Saturday, May 31, 2008

Halbert: What is the Master Plan?

At the recent CIP budget hearings, Councilwoman Wanda Halbert asked a variety questions, beginning with: What exactly is the Master Plan?

Click here to read more.Click here to listen to the 10-minute discussion (1.8 MB MP3). My transcription of the discussion follows below.
HALBERT: I have a couple of general questions. I am still trying to figure out, I haven’t had an opportunity to really study the RDC and exactly what all it entails. Is this the original Master Plan that you all came up with when you created this concept?

LENDERMON: This was one of the projects included out of the original Master Plan.

HALBERT: This book in front of me…

LENDERMON: No, no this book was actually was just…we printed this book yesterday [LAUGHTER] This book is just pictures depicting the projects included in this years Capital Improvements Program and all these issues frankly were included in the Master Plan. It is just a very small portion of it.

HALBERT: Now I’m not sure, I may be the only person…do we have a copy of whatever the Master Plan is? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I’m getting so many documents, I can’t figure…are we adding to the plan? Or what are we doing?


HALBERT: I just don’t know what this is…

[RDC CHAIRMAN GREG] DUCKETT: And I’m not sure if we have provided to all the new members of the Council a copy of the Master Plan. I don’t know if we’ve done that. If we haven’t, we will get you a copy of it. But these are, other than the major maintenance, are components of the initial Master Plan that was developed as part of the RDC effort. So these are individual projects that are referenced within the Master Plan.

HALBERT: For me…it’s like Councilman Flinn said, I’ve seen several documents, but I’m not sure exactly what RDC is, and I need to get a better understanding of that, and I’m not even sure why it was created and what the plan…I mean how long do we plan on it being here?

VOICE: Fifty years, at least.

STRICKLAND: The Master plan was a fifty year plan, wasn’t it?

DUCKETT: Yes but I was confused…When you say “it being here” are you referring to the Master Plan or are you referring to the RDC?

HALBERT: Master Plan…RDC…I mean it’s one and the same…A fifty-year plan?


DUCKETT: Well the Master Plan is a long-term plan. Because in order to accomplish many of the things that are outlined in the Master Plan just from a sheer funding perspective, it will take several; years to amass the resources to build it.

Now in terms of RDC’s existence, I guess the only way I can answer that is, what is the current contract with the City of Memphis. [CROSSTALK] It’s a contractual relationship that is renewed in five-year increments. Or at least is HAS been renewed on five year [intervals?].

HALBERT: Now…Councilman Ware talked about the private opportunity to be able to get things done [versus?] government. And I noticed Mr. Sherman, I was wanting to know specifically why is it that government costs so much more or the perception is that it costs so much more to get projects like this done through government versus private industry.

BOYD: There are a lot of restrictions on government,


SHERMAN: Thank you Mr. Chairman. In the private industry typically, you know, private corporations or the individual that’s building the facility, they would typically go to contract, after they’ve taken bids, within 30 days. Our process, in city government, is at least 120 days. And as I mentioned I think last week, that 120 days is costing us a great deal of money as inflation and oil prices put everything in flux on pricing. There has been a time last year; steel venders were only holding their prices for less than 24 hours. Yet we ask our vendors to hold their prices absolute for 120 days. So, they have to build in inflation, because they know it will take that long for us to go through the establish checks and balances, to go through, appropriately, the City government procedures. So that is one of the factors.

It takes us about 60 to 70 days to get a design contract through the City’s system to even start design. As we go through that design there is a period that we come to City Council to present a continuing resolution to your body, to keep you apprised of the status of the project, and that stops the project for almost eight weeks while we bring those documents to you for approval and we wait for the minutes to be approved through the full Council sessions.

So some of those hurdles private industry does not have to face. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, it means it’s just a fact of doing business with government.

HALBERT: Is there a better way that we can do it, as government? I mean we can do our part so that we don’t have to deal with this big issue, because this is going to be an ongoing issue, if we’re not going to [inaudible].

SHERMAN: There is better ways, and I think that by pulling the appropriate divisions together and Council and talking about that in the right setting, I think we can find some ways to appropriately save time and still have the appropriate checks and balances that the Finance Division needs, and the Council needs, and Engineering would accomplish our goals to move the process forward.

BOYD: If you will, try to remind Councilwoman Halbert and myself and we’ll try to arrange a meeting so we can discuss these things and maybe some other interested people…

HALBERT: Two very quick things. One is a comment. I know we were kind of joking a little bit about the Downtown Neighborhood Association and the South Main [Association], but we did have an issue to come up in our meeting last night, where it appeared the South Main Association was left out of some communications or something. So, is there any particular reason why they’re not included in the presentations or discussions?

LENDERMON: We’ve made presentations to them before just like anybody, just like Harbortown Association. I mean, we normally meet with them at their request, more than we involving them. We do have…our board does include whatever the current president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association as an ex officio member of our board…assuming the Downtown Neighborhood Association includes both Harbortown, South Main, and the rest of downtown.

BOYD: Did you also have some required open meetings to the public?

LENDERMON: Absolutely. I mean when there’s a public meeting, we send out notices to everyone. But it depends on what you’re specifically talking about. Like for instance the Law School Project. It really hasn’t had much public visibility yet because it doesn’t really exist until you as a body decide you want to fund it. So we aren’t yet having any formalized meetings that we’re spending money on because it doesn’t exist as a project yet. But once it does, we will.

HALBERT: Well I think that the reason that I’m asking that is when we live in different neighborhoods throughout the city, as certain neighborhood groups are informed about different things and others are not, then… You’ve got to be inclusive, because it’s not real good to make that assumption that the next person is telling the next person. It appears that you all would want to be more inclusive, because when it comes to us, if people are starting to object to issues that are going on, particulars of projects, and they tell us that they weren’t even notified, then therein lies a problem because that’s’ a part of a process that is established through OPD, for when we make approval. So that would probably be a good thing to include all of them on the projects.

And then my final question is, earlier you said something about Beale Street would be “absorbed into the contract?” When you say that, is that not a part of the Master Plan, or…

LENDERMON: No, I was trying to answer the question, is there any additional cost to the City for the operation of this Beale Street Landing, once it’s completed. And what the statement was, what we stated from the very beginning was, we will operate that within the existing dollars the City is giving us now, hoping to make enough revenue off of the little restaurant and whatever else is there to come close to breaking even.

HALBERT: If we could get that Master plan, I’m just, I’m a little…I need to figure out exactly what this concept really is all about. Thank you.

Beale Street Landing vs. Mud Island

At the recent CIP budget hearings, RDC's Benny Lendermon was asked by Councilman Shea Flinn to explain why we're spending $30 million on Beale Street Landing, rather than using the same or less money to enhance Mud Island, which to Flinn seemed like a more sensible approach.

Click here to read more.Click here to listen to the 7-minute discussion (1.2 MB MP3). My transcription of the discussion follows below. Following that, I've added my own comments.
FLINN: Thank you Mr. Chairman. And thank you Councilwoman Ware, because you provided a perfect segue to my commentary and question, which is:

We spent a lot of time talking about Beale Street Landing cause it’s where the focus is. I’ll get to that in a roundabout way, but I’d like to flip over to the Mud Island landing and discuss…you sort of touched on it there. Conceptually […] You all started in 1997? When did RDC…


FLINN: This Master plan was created in 2000…

LENDERMON: 2002, I think is when the City Council approved it.

FLINN: ...2002. Obviously it’s a very different climate now than it was then. Is the Master Plan still…I mean have you done any audits of its feasibility, given the change in times…

LENDERMON: It’s like anything else, it’s a living document. Number one is, the RDC board back two years ago, maybe longer, you know, decided that the land bridge concept, including the land bridge, shouldn’t be included, okay, so we’ve pretty much jettisoned that out of our strategic planning.

And what that did was, is that it opened up a whole number of questions on Mud Island proper itself. So now what do you do? I mean Mud Island – we can talk a long time about this – but Mud Island had its issues, okay. It’s an absolutely wonderful place celebrating the Mississippi River. It’s also very detached from the land side. And even when we have concerts, the monorail system doesn’t function very well, bringing in people, and that’s 25,000 people, bringing people back and forth for a concert it doesn’t function very well…but, it’s got a unique [authority?], you know... And we certainly think that the river model and the museum and a number of things over there have great values, okay.

Now, there’s… Ericson’s ideas were that you’ve also got areas down at the tip, and areas up where the Memphis Belle used to be in the parking lot that frankly are now underutilized. And we agree with him on that. We don’t necessarily agree on what that purpose would be, but we think, absolutely, we think there needs to be somebody to look at: Does the park need to be expanded out to fill in that area in the future? Does the Mud Island Museum itself need to have something done to it? It’s very static. It was created in 1975 and finished out whenever the park opened. So we have actually had a museum expert come in and do a look at what could be done within the existing configuration. And some pretty neat things could be done to that museum long-term within its consistent [existing?] boundaries. But by the same token, what we think needs to happen is – and we’re working with Robert Lipscomb frankly – is coming up with this joint relationship where we think there’s some corps of engineers planning money that could be utilized, where we do some facilitated planning for Mud Island River Park and have a whole series of public meetings, obtain the services of some appropriate planner…


FLINN: When you look at the practical purpose of the Beale Street Landing Project, it seems like we have a better opportunity there at the Island. Now I know to some degree that horse is already out of the barn…but…conceptually, well this Councilperson I would have started that way [Mud Island] and moved the other way, rather than have project one be the Beale Street Landing because…maybe I’m just a bad guy, but I don’t why I’d go down to stare at the river from a park, whereas if you utilized Mud Island better, you could have more of a magnet to attract people. You know that’s more of a “if you build it, they will come” than necessarily Beale Street Landing. And it seems like it would be more cost effective. Now I could be wrong on that.

LENDERMON: I think Beale Street Landing was being there for several purposes. One thing is you need something there on the cobblestones and Riverside Drive and Tom Lee Park. You have nothing, you have no place of respite for people.

FLINN: But at least its not costing any money. Now Mud Island Park is.

LENDERMON: Correct. So you’re .. it gets get to the issue of, you wanted to do away with, the basic concepts is, do away with Mud Island River Park. You could save a lot of money doing that.

FLINN: Well I think just re-using it to turn it into a profit center, and when that attracts people downtown, working with the other areas. Instead we’re taking land that wasn’t costing us any money, wasn’t bringing any money in, but wasn’t costing us. So I mean we’re spending 30 million dollars to develop that, whereas if we’d spent half that or all of that over on Mud Island, we could have taken something that’s costing us money and turned it into a profit center. Seems like more wise way to approach it…


LENDERMON: And we agree with part of that. And the issue is, assuming people are okay with changing the River Park, at some point in time…

FLINN: Not everyone’s okay with changing Tom Lee Park. There’s going be resistance…

LENDERMON: And there [are] certain things you can’t do with Mud Island. No matter what you do, Mud Island River Park is still going to be detached, okay, so you’re still going to either… I mean you can’t build bridges to it, bridges don’t work, they have to be high, they have to be basically as long as it is, too far to walk. You have to have car access… What we’re hoping is, it should probably be re-looked at now, because now that you have Auction Street bridge, and you have the Grant Brother building that residential housing, now all of a sudden this is no longer detached as much as it was. So that’s why we think it needs to be re-looked at now.


What’s missing here is the original context for the idea of Beale Street Landing (BSL).

It must be remembered that the 2002 Master Plan would have completely done away with Mud Island River Park (except for perhaps the river walk), and would have eliminated the monorail, replacing it all with a Land Bridge and millions of square feet of residential, retail, hotel, and mixed-use development.

It would also have done away with the current boat landing on Mud Island (as well as the marina). Therefore, the raison d’etre for BSL in 2002 was to serve as a replacement for that dock, for the big riverboats. The Master Plan envisioned a new $10 million replacement dock -- for big boats only.

For reasons that would make perfect sense to a marketing person, the RDC decided to start on BSL right away (though it was not needed yet), and so they held a world-wide design competition. In the competition documents, they encouraged designs on a much grander scale than was envisioned by the Master Plan, including docking for all sizes of boats. And that’s exactly what they got.

They were assuming, of course, that the Land Bridge would eventually get built, and Mud Island River Park would go away. But in 2005 they were forced under public pressure to remove the Land Bridge from the Master Plan, thus eliminating the original justification for BSL.

Stuck with Mud Island, and with no signs that it is going to be torn down in the forseeable future, they are in the ticklish position of having to explain why we’re spending all this money on BSL instead of putting the money into improving Mud Island. Mud Island, after all, was supposed to go away.

If I were a cynical person I would say this: Whether the public needs BSL or not, the RDC certainly needs it, to save the reputations of the Memphis luminaries who have served on its board and supported it over the past 9 years, given that the Master Plan is essentially “jettisoned.”

Benny’s comment at the very end is intriguing. Does he really mean that Beale Street Landing “should be re-looked at?”

Future of the riverfront: Lendermon's view

At the recent CIP budget hearings, RDC's Benny Lendermon was asked by Councilman Barbara Swearengen Ware how he saw the future of the riverfront after Beale Street Landing. This continues a discussion she had with him during the earlier Operating budget hearing about the Public Promenade, when she had remarked that she wanted to see a great riverfront "in her lifetime."

Click here to read more.Click here to listen to the 4-minute discussion (0.6 MB MP3). My transcription of the discussion follows below. Following that, a personal comment.
WARE: Once Beale Street Landing is completed, what else is left to developing the riverfront, the way we envision it, where it will have all the bells and whistles, the restaurants and the walking and the… What else will there be left to really having a magnificent riverfront that is comparable to the other riverfronts that we continue to talk about, like Chicago, and one in Florida… Where was that, Myron -- the man-made river, the…?

LOWERY: I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

VOICE: San Antonio?


WARE: San Antonio. Yeah, that is man-made. They created that. They created it. We already have our river, and we have a difficult time getting it developed. I really…

LENDERMON: I think, to answer your question, we think Beale Street Landing goes a long way to solving a number of problems, so that [it] finally connects you to the water. Memphis haven’t had a connection to the water since the cobblestones were first put in,.And people, society was different, people could consider that a connection, they accepted that as a connection, they could walk on it, they could use it. But since then we finally have a place where the public can get to the water, finally have a place where the people can get on boats at the water, the boats can come here and dock…

Then what I think you’ll see is, it’s like the rest of downtown, you’ll see a constant progression of things getting better. Okay, and there’s the activity and the projects on the river, frankly will probably never stop. You will see different things added and different connections added as society and Memphians and [the] community grows and prospers, or doesn’t prosper, I think you’ll see that occurring.

We certainly at some point in time need to deal with the long-term use of Mud Island River Park, and especially the front of Mud Island River Park. And we’ve talked over and over again, and we hope to come back to you at some in point in time with a process of doing that. We’re working with Robert Lipscomb on how to get that done. Because we know that Ericson brought up his concept of wanting to build certain things on Mud Island River Pak, and what we said was we think there are some opportunities for decisions to be made for Mud Island River Park in [inaudible] for one part of it. We think those decisions need to be made as part of some very facilitated public process, and not by trying to…taking ideas from various developers and sort of cutting the public out of that decision making process. We’ll first figure what are the types of things [???] allows and we’ll go out and seed those [???] come to us. If it’s greatly improving the park it’s one thing, if it’s putting a hotel over there it’s another thing. We think those are the types of decisions that will have to be made in the coming months. Hopefully we’ll bring something to the Council and ask for your all’s involvement. But…

WARE: Just remember what I told you. I want to live to see it.

LENDERMON: We know you’re not going to live forever. [LAUGHTER]


What's interesting here is that not once in his explanation does he ever mention the words "Master Plan." What's also interesting is that he's describing what I would call a process of incremental development -- similar, I believe, to the approach PPS recommends.

Consider: If Memphis had taken an incremental development approach starting back nine years ago, instead of getting waylaid by a Master Plan, think of the riverfront we might have today.

I say "nine years ago" because the RDC actually started in May 1999 with a steering committee.

About that parking lot...

At the recent CIP budget hearings, RDC's Benny Lendermon was asked by Councilman Jim Strickland about the controversial parking lot that is part of Beale Street Landing and consumes a portion of Tom Lee Park.

Click here to read more.Click here to listen to the 3-minute discussion (0.6 MB MP3). My transcription of the discussion follows below.
STRICKLAND: I just have two questions that just kind of fell out of the sky.


STRICKLAND: On this picture of Beale Street Landing, it looks like a parking lot has been added, close to the north side of the [Tom Lee] Park.

LENDERMON: Yes, that’s part of the Beale Street Landing project.

Click image to enlarge.

STRICKLAND: What is that parking for, and why is it needed, and when was it added?

LENDERMON: I don’t know about “added.” At one point in time there was parking underneath the building. Back when we originally started the project, we frankly were going to try to do the project without any parking down there at all. I think at the request of Council as I recall, they asked if we could have some parking down there. And finally after talking to the Meanleys, or Dale Lozier frankly, and subsequently William Lozier, we found that there needs to be some minimal amount of parking down there. So we eventually created this parking lot. It’s about 50 spaces…56 spaces. It’s going to be parking for basically the daily excursion boats primarily, and the little restaurant, maybe. It will be controlled parking which just means that’s how it will be operated. But it won’t be free. It may be free if you ride the boat or it may be free if you eat at the restaurant. But it won’t be like the other parking lot you see down there, which will be the free parking for the Park, which is 120 cars. This will be 56 cars. We feel like frankly they [Lozier] wanted 100 cars for the boats, we felt like we didn’t want to put 100 cars parking lot there. It’s just going to be a flat parking lot. It’s going to be heavily landscaped along the Riverside Drive side, if you would. It’s not going to have any curb, it’s going to have removable bumper stops so that during Memphis in May it will be just a flat piece of the park, but during the rest of the year it will function for all practical purposes as a normal parking lot. But it didn’t mean for people to gather there. I mean you’re going to pay, or either you’re going to the boats and maybe get free -- comp’ed if you ride the boat.

STRICKLAND: Memphis in May is okay with it?

LENDERMON: Yes. [They’d want] we would pave about thee fourths of the Park. [LAUGHTER]

STRICKLAND: The larger current parking lot…is that full a lot? I’m wondering if there are enough spots in there to, that you don’t need to…

LENDERMON: It’s a long long long way, okay. I mean, it’s a long ways – probably too far to walk. It depends on when it is. If it’s Saturday afternoon in the springtime, it’s packed up with cars and the police have shut it off, you know. If it’s a Wednesday in the middle of February, then there’s probably 20 cars down there. So it depends on the time. But to answer your question, we’d very much like to do that, it’s just way too far away.

STRICKLAND: That’s all my questions.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cobblestones discussion at City Council CIP budget hearing

Although the RDC has had a working plan for the Cobblestones Preservation for several months now, it had only been shown to "stakeholders," the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO), RDC's own Board, and few others. The first officially public exposure was at the CIP budget hearing on May 21.

Click here to read more.Click here to download or listen to a 12-minute MP3 audio of the portion of the hearing dealing directly with the cobblestones and the daily excursion riverboats (2.2 MB file). Committee Chairman Boyd is questioning Benny Lendermon, CEO of the RDC.

What follows below is my transcription of the audio. The images are similar, if not identical, to the ones shown to the Committee, but I will note that they are taken from the project plan as of February 14.

BOYD: Since the cobblestones kinda ties into it [Beale Street Landing], would you get into that part so the council members can have an overview of what the project is all about because that's project priorities one and two, and then we have two other, smaller projects, which we'll talk about in just a minute.

LENDERMON: In your book it shows ... most of you are familiar with the cobblestones. This sort of plan view, this picture here that most of you have turned to, shows the cobblestone site.

Click image to enlarge in a separate window.

LENDERMON: This project consist of funding that is in rough numbers six million dollars from the Federal government, and then a matching sum of money from the City, which I think is total of…

VOICE: A million two.

LENDERMON: ...about a million two of City dollars. It basically goes down below where the cobbles are intact, it sets in a small little wall with rip rap at the end to keep them from deteriorating the path. They put the sidewalk along the base, to basically frame the cobbles with some sidewalks making connectors. There's a little handicapped accessible piece to it that fits in Jeff Davis Park. It ties into the sidewalk at the bottom of the cobblestones. That won't be able to be used but about half the year, but we think its a neat feature because we think that sidewalk will at least get people down to, maybe not the water's edge, but within 50 feet of the water...we think the path will be worth taking.

Click image to enlarge in a separate window.

LENDERMON: These drawings here were the rough drawings to start with, still shows for instance the City here at Union Avenue, Ron Terry Plaza that the City previously approved back six, seven years ago. We suspect that our continued negotiations with the preservation community will have that maybe be moved somewhere else, at a more suitable site and not sitting on the cobblestones.


LENDERMON: But there isn't much you're doing, frankly, to the cobblestones. You're just framing them, protecting them, making walkways down so people can get to the edge. And you're filling in the places where the cobbles are no longer continuous. And that's basically the extent of that project.

BOYD: Alright so what about -- this is, I brought this from home -- will these boats be able to . . they're gonna tie up to your landing?


BOYD: Alright. Now, so how many companies are now using . . . come by Memphis, south of Memphis?

LENDERMON: Two companies. [...] It's the previous American Queen Lines, it goes by a different name now. They have three boats, only two boats this year. There's a big controversy about about one of their boats, whether or not it will be decommissioned because it's all wood. They're only running two of their boats this year. There's the River Barge Excursions who comes here also, will also tie up at the landing.

And then of course our daily excursion boats will use the Landing itself, which will enable them to, uh ... The thing that hurts our water access now in the existing daily excursion operator business, they can't really take advantage of tour buses and things that bring in large groups of people, because they won't come to the cobblestones because it's too much of a hindrance for them. So Beale Street Landing will give that daily excursion operator, whoever it is in the future, ability to capture a much larger number of people and hopefully provide a much higher grade of service.

BOYD: Well, I can speak from old experience, again gang here we go. . .

VOICE: When they installed the cobblestones...


BOYD: I know that Captain [Tom] Meanley's boats...


BOYD: There was a request made from those people, we just put a couple of asphalt strips down the cobblestones in two areas so that so that people could walk ... when people go own and make use Tom [inaudible] boats. The ladies couldn't walk on the cobblestones for sure, and some of the elderly people, so we put those... And I think the remnants of those are still down there. I saw them the other day...

LENDERMON: Part of this project is removing those things, so...


BOYD: So I understand that this drawing here, that's access down to the -- what do you call this here, is that the wall that will keep the cobblestones from...

LENDERMON: Yeah, Mr. Chairman. What it is, it'd just a little bitty, it's just, what'll be there is a sidewalk with a little turn down, then we will use rip rap with the large limestone ramps going down the bank, because frankly the water will be much lower than that during the summer months. What this does is give people a chance to walk...If you're at Jeff Davis Park or you're at Tom Lee Park or at Beale Street Landing, you can walk at that lower level in the summer months, you know., at least a great deal of the time. And we’ve got to put the little wall down there anyway, so the cost of putting a sidewalk on top the walk wasn't much greater, so we think the sidewalk will serve some purpose.

BOYD: So you'll have [three?] ... a little bit better deal than my little asphalt …

LENDERMON: Yeah. And the walkways you see here on this piece here coming down, they're basically...they serve the same purpose as your asphalt. In today's time, with preservation issues you have to deal with, they've done a little bit, a little more sensitive to the cobblestones. They actually would have utility trenches contained within them, so you can get electricity and water down to the edge so in case there's some opportunity for a floating restaurants or docking of boats in the future here, they have the ability to tie into that utility source.

BOYD: Well, I wanted to ask you of course, the cobblestones...I call it the Meanley Line, they use the cobblestone area. Are they utilizing that now?


BOYD: Okay. Now how many boats did you say they have down there -- three or four?

LENDERMON: I think they only have two that are operational, but they actually have ... if you go down there, there's like five or six. Most of them are just sitting there, and aren't operational.


BOYD: They still pay wharfmaster-like fees, wharfage fees of say like $1500 a month?

LENDERMON: Roughly $1500 a month.

BOYD: So they'd be paying wharfage fees over here to the new Landing?


BOYD: You say they're going to be at the new [Beale Street] landing?

LENDERMON: Yes. I think it might be a little bit more than $1500.

BOYD: Yeah, I was going to say, we need to raise that wharfage.

LENDERMON: The concept on Beale Street Landing is, you'll need an operator for the restaurant, gift shop, everything else, so it'll be structured much differently than just a pure wharfage fee.

BOYD: Now, as far as the Cobblestone area, that's just being utilized now by the Captain Meanley boat operation. So, that'll all be vacated?

LENDERMON: Yes. Well, they may still ... There's a good possibility we'll still store some of their boats there, and you'll still have "boat city."

BOYD: If some of them aren't being used now, is it your knowledge being the head of the Riverfront Development, has anyone asked them to remove those...

LENDERMON: We've met with them twice in the last month, and William Lozier [of Memphis Riverboats Inc] is the new owner, the son of Dale Lozier, who’s the daughter of...He's very much aware, he wants to clean it up, he wants to clean those boats up...and right now with the way it looks down there now, it's not near as large a priority, at least for him or us, either one, to get rid some of the, I don't want to call it junk, stuff he has down there. But he's aware he needs to clean that up, he wants to clean it up, he's improved an number of the boats substantially over his maybe two year tenure that he's been operating. They've still got a long way to go, there's still a lot of improvements that need to be made He's working in the right direction. We've had specific conversations two weeks ago about the fact that we'd clean these up, and we'd move the operation over there [Beale Street Landing]. They've gotta clean up that operation. I think he'd still like to, we'd still like for him to dock one or two of the boats there, you know, and they need to do all this pick up and drop off from Beale Street Landing, so he can maybe keep... There may be a need for him to actually store the boats that are not being utilized over here [at the cobblestones].

BOYD: Alright sir. Well it sure would help the appearance I think if we would get them to move those excess boats. Again years ago we had the old Warren [???]. Does anyone remember those people down there? They were on the riverfront down at [???]. It looked terrible and we got them to move over on Treasure Island down south of President's Island.

BOYD: Anyway, this area here, is that a dock? A small, portable light dock on this end, or what is that? At the base of Jeff Davis park.

Click image to enlarge in a separate window.

LENDERMON: Yes. The ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] is complicated. One of the problems with the cobblestones itself is, you're pretty much limited and you can't provide ADA access along the cobblestones. Which is why it makes docking the boats, and taking the passengers on and off very difficult, and very difficult for us as a government entity or municipality. Anything we build down there we plan to utilize year round, we'd have to have ADA access. We were able to provide ADA access at Jeff Davis Park. Looking see these switchbacks here? They go down...we think there might be an opportunity to put like a floating, like almost like a little floating deck or something out here. We don't know if we can do that or not. We'll try to. But this ADA access will get you this sidewalk, when the sidewalk is not under water. When the sidewalk is under water, unfortunately, there is no ADA access...but that's the best we can do. And we don't have to provide ADA access to the whole cobblestone field because it isn't being utilized for anything specific.



Here is a diagram from the 2002 Master Plan, showing how they and Beale Street Landing were originally envisioned. A portion of the Land Bridge is visible.

Things to note:

1. The Cobblestone Landing would continue to be used as the docking, loading and unloading for excursion boats as well as smaller private boats.

2. Beale Street Landing was much smaller (and one-third the cost) than it is now. It was sufficient to dock one of the large riverfoats. It would not overshadow the Cobblestones.

Barbara Ware questions Lendermon about the Public Promenade

At the May 9, 2008 Operating Budget hearing, RDC's Benny Lendermon was asked by Councilwoman Barbara Swearengen Ware regarding the status of the Public Promenade.

Click here to read more.Click here to listen to the 6-minute discussion (1.2 MB MP3). My transcription of that discussion follows below.
WARE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Lendermon, you said something that just kind of aroused my curiosity. You said that you are not involved in anything really with the Promenade. And I thought that the moving forward on the riverfront development, which included the Promenade, was something that Riverfront Development [Corp.] was taking the lead. So what has happened?

LENDERMON: We did. We took the lead on the plan. We were charged to do a master plan for the riverfront and we bought the Master Plan. And, then we also zeroed in on one little of it, based upon the Urban Land Institute's suggestion that this was really important, and we looked at the Promenade. We had this huge public input on what should happen with the Promenade. We brought that plan to the City Council in 2004, May of 2004 I think it was 2004, I'm not so sure of the exact day. 2004. And you approved it in, you know, a very interesting environment, okay. At that point, that was, RDC's challenge at that point was to to take, to us look at what we think ought to happen to that to that [inaudible], bring it to the City, and the City adopted, and at that point , the real issue was in implementing it. RDC can't deal with the legal issues. The legal issues are strictly a City administration process of...the City administration will want to resolve the legal issues that allows that plan that was approved to ever go forward. So, at such point that they do that, I'm sure we will be supportive with the facts that help their legal case just like any other person would do, but we aren't the one to pursue the legal, you know, we don't drive that train.

WARE: So, in other words we're at a legal stalemate on what happens on that plan? Okay, well, somebody else might have been aware of that. I wasn't. I just knew that we hadn't heard anything lately, and it was almost like let sleeping dogs lie. But at some point we need to get it off dead center, and decide to either you're gonna do or not do. I understand the legal issue with the Promenade. But if that is going to be an insurmountable factor, then what's Plan B? I mean do we just leave the riverfront as it is, and say that this is an issue that we can't resolve? Or do you work around it. I mean, and I think that it is in your lap to come back with something. If that's not gonna work, then what will work? We don't need to just leave it, well like it is.

LENDERMON: We are working, we're working with the University Law School. Within your CIP budget, which you'll see at some point, I think our hearing is on the 21st, there's a project in there that deals with improving the area behind the Law School, you know sort of making the back of that building, the front of that building in some sense green, putting up a pedestrian bridge across to Confederate Park and starting this connection here, this sort of a connection that will work under a multitude of environments. That's the beginning of something, whether it ends up being public or the plan that the Council adopted. So that's going forward I think the purpose is...until, I mean, the legal issue needs to be resolved, but it's um, the timing's probably not right to deal with that property anyway. So this is one reason why we're not pushing the City to so something one way or the other cause we think at this point it's probably okay to let it sit there then and let the Law School get put in there, let that drive the Confederate Park and improve that area, let the rest of downtown develop around there and all of a sudden you've got more impetus and more reasons to do something there one way or the other, if you will.

WARE: Okay, now what did you say about Confederate Park?

LENDERMON: Well, I'm getting off the subject, but there's a, in the Capital Improvements Projects there's a project that actually connects, it's improving behind the Law School, building a pedestrian bridge over to Confederate Park, connecting that green space with the Law School, thus tying that whole area together. We hope that whole waterfront's tied together. And it's being done to, because at this time the Law School's wanting to, they have been, I'm getting, I apologize, I'm getting off a little sidetracked here. There's a project which is heavily leveraged with State and private funds, requires some City dollars, to accomplish we think a lot of green space improvements. It doesn't really do much with Confederate Park, it pretty much, it includes a few little landscaping improvements. We don't change much of Confederate Park at all. It's primarily behind the law school.

WARE: Okay. Well I for one would like an update on where we stand on all of this. I don't know who is going to be responsible for bringing that information but I do want the riverfront developed in my lifetime.

LENDERMON: We do a lot...What I suggest, Councilman Ware, is that in the not too distant future that we have a committee meeting where we talk about what's, all the issues, all the things that Riverfront Development's moving forward with now. We'd give you basically an update on everything. That may be helpful.

WARE: Well, I appreciate it. Thank you.