have been like during its heyday as shipping wharf.

To animate the Cobblestones, its function as a wharf should be revived, with docks for large pleasure boats and floating structures which would ride the rising and falling river level. We see it as funky, diverse, and evolutionary. It could grow incrementally. It would be a little of Hong Kong in character, but all Memphis in culture. It should sparkle at night with light reflected, in- the river, shimmering; seafood and steak aromas should tickle your nose while waves lap and burble through ihe wooden slats at your feet. (Figure C.)

Figure C

Foot-pedaled paddle boats and small sailboats do not belong in this area because of danger from commercial traffic. Their use is envisioned in the Wolf River Harbor marina area mentioned elsewhere in the guidelines.

Portable kiosks, on self-leveling platforms, would be placed on the Cobblestones themselves. These colorful architectural delights might be constructed of wood or canvas, and could sport flags, awnings, or anything to add a sense of the kinetic. They could be relocated during periods of high water. Their use could span a wide range—food venders, crafts fair, etc. Again, a touch of the funky and informal would be quite appropriate.

In order to attract entrepreneurs to the waterfront and to enable them to finance new construction, the present City policy against long-term leases should be abolished.

For the short-term future, parking should be permitted to remain on this public commons, but it should be restricted to areas to the north and south ends of the Cobblestones. As the festival wharf becomes more vigorous, parking may need to be designated for its users; office workers should be provided additional spaces elsewhere as part of a comprehensive parking plan. The long-term goal should the removal of all automobiles from the Cobblestones.
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2. Riverside Drive and Tom Lee Park

Whether the Corps of Engineers will undertake a riverfront bank stabilization project is most uncertain at this juncture and should be carefully scrutinized by river hydrologists and morphologists. It places in question the south end of the riverfront. Our comments here are based upon the assumption that the project will proceed, and that an additional 200-400' of fill will be placed in the river behind a massive masonry dike, as currently proposed.

Although it is regrettable that the soft quality of the river's natural edge may need to be hardened because of the need for erosion control measures, the new bank is a rich opportunity. The character of the new river edge should be elegant yet urban; hard yet curvilinear, A new quay should step down to the water with provisions for the docking of small pleasure craft, and stairs should then lead up to Tom Lee Park. The new land area provided by the Corps of Engineers should be designated as parkland incorporated into a redefined and redesigned Tom Lee Park and maintained by the Memphis Park Commission.

Because Tom Lee Park serves a broad range of public and civic uses, its redesign must provide an equivalent diversity of spaces and places. Such' variety will avoid the feeling of a monotonous mown lawn reminiscent of an enormous triple size football field. It should be sensitive to the issues of scale discussed earlier, and it should contain spaces amenable to intimacy as well as to grandeur.

The many civic events held in Tom Lee Park should not be removed from the park because they tax its facilities; the facilities of the park should rather be redesigned to accommodate its civic uses. The main concern seems to be the abuse of the grass surface of the park. The recommended solution is to harden up to 25% of the park with paving and designate this area for civic occasions.

The pattern and design of the paving Is an especially important consideration because this area will be looked down upon from the bluff walk and overlooks, and it will be very large with the additional acreage. The paving should be patterned in such a way as to mediate the vast scale of the river and the human scale of the persons who use it. It should be pleasant to walk on as well as pretty to look at. A variety of surfaces should be used to break up the vastness and create places for a variety of activities. The paving type should match the intended uses; masonry pavers with sand joints might be appropriate in one area and concrete in another. Some paved areas may be for walking or bicycling, others for the congregation of large numbers of people. The use of "chlorophyll paving"— perforated paving blocks through which grass grows, creating a natural erosion-resistant green surface— should also be considered.

The redesign of the park should provide far a variety of public activities including picnicking, Frisbee throwing, badminton, volleyball, touch football, soccer, and softball. Restrooms and one or more shaded pavilions for inclement weather should also be included. A jogging path should be provided along the river edge in concert with the continuous riverwalk (see Maps 1 and 2). Next to Riverside Drive a bicycle lane should be set aside. A new Tom Lee Memorial should be constructed on a subtle “bulge” in the river’s edge, on axis with Huling Street with an implied link to the Lorraine Civil Rights Center (see Map 1). An at-grade pedestrian crossing of Riverside Drive with steps up the bluff would serve as a link to the overlook at the top and direct the visitor on down Huling Avenue to the Civil Rights Center.

Rather than relocating the existing Tom Lee obelisk to this river’s edge site, a new memorial should be commissioned, perhaps through a design competition. In addition to the commemoration of Lee's heroic act, the design should respond to its prominent site and to the theme of interracial cooperation which is shared with the Civil Rights Center.

If the selection of Mud Island as the preferred site for the Vietnam Memorial proves not to be feasible, the first alternate choice would be to use Tom Lee Part far this purpose. In lieu of a new Tom Lee Memorial.

The civic nature of a redesigned Riverside Drive has been previously discussed; how then does it fit into Tom Lee Park? Parking and pullovers should be designed at the park to accommodate not only the motorist who arrives with Tom Lee Park as a destination, but also the passing motorist who is suddenly seized by the spectacular beauty of a Mississippi River sunset. Care should be taken, with the landscaping of Tom Lee Park not to block the view of Riverside Drive motorists.

South of Beale Street, Riverside Drive should be structurally stabilized and leveled to improve safety. Its width should not exceed 60 feet, consisting of four lanes of 12 feet each with a 6 to 12 foot-wide landscaped central median. The existing curve immediately south of Beale Street should remain and the speed limit of 40 m.p.h. should not be increased. At the Beale Street intersection, the median should be discontinued and Riverside Drive should revert to its existing-configuration.

Signage and signalization should be employed to encourage northbound traffic to turn east onto Beale Street rather than continuing along Riverside Drive.

The proposed ramps connecting Interstate 40 on the north end of Riverside Drive should be abandoned in favor of the improvements to the existing arterial system recommended in the Transportation section of the Plan. Adams Avenue should remain open to both eastbound and westbound traffic.
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3. The Bluffs and the Bluff Walk

The Chickasaw Bluffs south of Beale Street are Memphis’ most valuable and striking natural resources. It is desirable to preserve free public access to the bluff-top wherever possible, consistent with appropriate and much-needed private development. To the maximum extent possible, a continuous pedestrian walkway should extend along the top of the bluff.

As shown in Figure D, a bluff-top walk need not be incompatible with bluff-top housing, By holding the housing back from the brow of the bluff and utilizing the second floor as the first living level, the two can coexist nicely. Second floor decks and balconies can in this way capitalize on the view while maintaining privacy and security from the public walk below. The ground level can then be given over to service functions such as parking, laundry rooms, storage, etc.

Figure D

Proposals to incise sections of this walkway into the face of the bluff should be rejected. Not only would such walkways permanently scar the bluff face as seen from the river edge below; but they could also result in the destabilization of the bluff itself. The bluffs are deceptively fragile due to their geological character. Formed of wind-borne alluvial soils known as loess, the bluffs are highly vulnerable to erosion. In the event of a severe earthquake they may prove unstable. An incised walkway will only aggravate this inherent instability and could pose a threat to bluff-top development.

The issues of erosion and seismic instability of the bluffs are crucial ones, which are beyond the scope of these Guidelines. Great caution should be exercised to avoid wrong action that could destroy the amenity that brings development in the first place. Before making any final plans which involve excavation or modification to the bluff face, a thorough study by a qualified soils engineer is essential. It is probable, for example, that any retaining wails will require a system of foundation drains.

If certain sections of the Bluff Walk are to be incised into the face of the bluff (see Figure E), then it is crucial that steps be taken not only to stabilize the slope against erosion, but also to avoid creating a visual scar across the bluffs as seen from the river edge below. This can be accomplished in part by the use of retaining walls which allow the growth of vegetation on their surface, and by the use of heavy timbers, cement-filled sandbags or other earthy materials to form banks, steps and curbs. The use of concrete and asphalt should be avoided.

Figure E

In order to Minimize erosion, preserve an appropriate separation between the public walkway and the semi-private outdoor spaces of housing on the bluff top, and to preserve the natural esthetics of the bluff top, no incised walkway should be built along the “military brow” of the bluff but should be kept at least two thirds of the way down the bluff.

The surface should be suitable far walking and jogging. Natural materials such, as crushed walnut hulls or pea gravel held in place by metal edging strips will strike the right natural, park-like tone.

At frequent intervals the Bluff Walk should be seamed together with the vehicular circulation system at the new parking nodes. At these and other locations as determined by river views, overlook points should be established. These overlooks could be furnished with seating and perhaps coin-operated telescopes, and should be designed for handicapped accessibility.

As shown on Map 2, the Bluff Walk should move inland between Hulling and Vance Avenues, and run between the existing Riverbluff Condominiums and the railroad. Figure F indicates the way in which a separation between the pedestrian circulation and the "people-move” path can be achieved, using a low, wide planter-wall.

Figure F
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4. Pedestrian Bridges

Pedestrian bridges aver Riverside Drive and across the Wolf River Harbor are recommended at a number of locations. These bridges should all be thought of as members of the same family and a similar design approach should be common to all. (See Figure A and Maps 1 and 2.)

In general, these bridges should be of a skeletal design with an airy, tensile quality. Steel should be used for the spanning elements, which should be designed as trusses. Some variety among the different bridges is desirable, as long as it emerges in direct response to circumstantial considerations such as span, clearance height, or spring point. Use of color and lighting should be made to give each bridge a festive character. Restrained design allusions to the existing bridges across the Mississippi could be appropriate.

While the spanning elements of the bridges should be skeletal in construction, their abutments should, by contrast, be of masonry to suggest firmly anchored foundations. Stone, brick and concrete materials should be used depending on the specific context. For example, a stone abutment rising out of the Cobblestones on the east side of the Wolf River Harbor might have a concrete counterpart on the west side at the Mud Island embankment.

ln the case of the new pedestrian bridge over Beale Street, it should be possible to utilize the existing stone piers adjacent to the railroad trestle. From the north end of this bridge, stairs should descend to a pedestrian crosswalk across Riverside Drive.

The bridges across Riverside Drive should not spring from the very top of the bluff, but from the midpoint. In this way they can connect directly to any incised sections of the bluffwalk and will have less visual impact on the crest of the bluffs, The design of these bridges must not be unduly constrained by inappropriate governmental requirements such as those applying to bridges over interstate highways, If fencing is required for security, then careful attention should be paid to its design. Chain link fencing, for example, should be studiously avoided wherever possible.
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5. Confederate Park and West Court Street

The formal visual axis already implied by the alignment of Court Square with Court Street (east of Front Street) should be extended west of Front Street through Confederate Part and on across Wolf River Harbor where it would be terminated by the mass of the Mud Island amphitheatre.

In order to accomplish this, Confederate Park should be redesigned. The statue of Jefferson Davis should be relocated along this axis as a counterpoint to the Court Square fountain, and a new bluff-top overlook point should be created at the west parapet using stone work to match the existing. As suggested in Map 4, the pedestrian pathway should jog at Front Street rather than continuing in a straight line along the visual axis. The Civil War theme of the park should be preserved and strengthened as an integral element of the city's past. The decrepit and inappropriate twentieth-century artillery pieces should be removed and replaced with authentic cannons such as those employed in the Battle of Memphis. Interpretive signage and visual imagery should be provided to explain the tactics of this battle to the visitor.

The existing stairs at the southwest and northwest of the park should be restored and lighting should be provided. The existing stone parapet walls should also be restored. The abutment of the new pedestrian bridge across Riverside Drive should be constructed of stone to match tie existing stone of these walls.

West Court Street between Front Street and Riverside Drive should be restored to its original cobblestone paving, which may well lie beneath the existing asphalt topping.. The existing stone wall along the south side of the street should be enlivened with graphic images showing scenes from the days when this street was used to haul cotton from the riverfront up to Front Street. Although the street should remain open to traffic, its use as an important pedestrian gateway to the riverfront should be-recognized and encouraged by the installation of a traffic signal and crosswalk at the intersection of Riverside Drive. Perhaps this crosswalk could also be paved with cobblestones, thus visually demarcating the pedestrian path and exerting a "speed break" effect on traffic.
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6. Front Street (Union Avenue north to Adams)

Front Street has great unrealized potential. Not only does it link the Orpheum, Cossit Library, the Post Office, Civic Center, Auditorium, and Convention Center, it also affords panoramic views of the river.

Design guidelines for Front Street need to be separated into short term and long term versions. Long term guidelines are predicated on the aspiration that it could once more become the civic treasure envisaged by the founders when they established the Promenade. Short term guidelines recognize that the long term transformation will entail major alterations and are intended to forestall future development which would conflict with the long term objectives,

In the long term the west side of Front Street should revert to a Promenade consisting of wide expanses of park-like open space with unencumbered river views. Of the present structures, only those possessing a civic character should be preserved. These include the Post Office and perhaps the surviving fragment of the original Cossitt Library. All others including the parking garages, fire station and modern addition to the Cossitt Library should be demolished as they become obsolete or begin to need major repairs.

After demolition these sites should be replaced as parks. following the precedent of Confederate Park. At tie bluff edge handsome stone parapets should be constructed. Walkways should make frequent connections to [F]ront Street to encourage pedestrians to meander away from the street to experience the river views and breezes.

It is possible that the comprehensive downtown parking study recommended elsewhere may determine that there will be an intense need for parking in this area in the long term future. Should this be the case, below-grade parking should be developed beneath the new Promenade as sites become available. This new parking should not, however, be allowed to destroy the natural bluff face on the west. Vehicular entrances should be Limited to east-west streets to help preserve a pedestrian orientation for Front Street. In the meantime, it may be possible to find new civic uses for portions of the parking garages. Perhaps their street levels could be used as farmers’ and crafts markets or a cotton museum, thus enlivening the civic linkage system and drawing tourists up from Mud Island and the river,

In the short term no action should be taken that is inconsistent with these long term guidelines. The existing parking garages and fire station should not be expanded. nor should major capital improvements be made that would increase the value of the modern library addition. The original library building and the Post Office, on the other hand, should be preserved. As new civic uses are found for these two buildings (see the Cultural Resources section), appropriate renovations and adaptations should be made. In front of the Post Office the over-complicated maze of forgotten war memorial planters, ramps, steps, and vehicular pullovers should be redesigned into a simple, dignified forecourt in keeping with the neo-classical design of the building. The red granite should be replaced with marble to match the building facade.

The fountain and reflecting pool in front of the Cossitt Library should remain and should be kept clean and operating while the wire fence along the sidewalk should he replaced with a seat -height stone wall, A new stairway should be constructed from the south side of the old Cossitt Library down to the sidewalk on the north side of Munroe Avenue, thus providing a more direct route to the Cobblestones and the new pedestrian bridge to Mud Island.

The facades of the parking garages should be enlivened with large-scale signs as described in Section A.8.

The feasibility of a Front Street shuttle, similar to that proposed for the Mid-America Mall, should be explored. This shuttle would provide a link between Beale Street and the Civic Center, with stops at civic points between.

Streetscape improvements should be made with the civic character of Front Street in mind. Sidewalks and curbs should he repaired when necessary with high quality materials such as limestone aggregate concrete and granite curbs. Street trees should be planted along the west side only, thus emphasizing the street's unique "one-sidedness." Benches, seat-height walls, bus shelters, trash receptacles, lamp standards, bicycle racks, tree-grates, and the like should be provided to enhance the street's pedestrian quality, but these should be designed or selected with a sense of civic dignity in mind. The cute and faddish (e.g. "riverboat" bus shelters) should be avoided and the temptation to lease advertising space on such items on Front Street should be strenuously resisted. Street furniture should be tough and sturdy to withstand the inevitable wear and tear of weather, time, and people. Whenever possible, it should evoke a sense of local color. The "alligator gar" benches in Jefferson Davis Park set an ideal precedent. (See Beale Street-Peabody Place plan, section IV, for further public improvement suggestions.)

The new Promenade will provide many sites for public art. Local sculptors should be commissioned to fill such spaces with their work. Themes relating to local history and the river should be especially encouraged.
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7. Aquarium on Mud Island

In order to provide an additional Mud Island attraction, which would generate a large number of repeat visits, a new aquarium should be constructed on the vacant site south of the "Gulf of Mexico" on axis with Union Avenue.

The aquarium should feature fresh water aquatic life forms indigenous to the Mississippi River and surrounding region, perhaps including examples of the giant catfish, gar, and turtles celebrated in the lore of the river.

Architecturally, the aquarium should employ the forms and materials of the other Mud Island structures. A high, glazed canopy above a rooftop observation deck, which would reflect sunlight, should be considered. In scale the structure should possess sufficient monumentality to claim for itself an important place on the city skyline seen from the west. From the east it should serve to terminate the vista along Union Avenue and to help draw visitors from 'the hotel district to the riverfront, and then on across Wolf River Harbor on the new pedestrian bridge.
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8. The Vietnam Memorial

The Vietnam Memorial, to be designed through a national competition, should be sited at the southern tip of Mud Island. The design must be sensitive to this powerful, unique site as well as to the meaning of the memorial as a civic symbol. While the memorial should engender a respectful, reflective atmosphere, it should not be funereal or too somber. There, is nothing wrong with a complex juxtaposition of activities around the memorial ranging from sober meditation to picnicing.

Should the Mud Island site prove unacceptable, alternative sites may need to be considered. Possibilities, listed in order of preference, include Tom Lee Park or a bluff-top site at Huling Avenue or Vance Avenue.
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9. Wolf River Harbor (Monorail north to Auction)

This section of the harbor should be developed for increased use by recreational small craft. Beginning with the renewal of its rusting barge bolts, the harbor should be cleaned up to render it a more attractive place. Immediately north of Interstate 40 a new marina should be created on tie eastern shore. Day sailboats, rowboats, and foot-powered paddle-boats should be offered for hire. (The paddle-boats should be restricted to a small, protected area safe From potential danger from larger powered craft.)
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Map 1
Map 1: Site Plan [Download PDF, 231KB]
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Map 2
Map 2: Pedestrian Circulation [Download PDF, 215KB]
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Map 3
Map 3: Vehicular Circulation—Inbound [Download PDF, 213KB]
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Map 4
Map 4: Court Square to the Cobblestones [Download PDF, 292KB]
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