Monday, June 04, 2007

Profile: Watchdog

Lifetime appreciation of open spaces drives Virginia McLean to fight for the riverfront

Memphis bizwomen.com (a service of Memphis Business Journal) [link]
By Christopher Sheffield

Virginia McLean laughs at being tagged an activist but gladly accepts the role.

And not because it massages her ego, but because what she's fighting for has such significance and importance for Memphis, says McLean, president of the now 4-year-old citizens' group Friends for Our Riverfront.

"This is the most important land in our city, historically, geographically," she says. "And it is the public's, and it should pass on to future generations."

But McLean and others felt that lineage was threatened in 2003 when the Riverfront Development Corp. unveiled a $50 million plan to commercially develop a four-block section along Front Street for retail shopping and condominiums. The plan has gotten mixed reaction from city leaders.

That strip of land -- home now to a fire station, two garages, a city library and future University of Memphis law school -- was meant to be public space and not handed over to private developers, she says.

"If we build buildings on that land for private condos, it will be gone," says McLean. "There's plenty of more space for private development."

Center City Commission president Jeff Sanford has been supportive of the RDC's plans, but says McLean's leadership through Friends for Our Riverfront has had an impact.

"Clearly, as founder of Friends she has helped to raise the community's consciousness about the riverfront," Sanford says. "She has been nothing if not tenacious."

The face-off with the RDC, and, to a larger extent the city, is noteworthy given McLean's family history.

John Overton Sr., McLean's great-great-great-grandfather, purchased the original 5,000 acres of bluff land on which Memphis was founded in the early 1800s.

A Nashville lawyer, Overton acquired the land in 1794 from North Carolinian John Rice. In 1819, Overton and partners Andrew Jackson and James Winchester hired a land surveyor to draw up plans for Memphis.

"It was wide open Western real estate and they saw it as a great place for a city someday," says McLean, whose husband was distantly related to the McLeans of Memphis but grew up in Greenwood, Miss.

Ironically, John Overton Sr. never lived in Memphis, but multiple generations of Overtons since have, starting with John Overton Jr., who moved here from Nashville in 1967.

The family has produced two of the city's mayors, S. Watkins Overton (1928-1939) and Watkins Overton (1949-1953). The Overton family since has largely been part of the city's quiet upper class.

McLean's father, William Overton, was a vice president and later treasurer for the tobacco company Conwood Corp., one of the city's larger, but reclusive, companies.

McLean grew up in East Memphis on West Cherry Circle between Goodlett and Perkins, an upscale neighborhood today but at the time very rural.

"It was way out in the country," she says. "We had chickens in the back yard."

Her interest in public spaces and historic preservation began as a child, fueled by travels abroad, she says, but it took a little time to figure out how to apply that.

She got a degree in English at Vanderbilt University, with a minor in history, and returned to Memphis and briefly wrote obituaries for The Commercial Appeal.

What she wanted to do was find a way to combine her love of art and architecture so she returned to college and got a master's degree in urban planning from the University of Virginia with the goal of writing about cities.

"I had always been fortunate to travel and I loved great cities and great spaces and I think I have a real sense of curiosity and that's why I came back and looked at Memphis again," she says.

She returned to Memphis in 1976 with a young family.

While Memphis' Downtown was still on a downhill slide, she says it was beginning to turn around and there was hope.

Her book, The Memphis Guide, which she published in 1981, gave her the chance to look at the city through fresh eyes after essentially being gone for nearly a decade.

She served on the board of directors for Memphis Heritage, was president of the Red Acres Neighborhood Association and for the last few years has served on the board for the University Neighborhood Development Corp.

But it's Friends for Our Riverfront that has become a particular passion.

"I would have never labeled myself as an activist," she says. "But now, I guess, I sort of got my tennis shoes on and I really believe in this."

Virginia McLean
President, Friends for Our Riverfront
Age: 61
Education: Bachelor's of art, English, Vanderbilt University; Master's of art, city planning, University of Virginia
Family: Husband, Hite; son, Hite III; daughter, Mathilde
Hobbies: Gardening, travel, reading, Bible study

csheffield@bizjournals.com 259-1726

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Ideas for riverfront flow at workshop

Proposals include fountains, cafes, concessions, play area

The Commercial Appeal [link]
April 1, 2007
By Pamela Perkins

For anyone walking along the Mississippi River bluff in the stifling Memphis summer heat, just looking at a large body of water is not enough.

It would be nice to have public water fountains at parks that overlook the Mississippi River -- among other user-friendly touches at areas along Front Street and Riverside Drive, such as garbage cans, more cafes, food and beverage vendors and bicycle racks.

Those were the prevailing ideas at a "Placemaking" workshop led by New York-based Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit agency that helps make public areas more attractive. Its projects include Rockefeller Center in New York and Chapel Street in New Haven, Conn.

"They say, 'This is your space. How would you use it?'" said Virginia McLean, board president of the nonprofit Friends for Our Riverfront, which organized the workshop along with Rhodes College, the University of Memphis Mid-South Planning and Zoning Institute and Memphis Heritage.

The workshop's 135 participants included Downtown residents, planning students from the U of M and Rhodes, and Center City Commission officials. They divided into groups, and toured sites along the river, interviewing visitors.

Upon returning, they presented their findings, many of which included more landscaping, lighting and signs that explain the historic nature of sites such as the Cossitt Library, Confederate Park and Court Square.

The rusty fountain at Court Square should be working, one group suggested.

Cafes, concessions and more public events would do well at Confederate Park and Jefferson Davis Park, which also needs a play area for children, better seating and water fountains, they suggested.

Also, the cobblestone area on Riverside near Madison could be given a name as well as seating and signs.

"We're going to try to put it all together and get a report done," McLean said. The group eventually may present the report to city officials.

The Friends group has been wary of the city-owned Riverfront Development Corp's. plans, which it believes diminishes Downtown's character.

Dianne Dixon, a founding member of the RDC board who also attended the workshop, said what she heard at the workshop jibes with the Riverfront group's plans.

After the $27 million Beale Street Landing project is completed, the RDC wants to restore the cobblestone area in a "preservation manner," she said.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Branston: The Rest of the Story on the RDC

Memphis Flyer [link]
February 22, 2007
By John Branston

Better late than never.

Following up on its strong series of stories about sweet deals in city government and at MLGW, The Commercial Appeal finally turned its attention Thursday to city government’s kissing cousin, the Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC) and its staff of three former city division directors.

As The Flyer has been reporting for four years, the RDC, or "retired directors club" as some city council members call the quasi-government nonprofit, enjoys an enviable package of salaries and benefits for managing a small slice of the city – the riverfront parks – as opposed to an entire city division. RDC President Benny Lendermon, formerly city public works director, earns over $260,000 a year in salary, pension, and other benefits. The other two retired directors on the RDC staff are Danny Lemmons, formerly of general services, and John Conroy, former city engineer.

"The area’s biggest megaphone," as CA columnist Wendi Thomas called her employer in her column Thursday, skated over or confused some key RDC issues in addition to doing some good work.

There was no mention of Friends for Our Riverfront, another nonprofit that operates on a shoestring budget and has fought the RDC to a standstill on the public promenade and done at least as much to promote user-friendly amenities along the river and parks in general. Two weeks ago the RDC and Friends, along with other groups, each brought well-known speakers to Memphis on different days to plug “green” issues. Virginia McLean, head of the Friends volunteers, has no ties to city government and gets no subsidy as the RDC does.

The CA story quoted Lendermon and city council members Scott McCormick and Tom Marshall who touted the efficiencies and accomplishments of the RDC and pooh-poohed the gibes about the "retired directors club." Strange then, that the city council, chaired by Marshall, is making such a fuss about former mayoral aide Gail Jones Carson over at MLGW and her $126,000 salary and her pension.

McCormick is quoted saying the RDC does a better job of managing the parks than the Memphis Park Commission did. What the story did not say, however, is that such a comparison is difficult if not unfair. The parks division, as it is now called, is responsible for roughly 180 parks spread over some 300 square miles of Memphis. The RDC gets to concentrate on 10 parks along two miles of the riverfront.

McCormick told the Flyer this week he is satisfied that the RDC really is doing the job for less and baselined its budget against pre-RDC years. "They said they would operate and maintain the parks for $2 million in 2001," he said. "They have operated the parks for five years for the same amount. Where in government does somebody maintain the same costs for five years? I thought that was outstanding."

John Malmo, former chairman of the board of the old Memphis Park Commission, told the Flyer last year that he thinks such comparisons play fast and loose with the facts. Isolating the cost of running riverfront parks from the rest of the city is like trying to isolate the cost of running one room of your house or raising one of your children. Obviously, there are a lot of shared costs and overhead.

The CA story says there are new cobblestones on the riverfront. If so, they’re not the huge ones that many Memphians remember. The broad area at the end of Union Avenue and west of Riverside Drive where the tour boats dock is a patchwork of loose gravel and small cobblestones, with a few massive chain links that are a reminder of the city’s cotton and riverboat days. But "the cobblestones" are in no condition to qualify as a tourist attraction, and, after six RDC years, there are no markers calling attention to them or explaining their significance. To call this an accomplishment of the RDC is a stretch.

With plans to enclose the harbor scrapped two years ago, the RDC’s current big project is Beale Street Landing, a $27 million park and boat landing at the foot of Beale Street and Tom Lee Park. Friends for Our Riverfront and others have argued that modest user-friendly improvements could be made at the park for a fraction of that price.

The CA puts no heat on the RDC board, which includes a host of downtown and Memphis luminaries. Once again, Friends for Our Riverfront does the heavy lifting when it comes to accountability by attending RDC meetings and circulating their notes and minutes via their website.

The quality of the RDC’s work on Mud Island and along the riverfront speaks for itself. The parks, bluff, and Riverside Drive, in the opinion of this 25-year downtown worker and fan, have never looked better. There may indeed be big efficiencies at the RDC versus the public sector. In that case, the agency would be best served by embracing complete financial transparency, explaining its magic formula without fear or favor, joining forces with Friends for Our Riverfront when practical, and expanding its expertise and thrifty business model to other parts of Memphis on a scale commensurate with those salaries.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Finding Safe Harbor: Beale Street Landing to lay anchor soon

The Daily News [Link to article]
By Andy Ashby

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

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

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

From disconcerting to concerts

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

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

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

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

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

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

The millions at high tide

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

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

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


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

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

Hope floats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voice of reason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting sail from good to great

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Eminent domain law could impact riverfront redevelopment plans

Memphis Business Journal
by Christopher Sheff
Link to article

Eminent domain legislation signed by Gov. Phil Bredesen this week could give renewed hope to those opposing the redevelopment of Downtown property by the Riverfront Development Corp.

Although House Bill 3450 is one of the least restrictive of several bills introduced by lawmakers this past session, certain provisions give landowners some real recourse to having their land taken for economic development purposes, says Kevin Walsh with Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh, who primarily represents landowners in eminent domain disputes.

In the session that just ended, 59 bills were filed by state Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate to limit the use of eminent domain by local governments.

The flurry of activity on the issue was in response to the U.S. Supreme Court 5-4 ruling in 2005 that found that the New London Development Corp., acting through the City of New London, Conn., had the authority to take homes for a development plan that included a resort hotel and conference center, a new state park, 80-100 new residences and various research, office and retail space. The case is now often referred to as the Kelo Case, named after local homeowner and lead plaintiff Susette Kelo.

"I do think it is a good step toward addressing the Kelo issue in Tennessee," Walsh says.

Walsh says the legislation, which was signed June 5 and is still being digested by the legal community, clarifies the limited nature of public use for the stated purpose of taking a property for economic development.

"That should provide some comfort to owners of property that there is a recognized prohibition of taking property solely for economic development," Walsh says.

Test case in riverfront redevelopment?

Locally, the most prominent case that may test the legislation is the RDC's $50 million plan to remake 6 acres of prime riverfront property that now contain the Cossitt Library, Fire Station No. 1, the old Customs House (future home of the University of Memphis School of Law) and Confederate Park.

Private developments, including three proposed new buildings, would pay for projects like a two-level promenade and the relocation of parking garages underground. The buildings would be mixed-use, with restaurants and shops lining the bottom floors. Ground leases would keep the property under the control of the city. The plan also calls for pedestrian bridges that would stretch across Monroe and Court and for improvements to sidewalks on the promenade. Grand staircases would provide access to the upper level of the pedestrian walkways.

RDC president Benny Lendermon, who says he had not seen the new legislation as of Wednesday, didn't express much concern about the impact of the new law on RDC's redevelopment plan.

While saying that the RDC has hoped to never use eminent domain to obtain property, he says the process "is important for municipalities to grow and prosper."

Eminent domain is not a favorable option because the governing authority often pays much more than the fair market value to get it.

"The courts always make sure the property owner is duly compensated," he says.

But in the case of the property in question, it may be a question of actual ownership.

There has long been a legal dispute about the use of the property and who has the authority to decide it.

The property was apparently donated by the city's founding fathers for use as a public promenade decades ago, although the heirs of the founders reportedly still hold title.

Legal showdown may be afoot

Arguments over aspects of the donated land have gone all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court in the past. Some members of the legal community see another legal showdown brewing between the City of Memphis, RDC and the heirs, chiefly the Overton family, whose name is attached to one of the city's largest recreation areas, Overton Park.

The riverfront land in question "was given to the citizens of Memphis," says Virginia McLean, an Overton heir and president of the Friends for Our Riverfront. "The city acts as a trustee of the land."

It was the intention of McLean's family that the land be used as a public promenade or public open space like Boston Common.

She says she is not against the property being developed and improved, "but the question is who is the land being improved to benefit? Improved for a public promenade or private development?"

Despite Lendermon's stated hope that eminent dominion would not be involved, McLean says she is confident the city plans to initiate eminent domain proceedings.

Lendermon says since the project was approved by the City Council in 2004 there has been little movement due to the city's budgeting problems and other priorities. But with a new budget approved and those problems seemingly behind it, talks can now begin on how to proceed.

"Dealing with the promenade property in the future will be some target on that schedule," he says.

City attorney Sara Hall did not return calls seeking comment.

RDC's first move is with the city

Whatever direction RDC and the city attorney's office take will first come before the City Council's economic development, tourism and technology committee chaired by attorney Dedrick Brittenum Jr., managing partner of Farris Mathews Branan Bobango Hellen & Dunlap PLC.

Brittenum, who joined the City Council in November and has handled eminent domain cases in his practice, says he was briefed on the RDC and progress on the promenade project by Lendermon just two weeks ago.

He says if any eminent domain proceedings are to begin, the RDC would first have to make the request to the city.

Brittenum says he was about to ask Lendermon if RDC planned to take that step when a fire alarm in One Commerce Square abruptly ended the meeting before Lendermon could answer.

"He was, literally, saved by the bell," Brittenum says.

csheffield@bizjournals.com

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mud Island-Downtown land bridge is falling down

Riverfront planners want to refocus, deflect critics

Commercial Appeal
by Tom Charlier

Yielding to what they called political and economic realities, Riverfront Development Corp. officials Monday scuttled plans to build an ambitious, development-studded land bridge connecting Mud Island with Downtown Memphis.

If followed up by the City Council next month, the action could kill a project described as "the single most important defining element" in a 50-year, $300 million master plan for reshaping the waterfront along the Mississippi River.

The land bridge, planned for the area between Court and Poplar, was intended to leave Mud Island "seamlessly integrated" with Downtown. It would have created land for development and transformed much of what is now Wolf River Harbor into a lake.

The RDC board of directors cited several reasons for the vote, including the need to redevelop other areas of Downtown first and the financial challenges facing Memphis.

Board members also said that while the land bridge had not been slated for construction for at least 15 years, the frequent criticism of it was a distraction. RDC is busy trying to build the $27.3 million Beale Street Landing for riverboats and redevelop the Promenade acreage.

"We've got a lot on our plate," said board member Kevin Kane. "...We've got to focus on what we can control in the next five or 10 years."

Jeff Sanford was among several members who said groups were seizing on the land bridge proposal in their efforts to block any redevelopment along the riverfront.

"The land bridge has become a lightning rod," he said.

The board's action, which follows a study of the land bridge by a subcommittee, drops the proposal from the RDC strategic plan. It also asks the City Council to remove it from the riverfront master plan that was approved in 2002.

Board member Rickey Peete, a City Councilman, said the matter probably will be put on the agenda of the council's Nov. 1 meeting.

The RDC action comes as the Corps of Engineers is completing a study of issues involved with the land bridge. Corps project manager Greg Grugett said the study does not make recommendation as to whether the project should be built.

RDC had pegged the cost of the land bridge and related construction at $78 million, by far the most expensive item in its $292 million slate of outlined improvements. Although public capital funds would pay for the projects, RDC's master plan says a "significant portion" of the costs would be recouped through private development activity.

Critics, however, called the land bridge a costly boondoggle that would unloose major environmental and drainage problems and harm recreation.

Virginia McLean, president of Friends for Our Riverfront, a group critical of RDC's proposals, said she was "thrilled" by the vote Monday, which she said indicates the board has begun listening to public opinion.

"The public has been saying all along that we don't want a fake lake down there. We want a green riverfront," she said.

McLean and group vice president John Gary said RDC officials now should re-evaluate other parts of the master plan, especially those dealing with the Promenade.

"I'm kind of skeptical as to whether the master plan is worth pursuing," Gary said.

Despite the vote, RDC members said the land bridge concept could be revived sometime in the future.

"Plans are basically a work in progress," Peete said.

But for now, "the political reality is that it (the land bridge) has got to go."



Remaking the riverfront

The board of directors of the Riverfront Development Corp., the nonprofit group overseeing efforts to enhance Memphis's ties to the Mississippi River, voted Monday to drop plans for a land bridge between Downtown and Mud Island. The action is the latest in the group's five-year effort to revitalize the riverfront:

July 2000: RDC begins work on a master plan of improvements for a five-mile stretch of the riverfront.

January 2002: The RDC board approves a master plan developed by New York architects Cooper, Robertson & Partners. Its central feature was a 50-acre land bridge, which would transform most of the Wolf River Harbor into a lake. The plan also includes a riverboat facility known as Beale Street Landing and the redevelopment of the Promenade area of Downtown.

May 2002: The master plan is approved by City Council.

May 2004: Despite opposition from a citizens' group, the City Council approves RDC's land-use plan for the Promenade, which calls for mixed-use development on the area west of Front between Auction and Beale.

September 2005: State and federal regulators approve environmental permits for RDC's planned Beale Street Landing project, a $27.3 million facility featuring a floating dock and other amenities to accommodate commercial excursion vessels. Initial dredging for the project could begin this fall.

October 2005: RDC board, citing political and economic obstacles, votes to eliminate the land bridge from the RDC strategic plan and ask the City Council to strike it from the master plan.

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Herenton says recent Supreme Court decision could help Memphis

WMCTV Action News 5
By Darrell Phillips
Link to original

The mayor's words may anger some, especially those who have been fighting to protect a four block swatch of riverfront property from redevelopment.

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton was straightforward about an issue that is anything but cut and dry.

"I will admit a bias," said Herenton. "I do have a strong bias. I'm very supportive of the Supreme Court decision."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Kelo vs. New London, Connecticut case found that local governments can condemn private property for commercial use, as long as it benefits the public in some way.

Herenton agrees.

"Cities should not quite frankly be inhibited to grow the economy, to grow its infrastructure and its needs because of existing buildings and structures," he said.

The mayor's position may play into a heated battle over the future of the Memphis riverfront.

"I think it has a brighter future given this Supreme Court decision," he said.

Opponents like Virginia McLean with Friends of Our Riverfront are disappointed. She says Kelo doesn't apply because the riverfront is already public land.

"The Kelo decision is something that I think the country has really felt outrage about, and it's surprising to me that at this time an elected official would want to use eminent domain to take land away from the people of Memphis," she said.

Herenton hinted the debate won't stop at the water's edge.

"There are some other areas within the city of Memphis that we think should provide greater opportunities for growth and development and eminent domain may be the way to make this land available," said Herenton.

He wouldn't elaborate, but says Memphis should be a balance of greenspace and city living.

"The Supreme Court decision will allow cities to get an urban environment that I think will bring about an urban quality of life that a lot of people will enjoy," he said.

The mayor was quick to point out that any new use of eminent domain and the Supreme Court ruling has to be done cautiously and that city planners should be fair reasonable as they move forward.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Editorial: Try to negotiate riverfront plans

Commercial Appeal

THERE'S STILL TIME to refine plans for developing the Downtown riverfront in ways that could significantly reduce public opposition.

That was perhaps the most promising bit of information that came out of a two-hour debate Sunday afternoon between representatives from the Riverfront Development Corp. and the Friends for Our Riverfront citizens group.

Oh, it wouldn't be easy. On some issues, the gap between the groups' positions is as wide as the Mississippi River itself.

Yet near the end of Sunday's forum at the Central Library, both sides said they were willing to talk about potential areas of compromise. It would be in everyone's best interests for those discussions to take place.

The most likely source of common ground might be on the so-called Promenade project, a four-block area of Front Street between Union and Adams.

The RDC, a nonprofit organization created by city government to manage riverfront property, envisions a high-rise development of some sort -- condominiums, offices or whatever -- that would provide limited public access along outdoor promenade decks facing the river.

Friends for Our Riverfront would prefer to see the area converted into parkland.

Sunday's forum exposed some weaknesses in each of those approaches.

For example, a high-rise development, no matter whether it's residential or commercial, would require a lot of parking. The RDC's plans call for two existing parking garages within the four-block area to be rebuilt as underground structures.

That might take care of the current needs for parking spaces. But a high-rise development would logically seem to require much more parking than the area currently has. And given the property's proximity to the river, there are limits on how far underground it's practical to put a garage.

RDC officials didn't make a clear and compelling case for the demand for new residential or office space, either. They say market conditions will determine what's best for the site. But if RDC officials are focused strictly on some type of high-rise, they're likely to overlook other possibilities that could be more practical and acceptable to the public.

On the other hand, RDC officials raised some very valid concerns about the idea of converting those four blocks into parkland. Rick Masson, an RDC board member, noted that Confederate Park and the Mud Island River Park are seldom used by citizens. That being the case, simply adding more unimproved park space doesn't seem like a good solution.

Virginia McLean, president of Friends, countered that parks don't have to be just empty patches of grass. She cited Overton Park as an example with multiple civic uses.

McLean said Friends wouldn't be opposed to some development on the Promenade, such as restaurants, sidewalk cafes and the like. It seems like there's still an opportunity to redesign the Promenade, perhaps using the same basic design with less-intensive retail uses.

That might prevent a court fight over use of the land. And it could produce one of those "win-win" situations that would make everybody feel better about the finished product.

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Friday, July 01, 2005

Domain ruling gives developers options

Memphis Business Journal [link]
By Rob Robertson and Amos Maki

Opinions are mixed regarding last week's 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that effectively expanded the use of eminent domain for private economic development.

In the case of Kelo vs. New London, Conn., the court held that New London could purchase and remove private homes and businesses to make way for a private riverfront development project because of the potential economic benefit the boost in tax revenues would create.

Kevin Walsh of Harris, Shelton, Hanover, Walsh PLLC, calls the court's decision "an unfortunate expansion of public use."

Walsh has an emphasis on eminent domain in his practice and has represented property owners in cases brought by governmental authorities to take private property.

"I found it disappointing that Judge Rehnquist was not able to muster a majority for purposes of protecting private property rights," Walsh says. "This decision essentially allows governmental entities to take property in the name of public use under the 5th Amendment of the Constitution solely for the purpose of generating additional tax revenue."

Still, there are additional levels of scrutiny to consider regarding the application of Tennessee state law, Walsh says. Tennessee has its own clause with regard to the right to take private property.

"I'm not sure it would be interpreted any differently, but you would have to consider not only the Tennessee Constitution but the enabling legislation or statute under which the power of eminent domain has been delegated," he says.

That would include any legislation that allows a government entity to seize private property, including boards like the Riverfront Development Corp., which gained approval from the City Council last year to transform a four-block area of Downtown known as the Promenade.

The $50 million redevelopment plan calls for using private developments, including three proposed new buildings, to pay for projects like a two-level promenade and the relocation of parking garages underground. The buildings would be mixed-use, with restaurants and shops lining the bottom floors. Ground leases would keep the property under the control of the city.

Ultimately, the RDC seeks to revamp a 5-mile stretch of the Memphis waterfront over the next half century. The cost of that development has been estimated at about $300 million.

The property now contains the Cossitt Library, a fire station, the U.S. Post Office and Confederate Park. The land, except for Confederate Park, is virtually inaccessible to most of the public and offers prime views of the river.

The property was donated by the city's founding fathers for use as a public promenade. The heirs of the founders hold title to the land and have been divided on the proposal.

RDC president Benny Lendermon says the High Court's ruling gives the city attorney another tool in dealing with land acquisition for a plan that could produce a significant economic benefit for the city.

"It's incredibly important nationwide," says Lendermon. "Many large metropolitan areas are going through financial crises right now. This gives them more flexibility to pursue economic development when it is for the public good. We developed a plan for the best use of the property."

Barbara Kritchevsky, associate dean of the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis, says the ruling would not directly change any restrictions under the Tennessee Constitution involving eminent domain.

"(The ruling) talks about what is permissible under the federal Constitution," says Kritchevsky. "It means if a state chooses to do what New London did it would not violate the federal Constitution. States could be more restrictive in their own interpretations of eminent domain."

Jim Arthur, an attorney at Armstrong Allen, says Tennessee's eminent domain clause is not more restrictive; it essentially mirrors that of the federal Constitution and has been construed by state courts in lockstep with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The New London case, therefore, may have a particular relevance if a similar situation were to occur here.

"It means if an E-Cycle could convince enough local officials to declare that a particular development project it proposed provides a 'public benefit,' however speculative, private property owners whose property stands in the way are afforded no protection by the Constitution," Arthur says, referring to the fake company the FBI used in its Tennessee Waltz sting operation that netted several local elected officials for allegedly taking bribes.

"According to the Kelo majority, I see nothing to stop the City of Memphis, or some agency to which it might delegate its power of eminent domain, from condemning every square foot of riverfront property in furtherance of some development plan it pronounces to be of 'public benefit'," Authur says.

Virginia McLean, president of Friends for Our Riverfront, a group that opposes the RDC's proposals, says that won't happen.

"The Public Promenade is protected by the Tennessee Supreme Court's prior decisions involving the property and the Tennessee Constitution," McLean wrote on the group's official Web site. "We believe that if the RDC attempts to condemn the Public Promenade, the Tennessee judiciary will reject the U.S. Supreme Court's reasoning in Kelo."

Lendermon says the RDC would use eminent domain as a "last resort."

Another project where eminent domain could come into play is the city's push to redevelop the blighted, 138-acre section of the city south of the $250 million FedExForum. Current conditions in the area, bounded by Mulberry on the west, G.E. Patterson on the south, Danny Thomas on the east and Linden on the north, are bleak, with lots overgrown with weeds and covered in trash.

The Center City Commission, the agency charged with guiding development Downtown, has developed a plan for revitalizing the area that includes the possibility of using eminent domain for land asemblage that would spur development.

"Land assembly will be key in creating development in what is a long forgotten neighborhood of vacant land," says Jeff Sanford, CCC president. "I would hope that eminent domain wouldn't have to be used to assemble property, but in the end it may be an option."

Downtown developer Henry Turley says the Supreme Court ruling is a victory for cities looking to attract economic development opportunities.

"I think a city has to be able to assemble property for economic development within that city," says Turley, principal of Henry Turley Co. "Otherwise, that economic development occurs outside the city. So the city tends to languish while the surrounding areas tend to prosper, putting the city at a great disadvantage."

At the other end of the spectrum is retired attorney Hal Rounds, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Shelby County, who says the Kelo case is fraught with dangers to everyone who intends to work, invest and build something.

"We have gone from being property owners to conditional custodians at the pleasure of our government," Rounds says.

He believes the matter is not settled, in part because as Justice Clarence Thomas noted in his dissent, the entire body of cases cited by the majority rests not on Constitutional law but on other precedents.

Should the next similar case go back to the 5th Amendment it could overturn more than a century of decisions. In the meantime, Rounds believes the Kelo case, while potentially unlawful, strengthens the hand of the city.

The problem with the decision, as Arthur sees it, is that it lowers the standard for governmental exercise of its power of eminent domain to an all but meaningless level.

"The 5th Amendment originally contemplated government taking private property for its own use, for forts, roads or other necessities for the common good, or for use by others who might incidentally reap a benefit to serve the public," Arthur says.

"Now, government can take your property simply because it determines that someone else can use your property more profitably and generate more tax revenue than you have."

CONTACT staff writer Rob Robertson at 259-1726 or rrobertson@bizjournals.com. Contact staff writer Amos Maki at 259-1764 or amaki@bizjournals.com. Staff writer Scott Shepard also contributed to this story.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Editorial: More questions about riverfront

Commercial Appeal

A U.S. Supreme Court decision last week might make it easier for the City of Memphis to move forward with its plans for redeveloping the riverfront.

The nation's highest court ruled that cities may use "eminent domain" power to take property from private landowners for the sake of creating new development. Acquiring land through eminent domain might be necessary to complete at least two major projects the city has in the pipeline, the Downtown promenade and the Mud Island land bridge.

But just because the city could use that power doesn't mean that it should.

The legal issues notwithstanding, there are still other questions city officials should address before they move forward with those projects.

The promenade project calls for new commercial and residential development, possibly in high-rise towers, along four blocks west of Front Street between Adams and Union.

The land bridge project would involve damming the Wolf River Harbor to create more developable property connecting Mud Island to the rest of Downtown.

Cost should be a major consideration in both cases.

Those two projects account for much of the total expense of a riverfront redevelopment plan that's expected to cost about $300 million. Given the city's recent budget troubles, it's fair to ask how high they should rank on a priority list for spending public dollars.

Benny Lendermon, president of the city's Riverfront Development Corp., has suggested that some or all of the costs might be recovered through leases charged to private tenants who would use the redeveloped property.

The issue there is how much would tenants be willing to pay and over what period of time? City officials should be very cautious about going into long-term debt to support private businesses that might not stick around until the debt is completely repaid.

There's also a question about how much more space Downtown needs for new offices or retail businesses. With the wrong mix of businesses in the areas targeted for redevelopment, the city's plans could wind up doing more harm to economically fragile areas like Main Street.

Friends For Our Riverfront, a citizens group that has been monitoring the city's plans, also has raised some valid environmental questions about the land bridge project.

John Gary, the group's vice president, believes converting Wolf River Harbor into a lake could create underwater pressure and seepage that would erode Mud Island, possibly causing property damage to the homes there.

Also, Gary said a lake with no outlet into the Mississippi River would trap stormwater pollutants and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

As for the promenade project, Virginia McLean, president of Friends For Our Riverfront, doesn't believe last week's Supreme Court decision would apply to property the city needs there. McLean said the state Supreme Court has already laid down the ground rules for developing that land in previous decisions. That may be a matter for the courts to decide.

What's clear, though, is that the city has a long way to go in terms of justifying key components of its riverfront plan.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Riverfront Plans Promise Debate, Change

RDC prepares for summer start on Beale Street Landing

Daily News
by Andy Meek

Looking out a conference room window on the ninth floor of the Falls Building, Benny Lendermon enjoys an unobstructed panorama of Downtown’s riverfront.

Lendermon, president of the Riverfront Development Corp., has a clear view of the post office building below on Front Street,which could see a new tenant soon if the University of Memphis law school abandons its current dilapidated building and moves Downtown. Below and to the right is Confederate Park, whose war memorials and Civil War cannons make it a shaded oasis of history.

Sweeping plans. Beyond that, Lendermon takes in the sight of Riverside Drive - and the Mississippi itself - a view that as sweeping as the vision of the RDC, which has held jurisdiction over the riverfront since 2000.

And even though the Memphis City Council, in a seven-hour marathon session, approved a budget plan last week that includes a 27-cent property tax hike, eliminates $1.6 million in grants to nonprofits and keeps the historic Mallory-Neely House and Magevney House closed, the RDC is still on schedule to begin construction this summer on Beale Street Landing, a $27.5 million boat landing and plaza designated for the site where Beale Street meets Tom Lee Park and the Cobblestone Landing. The city is chipping in about $20 million in the project.

Promenade development. At the moment, Lendermon said the city attorney’s office is putting together the legal support that will allow work to begin on remaking the four-acre Front Street Promenade - the subject of a long-running debate between the RDC and an opposing group, Friends for Our Riverfront.

That debate will get another airing when representatives of both groups sound off in a public forum at the Central Library July 10. The RDC wants to replace some parking garages and buildings along the promenade with apartments, offices, restaurants, and other commercial uses.

Opposition. But FfOR believes the plan goes against the wishes of the founders of the city of Memphis. They refer to a bequest by John Overton, John McLemore and other proprietors of the land on which Memphis was founded that said the Promenade was always intended for public use.

“And as I see it, this is really a developer’sdream,” said FfOR president Virginia McLean of the RDC plan. “For the life of me, I can’t figure out where the public gets anything out of this.

“They’ve said they’ll build a sidewalk- they’recalling it a grand esplanade - along the edge of the public promenade, but the whole thing’s ours. Why should we settle for some high rises with a sidewalk along the side?”

McLean said FfOR has invited Joseph Riley Jr., mayor of Charleston, S. C., to speak in Memphis this fall at Bridges Inc. about his own city’s handling of riverfront issues. Riley, founder of the Mayor’s Institute of City Design, will discuss his urban design plan that created Waterfront Park in Charleston, give the city permanent public access to its waterfront.

“And basically, what he did is what we’re saying ought to be done in Memphis - not sold off in some short-term development scheme,” said McLean, who has a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Virginia.

Remaking the riverfront. In his office, Lendermon has several models and renderings of the riverfront project - a well as a bird’s eye view of the real thing - that he calls on to explain the RDC’s vision. Lendermon, a former director of the city’s Public Works division, presides over the group whose board includes prominent Memphians Jerry West, Kristi Jernigan, and Angus McEachran.

Over the next two years, Lendermon said the group will give most of its attention to the Beale Street Landing and Promenade projects.

“And the whole issue on the Promenade is this was the city of Memphis in the 1800s,” Lendermon said, referring to a map of the city. “At that point, Riverside Drive didn’t exist.

The bluff behind the post office would dive into the river. And what’s occurred since then is, one, we built Riverside Drive and we’ve moved the city out to the river.

“Our disagreement with some people on the Promenade is, some people still hang on to the concept that (city founders) in the 1800s thought this ought to be a park outside our window,” Lendermon said, gesturing below. “And all we’re saying is, in the 1800s it should have been a park. But things have changed.”

Other projects. Beale Street Landing and the Promenade aren’t the only jobs on the RDC’s plate. Lendermon said the group took bids last week for a project that would connect Ashburn-Coppock Park and Tom Lee Park with Martyrs Park. Construction will begin in about a month.

He said the group also wants to bring more concerts to Mud Island, work more closely with area developers and further assist the U of M Law School in its possible Downtown move.

The RDC commissioned a master plan for the riverfront that has been endorsed by the City Council - and part of which opponents such as McLean have never stopped fighting.

“We believe that private development is great, but private development belongs on private land,” she said. “And what the RDC plan currently proposes is taking the only remaining public land on the Memphis riverbluff and turning it over to commercial developers. Right now, we’re really just trying to let the public know what’s going on concerning the riverfront, because I know that most people don’t know.”

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

RDC chief uses fishing tactics to land a Big River Catch

Commercial Appeal
By Blake Fontenay

Like most good fishermen, Benny Lendermon understands the importance of being patient. It doesn't do any good to get angry or frustrated when the fish aren't biting.

So it's no surprise that Lendermon, an avid fisherman and president of the Riverfront Development Corp., isn't showing any outward signs of panic about the future of the city's $292 million riverfront development plan.

Never mind that recent budget troubles have some Memphis City Council members questioning the wisdom of spending big bucks on the Mississippi riverfront when other parts of the community are in greater need.

Never mind that a pending U.S. Supreme Court case could severely limit the city's rights to acquire land for private development projects along the river.

And never mind that a determined citizens group called Friends for Our Riverfront has been raising all manner of questions about the master plan the RDC completed in January 2002.

Lendermon says he's still confident that the plan will remain on course, even if some aspects of it won't be developed for many years.

Lendermon's critics might counter that he's fishing with the wrong kind of bait. Some contend the RDC plan calls for too much intensive development, particularly private development, in an area best left open for parkland.

Money questions have been on the minds of City Council members for months. In an attempt to replenish the city's reserve fund and reassure Wall Street bond analysts, they've been looking for ways to cut costs.

For some, the riverfront initiatives are an obvious target.

"It's a huge amount of money at a time when we're having trouble keeping the grass cut," said Councilman Jack Sammons.

The council recently decided not to set aside about $6.2 million for the Beale Street Landing, a planned riverboat docking area and civic plaza, in the budget year that begins July 1.

That hardly derailed the project, though. Because the council already had approved about $21.4 million in previous budget years, Lendermon said he plans to use those unspent funds to begin construction on the Beale Street Landing this summer.

Lendermon isn't overly concerned about the projected costs of the riverfront promenade or the land bridge, two of the other big-ticket items in the RDC master plan.

He said public dollars invested in those projects could be recovered over time through land leases with private developers.

"We support the premise of having projects that can stand by themselves and not be supported on the backs of taxpayers,'' said Lendermon.

While that sounds great, it could take years or even decades for the city to recover its investment in projects with high up-front costs. For example, the promenade project calls for a high-rise office tower along four blocks of Front Street between Union and Adams avenues. Lendermon estimates that relocating a fire station, two parking garages and an old branch library from the site might cost anywhere between $30 million and $50 million - an expense that developers probably would be unwilling to pay up front.

And after six years of waiting for a return on the city's $29 million investment in the Memphis Networx telecommunications venture, council members might not be eager to rush into another long-term deal with private partners.

Another issue that could affect the RDC's plan is a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. In Kelo vs. City of New London, Conn., a group of homeowners are questioning their city's right to use so-called "eminent domain" powers. The Connecticut city plans to turn the property owners' land over to private developers, who want to tear down the homes and build a hotel, health club and offices.

The overriding question before the court is whether cities legally can take over private property in areas that aren't considered blighted for the "public good" of creating new economic development.

A ruling in the New London case is expected this month - and if the city loses, it won't bode well for similar projects in other cities.

Lendermon said Memphis might not need to use eminent domain to acquire land for the promenade project, but that remains a possibility.

That property is owned by heirs of the city's founding families, although the city has an easement allowing for public uses of the land. The heirs have been divided, with some supporting and some opposing the city's riverfront plans.

The land bridge project, which would close off part of the Wolf River Harbor, almost certainly would require use of eminent domain to acquire land owned by several businesses that would lose their access to the river. Lendermon said plans for the land bridge, which would create new property for businesses to develop on Mud Island, are so far in the future that the impact the New London case might have isn't worth worrying about.

Many cities across the country have launched redevelopment projects along their waterfront property over the past 20 to 25 years. There are plenty of success stories, including regional neighbors such as Little Rock and Chattanooga.
For example, development has sprouted along the river separating downtown Little Rock from North Little Rock, Ark., including an expanded convention center and a new arena. North Little Rock Mayor Patrick H. Hays said investment in public facilities on both sides of the river has attracted new private businesses, particularly apartments and restaurants.

There's debate, however, about the merits of direct government investment in private businesses.

The Waterfront Development Corp. in Louisville, Ky., has focused its efforts on developing a giant riverfront park, using a combination of public funds and private contributions.

David Karem, the group's president and executive director, cites examples of several cities that have tried and failed to create successful private waterfront developments over the years.

"If private development is going to take place, let the market dictate it,'' Karem suggested. "If you're spending public money or money you've raised privately, spend it on parks and let the commercial development float or sink on its own."

Karem recommended private fund-raising not only to reduce the public's cost for riverfront projects, but also to get more community "buy-in" for the work that's being done. For Louisville's $100 million project, Karem said more than $35 million has been raised through private sources.

Memphis's efforts seem to have room for improvement in community buy-in. Friends for Our Riverfront, a citizen activist group, has been trying to build up a grass-roots campaign opposing the RDC's plan on several fronts.

The group generally opposes major new private development along the river. In place of the promenade, for example, Friends representatives would prefer to see a park developed at a fraction of the cost projected for the office building.

Virginia McLean, the group's president, said RDC officials didn't pay attention to citizens' calls for greater use of open space during public hearings before the plan was finalized.

McLean also accuses the RDC of neglecting the assets it already has along the riverfront, allowing brush and debris to collect and the publicly owned buildings west of Front Street to fall into disrepair.

With the right kind of shuttle service in place, McLean contends, the Mud Island River Park could become a popular place for locals as well as tourists to dine or enjoy concerts.

"They're not doing what they ought to be doing because they plan to get rid of it," said McLean.

Friends for Our Riverfront also has concerns about the land bridge project, including environmental questions about creating a slack water harbor and economic questions about the need for more commercial space in the heart of Downtown.

Despite all of those questions, the RDC plans don't seem to be in serious jeopardy - at least right now.

City Councilman Rickey Peete, who also sits on the RDC board of directors, expects all future city capital improvement projects, including those along the river, to be put "under a microscope." Peete said he expects his colleagues will question whether projects provide long-term benefits for citizens, but the riverfront plans should be able to meet that test.

"I think they are sitting on pretty solid ground for the future," said Peete.


Public dollars invested in projects to transform Memphis's downtown riverfront, shown here looking south from Court, could be recovered over time from land leases with private developers, says Benny Lendermon, who is guiding the $292 million plan.

The Friends for Our Riverfront organization opposes the RDC's master plan. The group's president, Virginia McLean, said RDC officials didn't pay attention to citizens' calls for more use of open space when they compiled the riverfront redevelopment plan, and that they have neglected the assets the RDC already has on the riverfront.

A Friends for Our Riverfront slide presentation at a recent Sierra Club meeting brought the audience up to date on the debate about plans to redevelop Memphis's Downtown riverfront.


Blake Fontenay is an editorial writer for The Commercial Appeal. Contact him at 529-2386.

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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Letter: Land bridge is waste of precious funds

The Commercial Appeal
Letter to the Editor

This week the League of Women Voters hosted a meeting about the proposed land bridge that is a big part of the Riverfront Development Corp.'s master plan for Downtown's waterfront. RDC president Benny Lendermon and Virginia McLean, of Friends for Our Riverfront, were guests.

No matter how you view the proposed changes and their impact on our city, we all must agree that our first priority must be fiscal responsibility. As the numbers began to come out, grudgingly on the part of Lendermon, it became clear we are talking hundreds of millions more than this city has ever put into any public works project.

In a time of severe budget crisis, when our mayor considers cutting $86 million from the city schools, do we need to spend $100 million on the RDC to develop plans for spending hundreds of millions more? Where are our priorities? Should we invest in our people, our poverty, our crime, our education, our homelessness and our police forces? Probably, but for some reason, our elected officials are more interested in creating estate homes on the harbor and turning our Public Promenade into high-priced condos.

We are robbed each time we get our property tax bills. It's time for us to get rid of every politician who votes for funding anything until our children have a decent education. They are our future, not a land bridge that lines the pockets of some of the wealthiest players in the game.

Jeffrey Chipman
Memphis

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Sunday, July 25, 2004

Memphis brawls on the Promenade - Revitalization quest splits city

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By Drew Jubera

Memphis --- There are hundreds of them, maybe a thousand. Descended from this river town's 19th-century founders, they're all over the world, living all kinds of lives, from judge to jailbird. Two have been mayor. They're Democrats, Republicans, white and, in one branch, black. They've made and lost fortunes, married (sometimes each other) and multiplied.

But after 180 years and five or six generations, the heirs of this city's three founders are now front and center in a high-profile dust-up over a downtown development on a bluff above the Mississippi River.

It's a dispute full of blue blood, new blood and bad blood, destined for a courtroom but not necessarily a resolution. It centers on four precious but declining blocks called the Promenade that Memphis' original proprietors gave as public space in the 1820s --- but to which the heirs still hold title, allowing them to block plans contrary to the founders' intent.

Now this rebounding city wants to let private developers refashion what has become a bleak stretch of moldering civic buildings and "No Trespassing" signs into a mixed-use playground of condominiums, boutiques and restaurants where patrons can look over a wine list while looking out at the Big Muddy.

That vision has split not only the heirs, but many of the city's movers and shakers, from business moguls to land barons to celebrities like actress Cybill Shepherd and basketball legend Jerry West.

Supporters of commercial development claim it will kick-start a long-dormant area. Opponents, including preservationists and environmentalists, view the plan as a land grab that violates the founders' aim. They want the city to develop a park instead.

"It's a passionate issue. It's a where-do-you-stand-on-Memphis issue," said John Branston, columnist for Memphis magazine. "There are a lot of hard feelings. If they go after a legal solution, there's no way it will be resolved. Solomon couldn't decide this."

'Interesting headache'

Nobody knows how many heirs there are to John Overton, James Winchester and John McLemore (who bought his stake from a cash-strapped future president, Andrew Jackson). While their surnames appear on park and street signs, nobody seems certain what the heirs' rights are, who speaks for them or whether one set has more say-so than another.

"Nobody will really know until it's brought to court and goes through the legal process," said Newton Allen, a Memphis lawyer who represented heirs in a 1965 state Supreme Court decision that upheld their title rights and stopped the city from giving part of the Promenade to a hotel chain.

"It's going to be a headache," he added, "but an interesting headache."

Here's what is known: When the founders laid out Memphis, they set aside prime river bluff property as open air for what was then a malarial sweatbox. When they gave the new city an easement to the land, the founders insisted, in a document filed with the Shelby County registrar's office in 1828, that the property forever be "public ground for such use only as the word [promenade] imports."

More expansive than it is now, the land was whittled away as the city and its geography changed: The river receded, an island formed off its bank, new industries sprouted. Heirs allowed some changes and fought others.

By the 1960s, with Memphis in decline, the Promenade was an incoherent jumble of public buildings. A quaint park with a river view did survive, though few seem to notice it anymore.

The Promenade has since been largely ignored. As downtown Memphis bounced back in the '90s, development drifted elsewhere: a rejuvenated Beale Street; a mall attached to the Peabody Hotel; new housing along the more southern bluffs.

"The privilege of using that property for the public has been squandered," said Napoleon Overton, an heir and stock analyst whose office overlooks the Promenade. "Everybody agrees on that."

In 2000, the city ceded riverfront planning to a nonprofit, quasi-governmental agency, and last year the Riverfront Development Corp. unveiled its Promenade project. The corporation, whose board of power brokers run the gamut from old influence to new money, hailed it as a vibrant answer to a bluff known as Memphis' "front yard." The board's star power included West, president of the NBA Memphis Grizzlies, and Shepherd, a Memphis native who lives there part time. (West supports the plan; Shepherd was originally in favor, but now opposes it.)

The City Council OK'd it. Even the heirs appeared to be on board. Hamilton Gayden, a Nashville circuit judge, unearthed 160 fellow Overtons. A survey he mailed asked them to choose between two Promenade options: an accord that allowed private development if there was sufficient green space and revenue-sharing with the heirs; or leaving the property as it is.

A large majority favored development and sharing in profits.

"We ought not be obstructionist," Gayden said. "Nobody's expecting any money --- there's not enough money to cover that many heirs and make it worth it."

Other heirs, mostly Memphians, say they weren't contacted or didn't respond to the survey, and were outraged by what they viewed as a blood betrayal. A meeting between the groups was a disaster.

"They're a good group of people, but I'm starting to wonder about some of the gene pool," said Virginia Overton McLean, president of a grass-roots group opposing bluff development in favor of an enhanced park.

"We try to be civil to each other, but the whole thing just incenses me," she added. "It's just so abhorrent to what I believe should be done."

Condemnation possible

The next step likely is in court. Benny Lendermon, Riverfront Development Corp. president, said the city's options include condemning the land and collaring it by eminent domain. The land has not been assessed, but its value could run into the tens of millions, a portion of which would go to the heirs.

"It's a way to get before a judge to rule on what the heirs' rights really are," Lendermon said. "I don't think anyone with the city is concerned about resolving it. It's just deciding which is the best way to pursue it. It could take as much as two years."

Most heirs are silent on the issue; many hadn't considered the Promenade in years, if ever, before this ruckus.

"I wanted not to be involved, because when people hear the word 'heir' it has an old-timey, negative connotation," said Lisa Overton Snowden, who opposes the development. "People thought we were going to benefit personally, and that's the last thing I wanted people to think."

But both sides feel the weight of their ancestry.

"It's bizarre," said Ruth Warner, heir and historian at Travelers Rest, the Nashville home of founder John Overton. "It's putting a burden on your descendants to say something should be restricted like that. I would like to honor his wishes, but I also have to think of the needs of a modern city. How could he possibly have envisioned what Memphis would be like today?"

Yet heirs who oppose the commercial development insist the founders' vision was both enlightened and timeless.

"This is not like a son all of a sudden thinking his father didn't have any sense," said McLean. "These were astounding people way back when who had this broader view of what could be good.

"I feel a responsibility to them," she added. "You couldn't pay me enough to go away."

© 2004 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Monday, June 07, 2004

Memphis riverfront in tug of war; Wanted for park, redevelopment

Associated Press

MEMPHIS, TENN. - In 1819, the founders of Memphis had run off the Chickasaw Indians and were getting down to drawing a design for their city.

They envisioned a town with a long, green park as its front door gracing a high bluff over the Mississippi River. The Promenade, as they called it, was to offer a commanding view of the river and would forever remain "public ground."

But not much of that park is still a park, and the view is far from commanding.


Now the view of the river from the Promenade is blocked by two run-down city parking garages, a firehouse, an old library and a former federal courthouse.

The city's plan for gussying up the riverfront would clear out the old buildings and open four central blocks of the Promenade for developers to put offices, condos, shops and restaurants.

That plan has created two determined camps: a citizens group that wants the Promenade returned to open green space and the Riverfront Development Corp., which wants a splashy commercial waterfront like other cities have built.

Likely in the mix, too, will be hundreds of heirs of the Memphis founders who argue they can claim the land if private developers move in.

"It was meant to be reserved for the use of the people, not for private business," said Charles Crawford, a University of Memphis history professor.

Though the land on which Memphis sits was then occupied by the Chickasaw, North Carolina claimed it in the late 1700s and a speculator named John Rice bought a 5,000-acre chunk.

The founders of the city, John Overton, James Winchester and John McLemore, got the land from Rice's estate after he was killed by Indians. By the 1820s, Memphis had fewer than 100 residents, but it was a center of trade for livestock, cotton, timber and other goods.

The Memphis founders were land developers, but they took the unusual step of setting aside several sites for public parks. The Promenade drew the attention of private business early on.

"People were using it to park their wagons. They would camp there, and if they brought something in to sell, they would pile it up on the riverfront," Crawford said.

In 1828, the founders drew up a written explanation that their easement for the site meant it was to be public land.

Benny Lendermon, president of the current-day Riverfront Development Corp., said the site has since become an eyesore and the only way to transform it is with private money.

"It's been talked about for years, but it's not ever going to happen. It will just keep sitting there like it is," Lendermon said.

His nonprofit corporation is under contract with the city to manage and redevelop the 5-mile-long riverfront.

Memphis, like other cities, has pushed in recent years to make its riverfront more attractive to tourists and local residents alike.

Over the past two decades, the city has made major strides cleaning up downtown -- a revitalized Beale Street entertainment district, the new Peabody Place mall, a new minor-league ballpark and the NBA Grizzlies' FedExForum opening later this year.

The face-lift has convinced more people to move downtown and has sparked commercial development. The Riverfront Development Corp. has plans for more improvements.

Lendermon said clearing out the old buildings plus laying out a park could cost $50 million. Members of the citizens group, Friends of Our Riverfront, predict it would cost considerably less, however, perhaps as little as $7 million.

The development corporation has the city council's OK to move ahead with its plans, but Virginia McLean, president of Friends for Our Riverfront, said her group's fight is far from over.

"The land they're talking about is public land. It belongs to the citizens of Memphis," said McLean, an heir of founder John Overton. "We think it should remain open space for everybody to use."

The Riverfront Development Corp. now must begin talking to the founders' heirs, a diverse group that still owns the land, even though the city has an easement to use it.

Lendermon has said there must be a court decision on how the land can be used, and that might take up to two years to settle.

The Riverfront Development Corp. hopes to find private developers to build two towers up to 150 feet tall for offices and condominiums. The development also would include shops, restaurants and other such businesses.

The riverfront already has more than 250 acres of parks but little else to draw people to the river, Lendermon said.

"If you want to have a view of the river and have dinner at a small bistro or some nicer place, there's no place to go," he said.

Copyright 2004, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, May 20, 2004

TV: Riverfront Belongs to Public And Heirs

Channel 3 News
By Stephanie Scurlock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Approval of land's heirs next step in riverfront redevelopment plan

Commercial Appeal
By Tom Charlier

After winning a key vote of approval from the Memphis City Council, Riverfront Development Corp. officials prepared Wednesday for what could be the most difficult step in their quest to transform the downtown promenade.

The RDC must begin a dialog with the heirs of John Overton and the other Memphis founders who set aside the four-block area west of Front for public use.

The discussions, involving diverse factions of heirs, would delve into their viewpoints on the property and possible terms under which they might accept development, RDC officials said.

Whatever the response, the talks likely will lead to a court decision stipulating how the land can be used, RDC president Benny Lendermon said.

"No matter what happens, . . there has to be some judgmental decree that allows something to happen on the property," he said.

The legal decree is needed because the heirs own the land, while the city has an easement. The RDC said it might be two years before the matter is settled.

The council's approval of the RDC's promenade land-use plan Tuesday opens the way for discussions with the heirs.

The plan entails $50 million worth of improvements and calls for a blend of public areas and commercial development. Amid strong opposition from citizens' groups, the council placed a 150-foot height limit on buildings, down from the 400-foot maximum in the RDC plan.

Once the council's action becomes official with the approval of the meeting minutes next month, RDC officials will meet with the city's legal staff to determine how to approach the heirs, Lendermon said.

The RDC has been contacted by a number of people claiming either to represent heirs or be heirs themselves, he added.

Noting the various factions involved, Lendermon said the RDC might conduct mass meetings with the heirs.

Opponents of the promenade plan, who include some of the heirs, accuse the RDC of communicating mostly with those descendants who support development on the acreage. That group includes several out-of-town Overton heirs, such as Davidson County Circuit Judge Hamilton Gayden.

"They do not represent us," said Virginia McLean, an Overton heir who is president of Friends for Our Riverfront, which fiercely opposes the RDC plan and instead favors development elsewhere downtown.

In addition to Overton heirs, the descendants of founders John C. McLemore and James Winchester also have rights to the promenade land and must be part of negotiations, McLean said.

Copyright 2004, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Council Backs Plan for Frontage - Battling Blight Trumps Worries

Commercial Appeal
by Blake Fontenay

Memphis City Council members didn't love everything they heard about a plan to develop four blocks of prime downtown riverfront.

But after more than four hours of debate Tuesday night the majority concluded that approving the proposal was better than the alternative.

By a 10-3 vote the council endorsed a plan to blend public walkways and open spaces with commercial development along the four blocks west of Front Street.

Council members admitted to having concerns about the type of private development that would be put on the site.

But they worried even more that nothing would happen on that property if the plan were squelched.

Representatives from the Riverfront Development Corp.(RDC), a nonprofit group that spent 18 months developing the plan, told council members that private investment was the key to revitalizing the blighted and underutilized stretch of waterfront.

John Stokes, the RDC's chairman, said that without a private-public partnership "we're going to be right where we are today many years from now. Nothing will change. Nothing will happen."

That argument seemed to sway council members, along with assurances they would still have power to approve or reject specific development projects when they're brought forward.

Council members conditioned their support on heights of any commercial buildings being capped at 12 stories or 150 feet.

"I think it's a great step forward,'' Councilman Rickey Peete said. "We're not going to allow the RDC or anyone else to denigrate what we have here in our riverfront. . . I think it's important to move forward and not be stuck in the mud."

Benny Lendermon, the RDC's president, said the plan calls for the lower levels of any new commercial buildings to be open to the public, possibly as sidewalk cafes, restaurants or shops.

The development would occur on 12 acres now occupied by Confederate Park, two parking garages, a fire station, the old Custom House and Post Office and Cossitt Library.

Some of the buildings, such as the post office, might be renovated and put to other uses under the plan.

Nothing is likely right away, though.

A judge will first have to decide if the city can use the property for commercial purposes.

The courts have ruled that the heirs of the city's founders own the land, although city government has an easement to use the property for the public's benefit.

Bruce Kramer, an attorney representing Friends for Our Riverfront, predicted the planned commercial uses wouldn't pass muster in a courtroom.

"The RDC proposal, in our opinion, does not constitute public use,'' Kramer said.

More than 200 people showed up for a public hearing that preceded the council's vote.

Council chairman Joe Brown dismayed many in the audience when he decided to hold the public hearing at the end of the council's agenda, forcing citizens to wait more than three hours before the riverfront discussion began.

After Brown allowed 20 minutes for the RDC to introduce the plan he gave 20 minutes to opponents, then another 20 minutes to supporters.

Several of the speakers who identified themselves as the plan's supporters also had ties to the RDC, in effect giving them another chance to make their case.

Opponents, some wearing green ribbons or carrying protest signs, complained that the plan could clear the way for high-rise apartments or condominiums that would block the riverfront view from the east side of Front Street.

Virginia McLean, president of Friends for Our Riverfront, expressed skepticism about Lendermon's claim that the $50 million development could be financed entirely with private money.

"They tell us we don't need to worry about the details,'' McLean said. "That's simply not true.''

Council members Carol Chumney, E. C. Jones and Jack Sammons voted against the plan.

Copyright 2004 The Commercial Appeal

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Promenade makes state list, called endangered; supporters applaud

The Commercial Appeal
By Richard Locker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2004, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN.

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Friday, April 23, 2004

Mixed reviews for promenade riverfront plan

Memphis Business Journal
By Amos Maki

Riverfront Development Corp.'s plan to transform an area of downtown known as the public promenade is getting mixed reviews from business and political leaders.

The plan calls for reshaping the riverfront by using private development to pay for public improvements to the area. The private developments would pay for projects like a proposed two-level promenade and the relocation of parking garages -- from prime real estate with stunning river views atop the bluffs -- underground. The plan also calls for pedestrian bridges that would stretch across Monroe and Court and for improvements to sidewalks on the promenade. Grand staircases would provide access to the upper level of the pedestrian walkways.

The property now contains the old Cossitt Library, a fire station, the old Customs House and Confederate Park. The land is virtually inaccessible to most of the public and offers breathtaking views of the river. The RDC plan calls for increasing the public space by more than 60%, from 3.76 acres today to 6.03 acres.

But some residents and businesses are concerned about the projected height of two of the three buildings proposed in the promenade plan. The plan says the property would be able to sustain a 300-foot residential tower where the fire station and an All-Right parking garage now sit and a 400-foot office tower north of Confederate Park, between Jefferson and Adams.

"I've always felt like our riverfront was underutilized," says Mohamad Hakimian, managing partner of the Madison Hotel. Some views from his hotel will be obscured if the two larger, bookend buildings are constructed at 300 or 400 feet. "So having said that, I'm excited some projects are on the drawing board.

"However, I'm not fond of a couple portions of it. In particular, the high rises. Such high rises at the banks of the Mississippi River are going to block an enormous amount of views from many other buildings."

Hakimian also wonders what effect new, developable property will have on the ongoing efforts to revitalize old developments in the heart of Downtown.

"Those will become the prime locations and will discourage developers from developing many of the beautiful buildings that are Downtown that are vacant," he says.

Henry Turley, principal of Henry Turley Co., says what is there now is unacceptable and that something should be done with the property.

"We don't like the way it is currently developed," Turley says. "We think what is there now serves as a wall, a barrier, between our properties along the east side of Front and their enjoyment of the river."

Turley says he would like to see towers go up Downtown -- as long as the economy drives the development.

"I would like to see our economy and our Downtown so vital it calls for another building," he says. "It's not just something you will into existence or zone into existence. That takes a real dynamic economy."

John Dudas, vice president of Belz Enterprises, says he has some concerns about the towers because of the current availability of space.

"I would conservatively estimate that we have at least 2 million square feet of vacant building space Downtown today," he says. "If another corporate user does not relocate to Downtown Memphis, then the approximate 750,000 square feet of commercial space that is proposed in the subject towers would accomodate all of the average annual demand for office space in Downtown Memphis for a 15-year period."

Plus, Dudas says, additional parking would have to be provided for the buildings.

RDC president Benny Lendermon says the 300- and 400-foot heights are the maximum height of the proposed developments, not the predetermined size of the buildings. Lendermon says he doubts any of the buildings, especially the largest one, would be constructed to the maximum height, if it's ever built at all.

"We don't think that office tower ever gets built," he says. "There is probably a 3% chance of that tower being built."

Lendermon says the economy, not the plan, will determine the size of the developments and emphasized the RDC isn't taking the build-it-and-they-will-come approach.

"A developer will build the building based on the economic reality of what the demand is," Lendermon says. "That demand will determine which buildings go up and when they go up, as well as the height and mass of the buildings."

The promenade plan could cost as much as $50 million. Officials say work on the property would not begin until private developers sign contracts to develop the land.

"There will be signed contracts and everything before the first spade of dirt is turned," Lendermon says. "We don't think you do anything until you are well along the road of executing contracts with developers."

The promenade plan will land in front of the City Council's Public Works Committee April 27; a final vote on the project will be held May 18.

Lendermon says he thinks the RDC has enough votes on the council to win approval for the promenade plan.

City Councilman Ricky Peete, who also serves on the RDC board, agrees with Lendermon and says there is enough support for the plan on the council.

"I think there is enough support for it, but there will be serious debate," he says.
At least one council member, Jack Sammons, would like to hear more about the plan before voting on it.

"This is a generational issue and, frankly, I wouldn't be shocked if the council deferred this for a year," he says. "I'm not ready to vote and if we have to do it in the next few weeks, I'd be inclined to vote against it. I suspect there will be a lot of discussion about this in the next couple of weeks."

Turley, for one, is tired of talk.

"It just seems like a lot of talk and I'd like to see some specific developments proposed and gotten under way," he says.

But legal challenges will delay any work for at least two years. If the council approves the plan, the city must move to take control of the land. Lendermon says that could be done in a number of ways, including the city exercising its right of eminent domain.

The property was donated by the city's founding fathers for use as a public promenade. The heirs of the founders hold title to the land and they are divided on the proposal. Some support the promenade plan while others have joined a group, called Friends for Our Riverfront, that opposes it.

"We're not against development," says Virginia McLean, an Overton heir and president of Friends for Our Riverfront. "We're just against the wrong development at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Her group created an alternative plan that would turn the promenade entirely into park space at a cost of about $7 million.

"That plan would require taxpayers to finance it and the RDC plan would be paid for by development and therin lies the difference," Peete says.

Lendermon says the Friends plan is unrealistic because whether or not the land is developed or turned into park space, the cost of relocating the existing structures will remain about the same.
"You have got to replace the parking because business depends on it and you have to replace the library and fire station," he says. "Maybe the council will make our life easy and come up with this big pot of money and say 'Here's $50 million, make this into a beautiful park.' "
Hakimian hopes there will be an opportunity to tweak the plan and wonders what would happen if the council voted the plan down.

"We all should be careful not to fight it in a way that kills the project forever," he says. "But we need to ask for modifications to it. It looks like this is the only plan on the table.

"This shouldn't be the only option where we either do this or there is no plan."

Peete says he hopes the two sides can find some common ground.

"While I respect everyone's right to have an opinion, I think that too often we are so extreme in our views that we can't see the forest for the trees," he says. "I think we have the ability to compromise to do something great for Memphis. Where there is flexibility to tweak the plan, I think we are of the mind to compromise."

Copyright(c) American City Business Journals Inc.

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