Saturday, May 31, 2008

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.

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