Thursday, January 27, 2000

Editorial: Park Commission / Citizen Body Still Has Place in City Government

Commercial Appeal
Editorial

MEMPHIANS are still waiting for the City Council to offer a good reason to abolish the Park Commission. Yet the effort has gathered momentum again, with the likely passage of an ordinance that would shift control of 10 riverfront parks, Mud Island River Park, the cobblestones and the historic promenade from the Park Commission to the mayor and City Council.

A council committee will consider a more ominous proposal next Tuesday: creating a department of city government to handle parks and recreation affairs, eliminating the Park Commission once and for all.

This time the council is launching a strike against the commission over the latter's plan to demolish the old Melrose High School building to make way for a senior citizens' center in Orange Mound. Leaders of the council movement to dump the commission insist it has arisen not from a personality conflict, but from a need to streamline the park system.

Council members also argue that the commission has shown a lack of political sensitivity on issues that usually end up in their laps. In fact, the Park Commission simply made its best judgment of what to do about Melrose and appropriately presented its case to the ultimate authority: the City Council.

The council and the commission have been through this before. The commission recommends a course of action on, say, a proposal to lease some land in Martin Luther King Jr./Riverside Park, or to build a senior citizens' center in Overton Park, or to convert Confederate Park to a monument to cancer survivors. Or perhaps it plays whatever cards it has in its deck to delay something the council wants, such as buying Whitehaven Country Club.

Its tactics occasionally prompt council members to dredge up the hoary proposal to abolish the commission. In 1996 the council created a 10-member advisory panel to study the idea. The group recommended leaving the commission alone. Earlier that year, a City Council funding moratorium on park projects temporarily set park operations on their ear.

This time the council will succeed in dumping the commission, predicts Mayor Willie Herenton, who isn't publicly taking sides on the issue. But the mayor's current agenda, which involves more direct City Hall involvement in schools, day care centers and the Head Start program, would suggest that he wouldn't mind a more direct hand in park operations as well.

An updated legal interpretation of the City Charter holds that the council has the power to get rid of the five-member commission. The Park Commission's defenders, such as Fred Davis, the mayor's nominee to succeed John Malmo as its chairman, hold that only the voters can eliminate the commission because the authority to create it is embedded in the charter.

Whether that interpretation eventually holds up, abolishing the Park Commission is a bad idea. The level of autonomy delegated to the commission to operate city parks provides a necessary buffer between the parks and politics, and a check against their potential degradation as part of a spoils system.

Besides, Park Commission members, who serve without pay, have shown that they can be a useful source of expertise.

COUNCIL members can, and should, continue to make careful and deliberate reviews of Park Commission decisions. And they can support Memphis parks with an adequate budget.

The $20 million annual tax-funded portion of the parks and recreation operating budget has not grown appreciably in 15 years. If council members truly want to do something to improve Memphis parks, a fresh look at the money they allocate to park upkeep would be a better place to start.

Copyright 2000 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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Wednesday, January 26, 2000

Plan Would Give Mayor, Council Authority Over 5-Mile Riverfront

Commercial Appeal
by Deborah M. Clubb

City officials will propose an ordinance next month to give the mayor and City Council control of 10 riverfront parks, Mud Island River Park, the cobblestones and the historic promenade.

The council and mayor would then contract with a new nonprofit group - the Riverfront Development Corp. - to develop, promote and operate the city's 5-mile waterfront.

The new ordinance would amend one that gives the Memphis Park Commission control of all parks and end a turf battle stirred up when the riverfront steering committee sought authority over the riverfront parks a few months ago.

The committee, appointed by Mayor Willie Herenton last year, chartered the nonprofit in November in order to raise corporate and foundation funding and speed up riverfront development.

Both the ordinance and contract could have council approval by late March, Public Works director Benny Lendermon told the steering committee Tuesday. Lendermon will retire from city government to become executive director of the RDC later this year.

"We're real happy and plan to keep the council informed and involved, as well as the mayor," said John Stokes, committee chairman. "We're happy about dealing directly with the council."

Committee leaders did not want to seek approval for their ideas from both the Park Commission board and the City Council, Stokes said. "None of us are interested in wasting time."

City Council member John Vergos, a riverfront committee member, said he expects no difficulty among council members about carving the riverfront parks from the park system.

"They still are city parks . . . We can get them back anytime."

Herenton explained his support for the plan last weekend in a council retreat, Lendermon said. The mayor also alerted council members that his city budget proposal will include $250,000 to help pay RDC's operating costs.

At the same planning session, council members told Herenton the Memphis Park Commission has outlived its usefulness and should be dismantled. Council member Tom Marshall pledged to hold hearings within a month to determine the commission's fate.

Lendermon, Stokes and riverfront committee vice chairman Kristi Jernigan have met with a half-dozen council members and will meet with the remainder to discuss the committee's goals.

"There was no disagreement expressed by those (at the retreat) or from those we met with since" about the parks proposal or operating funds, Lendermon said.

Herenton has committed the estimated $1.5 million in city funds used to operate and maintain the riverfront to the RDC. As the new organization identifies and pursues specific projects, its leaders would seek approval and funding for each from the City Council.

Stokes, Lendermon and Jernigan will ask the Plough Foundation board in February for $250,000 a year for three years for administrative costs.

A year ago, the Plough group provided $19,000 to support a series of public sessions to discuss riverfront objectives.

Jernigan is negotiating a possible location for RDC in the Falls Building.

Parkway Properties, which manages the building, also is developing the historic William R. Moore building and a new garage for AutoZone Park, in a deal made by Jernigan and her husband, Dean, co-founders of the Memphis Redbirds and the foundation that is building AutoZone Park.

The company is considering giving the new organization the space at cost.

"They're great people, and even though they're based in Jackson, they want to be part of this community, and I want to give them some credit for that," Jernigan said.

The committee will apply for federal Economic Development Administration funds to support a master plan and public hearing process that will cost $250,000 or more, Lendermon said.

Copyright 2000 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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Friday, December 17, 1999

New Group Aims to Control Riverfront Parks; Winning Confidence of City Council, Private Sector is Key

Commercial Appeal
by Deborah M. Clubb

They have Mayor Willie Herenton's support, a charter for a new organization and a wealth of research and planning data by city personnel and private consultants.

But they don't have control of Memphis's 11 riverfront parks, and that missing link occupied Herenton's Riverfront Steering Committee Thursday.

The group, appointed by Herenton last spring, has chartered a new nonprofit organization that would coordinate planning, funding and development of five miles of riverfront bounded by the Wolf River on the north, Chickasaw Heritage Park on the south and Front Street on the east.

Herenton told the City Council last week that Public Works director Benny Lendermon will retire and become Herenton's bridge to the new organization as executive director of Riverfront Development Inc. But Herenton said the issue of control of the riverfront parks, long managed by the Memphis Park Commission, remained unresolved.

It was clear Thursday that Lendermon wants the new organization's authority and its source of operating funds spelled out before he completes a deal to take the job.

"A few issues still exist," Lendermon said.

Committee members reviewed a map detailing the waterfront parks, including the Mississippi Greenbelt, Mud Island, Tom Lee, Confederate and Martyr's.

"Can we be effective in somehow implementing, at long last, a strategic, grand plan and coordinating the efforts of everybody and finally being able to say 'we did it' ... if in fact we have to yield to other agencies or other authorities?" asked committee chairman John Stokes.

Control of the parks should not be a turf war or dispute about who can better operate them, said vice chairman Kristi Jernigan.

The overriding issue is the confidence of donors who could help pay for projects, she said.

After talking with foundations and other possible contributors, she said, "it is a concern with them, who is programming and maintaining the riverfront. They are not keen on making donations to government."

Steering committee member Fred Davis, a Memphis Park Commission member and a former City Council member, cautioned that making any change in policy about the parks could take time.

"In time, whatever reservations some of us have about transferring parks to a riverfront committee could be resolved...but if we are talking about a real fast, quick fix between this committee and City Council, it bothers me.

"I don't think it's going to be that simple with the Park Commission and I don't think it's going to be that simple with me."

But Jernigan and Stokes rejected the prospect of long negotiations. "I'm personally not here to wait five years to figure out how we're going to do this," Jernigan said.

"And I'm not either," said Stokes. ``My feeling is the City Council will finally agree with what's in the best interest of the city of Memphis and the riverfront."

Hotel operator Mabra Holeyfield said he believes the City Council will support the new organization when members understand the goal of attracting private funds. "It's not taking somebody else's project or somebody else's turf."{

Architect Dianne Dixon said the public will have to be assured that private funding and private oversight of the parks will not decrease public access.

While continuing to develop the organization, the committee also voted to seek authority from city officials to rebid and build the long-delayed and long-funded $2.4 million cobblestone walkway on the western edge of Riverside Drive.

Construction of the Ron Terry Plaza, funded by First Tennessee Bank, and a 10-foot-wide walkway from Jefferson Davis Park and the Tennessee Welcome Center to Tom Lee Park was stopped by the minority contractors' lawsuit against the city.

Designs were approved in early 1997 and construction had been anticipated by September 1997. If the City Council has to vote again on the already appropriated funds in order to transfer them, "I don't expect a problem," Lendermon said. "When we get that project done, it does so much to tie downtown together."

Copyright 2000 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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Thursday, June 17, 1999

You Bet, Herenton Says, Mud Island Ought to Be Free, Riverside Tamer

Commercial Appeal
By Deborah M. Clubb

Mayor Willie Herenton on Wednesday quickly embraced two tough recommendations for the Memphis waterfront: Make Mud Island River Park free, and subdue the traffic on Riverside Drive.

Herenton joined members of three citizen focus groups and other city leaders aboard the Island Queen to hear results of the groups' discussions.

About 60 people participated in the sessions Tuesday and Wednesday organized by the mayor's Riverfront Steering Committee and funded by the Plough Foundation. They were asked to focus on solutions to development issues raised during a larger February workshop. Led by Matt Arnn of The Waterfront Center in Washington, the groups focused on solving problems related to access, docking, cobblestones, Mud Island River Park and other waterfront parks and public spaces.

All three groups concurred that the river park should not have to make money, that it should be free and easy to access.

Part of increasing access would be to ``calm Riverside Drive traffic'' and make several pedestrian crossings over it from east-west streets, the groups said.

Despite any costs, Herenton said, "Absolutely, Mud Island must become user-friendly (with) free access to families. Looking at this list, I'm excited about calming Riverside Drive traffic."

In earlier remarks, Herenton vowed to develop "the unique terrain we have on the Memphis riverfront. . . . We're going to make this happen." City Public Works Division staff explained their drawings of concepts that arose after the February discussion. The ideas included a land bridge to Mud Island from Court Street; a drawbridge and a 1,900-foot pedestrian bridge from Beale; a dock on six acres of Tom Lee Park and a new dock notched into the cobblestones.

After animated discussions, none won rousing support. But the drawbridge and dock concepts drew calls for further consideration.

The other points on which all three groups agreed were.

-- Water taxis in the harbor.

-- Continued docking of small excursion boats at the historic cobblestones.

-- Phase out automobile parking on cobblestones.

-- Add "new generation" activities to the river park.

-- Add private amenities and activities to waterfront parks, such as bike or skate rental, food vendors or a conference center hotel.

-- Upgrade design elements along the riverfront to create connections. Increase animation, security and maintenance in parks and public spaces.

The steering committee will consider the recommendations July 28. They are to present a final proposal to Herenton by year's end.

Copyright (c) 1999 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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Wednesday, May 26, 1999

Riverfront Goal: Get the Public to Believe in the Plan

Commercial Appeal
By Deborah M. Clubb

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

The date was May 25, 1924.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It failed to win federal funding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 1999, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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Friday, May 14, 1999

What to Do With City's Top Asset; Head of Riverfront Panel Says Memphians' Support Is Crucial

Memphis Business Journal
By Jonathan Scott

An answer to the question of what to do with the riverfront has eluded Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton throughout his first two terms in office.

Now, after more than half a decade of starts and stops, efforts to transform the city's riverfront into an attractive and commercially profitable cornerstone of Downtown redevelopment are set to begin again.

Late last month Herenton appointed members of the Riverfront Steering Committee. Its chairman, John Stokes Jr., says he expects to move quickly in deciding the best use of what may be the most valuable real estate in Memphis - and an area that many consider to be the community's most attractive natural asset.

Many taxpayers may greet as good news the chairman's belief that few, if any, additional tax dollars will be needed to fund a development plan.

While various riverfront plans have been adopted by the administration, Stokes says the steering committee's proposal will adopt a plan only if it is embraced by Memphians.

"Developing this plan must involve as much of the Memphis citizenry as possible," says Stokes, vice chairman of Morgan Keegan & Co. "This will not be a plan that is decided on among ourselves, but one that has input from all different factions of the city and a plan that generally meets with the approval of the folks of Memphis."

In all likelihood, this means that Herenton's costly riverfront plan to transform the harbor into a lake will fall by the wayside. For the present, however, the lake plan and other proposals will be up for discussion, Stokes says.

"We will consider it along with everything else and listen to the pros and cons and decide what is the best to do," he says. "There are those who object to the lake project and plenty who think that it is a great idea."

Herenton has struggled to find a workable development plan for the riverfront since his first term as mayor. After several months of study, in mid-1995 the administration proposed an $8 million plan that included floating shops and restaurants, walkways, docking facilities for large passenger boats, renovation of the cobblestones, and a fountain plaza at the foot of Union Avenue.

By year's end, the project cost had mushroomed to $11million.

In 1996, the proposal was replaced by a far more ambitious - and costly - plan that called for dam construction to transform the harbor into a lake, and the extension of Beale Street westward from where it now deadends on Riverside Drive to the southern tip of Mud Island.

Environmentalists, fearful of the impact on the river, balked at the plan. Some taxpayers thought the more than $50 million cost was, perhaps, not the best use of the public's money.

After several years and many attempts to obtain federal and state government financial assistance for that riverfront development plan, the administration decided earlier this year to take the initiative back to the community.

At a public workshop last February, about 100 people voiced their ideas about what to do with the area. One suggestion was for a riverfront task force, which served as the impetus for the creation of the present steering committee, says Stokes.

Other proposals that came out of the workshop are serving as a sort of framework to guide the steering committee in its planning. For instance, ideas such as improving access to Mud Island, lessening the barrier to the riverfront created by the high traffic volumes and speeding vehicles on Riverside Drive, better docking facilities for river boats, and preserving the cobblestones are all on the committee's list of possible and reasonable goals of any riverfront development plan, says Stokes.

Another main component of the plan will involve the private sector, he adds.

"I don't think there can be a riverfront project that does not involve the private sector and (provide) a lot of development opportunities for the private sector," says Stokes.

"In fact, that is as important as anything else. We do think there is a lot of land available that lends itself beautifully for development. One of the advantages to Memphis is that the city itself already owns a lot of the property, and the city can do a lot toward the development of a part of it."

The city also has some $12 million in hand already for the development of the riverfront, he adds. But another one of the steering committee's objectives will be to determine how to obtain more money, without additional tax dollars, to fund the redevelopment.

Even though past development proposals have failed to materialize completely, bits and pieces of these plans have been constructed and endorsed by the public this decade, Stokes says.

For example, nearly $15 million has already been spent on the expansion of Tom Lee Park, the renovation of Riverside Drive, the new Welcome Center, the nearly completed Bluff Walk, Greenbelt Park, and engineering studies that can be used for future development.

Stokes says other riverfront initiatives could also move forward fairly quickly, once the steering committee is up and running and the public is brought into the process. The first meeting of the steering committee is expected to be held later this month.

"In the end, we want to do things that will attract people to our riverfront," he says. "We want to not only attract tourists, but the people who live here. I think it is important to try to identify those things that everyone agrees are good ideas and things that can be done quickly, not cost much money, and improve the riverfront. We want to have most everything done and developed and be able to start actual work by the first of the year, or thereabouts."

© 1999 American City Business Journals Inc.

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Wednesday, February 17, 1999

100 Cast About, Snag Some Ideas for Riverfront

Commercial Appeal
By Deborah M. Clubb

Ideas to buoy Memphis's five miles of waterfront flowed like the mighty river itself Tuesday at a downtown workshop.

A few snagged agreement among about 100 participants.

The keepers: free year-round access for Memphians to a livelier Mud Island River Park; slower traffic on Riverside Drive; protected cobblestones and a dock for river tour boats.

The throw-back: Mayor Willie Herenton's $50 million lake plan. The half-day workshop, organized by the city and funded by the Plough Foundation, was not meant to be a referendum on the administration's last riverfront redevelopment concept, but its goals were a starting point for the discussion.

"We've seen the public wants to be involved," said Benny Lendermon, city public works director. ``We see that consensus on some things has been reached."

Lendermon said he and city chief administrative officer Rick Masson will meet with Herenton to discuss the next steps.

"We feel very strongly that the public involvement needs to continue...probably in a more intensive way with fewer people."

Herenton was out of town Tuesday and did not attend the workshop. He did attend a pre-workshop reception Monday night sponsored by AutoZone at company headquarters.

City engineer John Conroy detailed the city's most recent ambitious plan, which has failed to win federal funding. It featured two land bridges that transformed the Wolf River Harbor into a lake and created new land for private retail development onto Mud Island and permanent boat docks.

Dick Rigby, Ann Breen and Matt Arun, of the Waterfront Center in Washington, led the discussions Tuesday at the Marriott Hotel. They stressed public access to waterfronts.

With the admonition "Don't worry the money," Rigby sent participants into three small groups.

The lake plan drew little positive comment, except for the piece that would somehow link Mud Island.

"I don't see that Mud Island can ever become an amenity unless it has a link at the southern end," said Kristi Jernigan of the Memphis Redbirds.

The concept of docking big boats, such as the Delta Queen line and the Memphis Queen Line on the outside of the lake, against the southern dam, was a terrible one for river pilots, said Ralph Bagwell of the Memphis boat company. All three groups agreed on easier, freer access to Mud Island.

"Take down all the gates, locks and security guards and open it up," said John Stokes, vice chairman of Morgan Keegan Co. and chairman of the Center City Development Corp.

Landscape architect Ritchie Smith cautioned, "We need to maintain access to the river visually."

A permanent docking facility for the large river tour boats is a must to hang onto the travelers, said Regina Bearden of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"The Delta Queen line is planning 17 arrivals here in 2000," Bearden said. ``They had 48 in Memphis five years ago."

It was more difficult for the groups to agree on how and where to provide for the boats, particularly because the boats' bow thrusters can dislodge the cobblestones, which also are treacherous for passengers to walk on.

Maintenance of the harbor, the waterfront and parks needs more attention, said Dianne Dixon of the Memphis Landmarks Commission, noting riverfront rats are troublesome.

Businessman Hamilton Smythe wanted continued access for recreational boaters and the presence of the two marinas in the harbor. Owners of about 150 small boats represent Memphians who were there when the city turned its back on the riverfront, he said.

Memphis is ahead of many other cities as it considers riverfront improvements because most of the land is city-owned, Rigby said. In addition, the local economy and philanthropic community are strong.

The consultants said other pluses are the riverwalk project that is under way to connect the north and south ends of the riverfront; the cobblestone landing; the trolley, Beale Street, diverse architectural styles, downtown residential growth, baseball stadium plans, a benign climate and the Mississippi River model on Mud Island.

Negatives facing Memphis, they said, include the underused riverfront, Riverside Drive as a barrier to the riverfront, "dead retail" downtown, an "antiquated" Mud Island park, lack of public art, limited park facilities, trash in public areas and lack of a centralized authority and consistent initiatives for riverfront development.

Among their recommendations:
-- Continuing discussion by a riverfront task force.
-- A major change to Riverside Drive and its traffic.
-- Free access to Mud Island at least for Memphians.
-- Further consideration of the big boats' place in Memphis' future.
-- Use of local artists and artisans.
-- A single government entity charged with redevelopment of the riverfront.
-- Consideration of replacing industries on the harbor's north end with denser use such as housing.
-- No parking on the cobblestones.

Copyright (c) 1999 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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Tuesday, February 16, 1999

The Waterfront Center: Memphis Riverfront Redevelopment Workshop

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

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

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

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


Summary & Recommendations
Memphis Riverfront Redevelopment Workshop


City of Memphis, Tennessee
Tuesday, February 16, 1999

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





Memphis Riverfront Workshop
February 16, 1999
Consensus Comments of Participants


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

Access Issues
  • Pedestrian linkages should be strengthened:

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

  • Uniform sign system needed along riverfront

Docking
  • 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.

Cobblestones
  • 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


Introduction

Summaries of WorkGroups

Recommendations of the Waterfront Center Team

Appendices



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

PART ONE

Introduction


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.


PART TWO

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.

PRIORITIES AND CONCERNS.
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,

ACCESS.
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.

MUD ISLAND RIVER PARK.
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.

COBBLESTONES AND DOCKING.
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.

INTERPRETATION /PARKS & PUBLIC SPACES.
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.

PRIORITIES AND CONCERNS.
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.

ACCESS.
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.

MUD ISLAND.
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.

COBBLESTONES.
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
fishing.

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.

DOCKING.
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.

PARKS AS PUBLIC SPACES.
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.

INTERPRETATION.
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.

MISCELLANEOUS.
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.

PRIORITIES AND CONCERNS.
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.

ACCESS.
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.

MUD ISLAND.
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.

COBBLESTONES.
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.

DOCKING.
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.

PARKS AND PUBLIC SPACES.
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.

PART THREE

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.


APPENDIX

Memphis Riverfront Redevelopment Workshop
Attendees


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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Meeting Aims to Plot Future of Riverfront

Commercial Appeal
by Deborah M. Clubb

Exploring the next step in riverfront redevelopment tops the agenda today during a public workshop hosted by Mayor Willie Herenton.

Powered by a $10,000 grant from the Plough Foundation, the workshop is from 8 a.m. to noon in the Mark Twain Auditorium of the Marriott Hotel, 250 N. Main.

Dick Rigby of the Waterfront Center in Washington will join city engineer John Conroy in a presentation about the importance of urban waterfronts and the future direction for redevelopment of the Memphis riverfront.

The Waterfront Center is a nonprofit corporation that helps communities enhance urban waterfronts.

The outcome of the workshop will determine the city's next step in riverfront redevelopment, said city Public Works director Benny Lendermon said.

Federal officials did not fund Herenton's request for a $43 million redesign of the harbor. That design would shape a lake at the cobblestones with a new northern opening for harbor traffic and a "land bridge" from Beale Street onto Mud Island.

"Almost a year ago, Mayor Herenton told the city council and the public that if there wasn't forthcoming monies to move the navigational channel from in front of the cobblestones area, to allow us to spring into a larger, grander project, he would go back to the public and eventually the council to get input on what should be done with the Memphis riverfront," Lendermon said.

That's what today's workshop will do, Lendermon said, and with fresh leadership from the Waterfront Center.

"We're not even going in assuming something needs to be done on the riverfront," Lendermon said. "We want to have a frank and open discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of our riverfront and where we need to go from here, what would people like to see change."

Rick Masson, city chief administrative officer, noted that Knoxville, a city much smaller than Memphis, spent $47 million on its waterfront. "We need to find out what kind of interest there is in our riverfront."

Lendermon said he is "flabbergasted" by the "diversity and caliber" of people who pre-registered for the workshop. The roster includes business leaders, advocacy groups, agencies and citizen groups. The meeting is open to the public as well.

Copyright (c) 1999 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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