Thursday, June 5, 2008

RDC presentation of the Master Plan, Part 2

Following up on Wanda Halbert's request at the CIP hearing May 21, and Barbara Ware's concerns at the O&M hearing May 8, the RDC came before the Parks Committee Tuesday to explain themselves and the Master Plan. I have broken it into three sections. [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] This is part 2, focusing mainly on the Master Planning process, the land bridge, and the Public Promenade.

Click here to read more.Click here to listen to the 10-minute audio of Part 2 (1.8 MB MP3). Here is the transcript:
LENDERMON: And the biggest change to the Master Plan was, the Master Plan included a very transformational element, which was a land bridge connecting Mud Island River Park to the mainland. And that was to solve this detached problem we had with Mud Island River Park from downtown. That was included in the Master Plan. About two years, or a year and a half into the process, the Board of Directors decided they thought that while that might be a good plan thirty-plus years from now, certainly nothing was going to be done in the foreseeable future. They thought that putting time and effort on that detracted from everything else, and they wanted to jettison that from the Master Plan. They took that action, they brought that to City Council. The City Council concurred. The City Council voted also to amend the Master Plan to take element out of it.

So, because of that, one thing that exists with the Master Plan is, whatever happens eventually when you took the Land Bridge out, then Mud island becomes a little bit more of an unsolved mystery, if you would, in that there is no immediate solution to solving all the problems with Mud Island River Park. That’s why we were mentioning before, we’re working with Robert Lipscomb, and hoping to bring to you a concept of looking forward with zeroing in and having another planning effort specifically for Mud Island project itself, because we think we need to get public involvement in looking at that in much more detail, so that whenever people like in… Before, we’ve have people come to us and want to put a major skateboard park in the tip of Mud Island, and we’ve had, as part of the Pyramid discussion especially, Ericson wanted to do other things with Mud Island. We thought that there is no…we have no quote “public input base” to deal with those responses one way or the other. We have what we think, and we have what individual [??] may think, as a public… We haven’t vetted those issues publically. We think we need to. And hopefully, in the very short future, we’d bring that back to you.

The other thing we did is…the Master Plan…we brought in the Urban Land Institute to look at the Master Plan after it was done. The Urban Land Institute is a very large planning organization, 10,000 professionals. They looked at the reality of how to implement certain of those concepts. And the Urban Land Institute Basically changed our… They didn’t change any of the concepts in the Master Plan, they basically changed our priorities. They said that we ought to be looking at… The biggest piece, the biggest missing link in the Riverfront exists in those four blocks of property we’ve known, called the Promenade.

So we began…we took another, instead of 50,000 maybe a thousand-foot at four blocks of property sitting there, where, from Union to Adams, where the fire station, the parking garages, Confederate Park, and the old library sit, and we did a public process on that. As most of you know, that became a much more controversial piece of our [LAUGHS] public input process, and to this day becomes something that people are very torn one way or the other, on that issue. So what we have is, in looking at that… But we did actually produce a document, and made recommendations that said you have to provide public access. It consisted of putting in…bringing in buildings… Tell you what Dorchelle, if you back up to the slides of…

I guess the big reason around the Promenade was, this is how Memphis looked in the 1800s, and you see the dark area is the Promenade. And this is, the next slide shows how it looks today you see all that new green space has been added along there [POINTING TO MUD ISLAND], which is what sort of sort of changes the idea of what the Promenade ought to be. If we still looked like what we looked like in the 1800s, well then we think the Promenade would look like something different. So that became the controversial piece of our process.

Now, we think…we produced a plan to show a mixed-use development incorporated with public space. We presented that to City Council as part of again a planning process that had I think three public meetings. We brought the City Council in a very contested environment. I think on a 10 to 3 vote, the Promenade Plan was approved, in 2004 I believe. At that point, as we’ve discussed with Councilwoman Ware before, we have done the public process, we presented our concepts, City Council approved our concepts. There are legal issues concerning the property itself. Those can only be resolved by the City administration and the City Attorney. And for us to do anything else requires action by the City administration and the City Attorney and, we assume, concurrence by the City Council. We don’t know that, we assume that’s what it takes. And so, we’re like, we’ve become subsidiary to their directions, and we haven’t had any discussion with them in some time on that issue.

And then, as far as the Master Plan…what we assume [?] is…we think the Master Plan is basically a… It talks about general concepts. It talks about general principles. It’s a…it becomes a living document, that is frankly changed and amended as this City Council approves or disapproves certain capital improvement projects we bring to you.

STRICKLAND: Mr. Boyd and Ms. Halbert.

BOYD: Alright, the cobblestone use. I’ve received a lot of calls, a lot of correspondence I should say, will the excursion boats [portion inaudible]. Will they have an opportunity to tie up at the cobblestones?

LENDERMON: Yes. In fact they’d probably have to tie up there. They’ll probably have to tie their boats up there.

BOYD: And the Landing…

LENDERMON: They will pick up and drop off passengers at Beale Street Landing, in a safe environment that people can get to. They will quote “stage” their boats if you would at the Cobble…or at least SOME of their boats at the Cobblestones. So they’ll have a presence at the Cobblestones, but they’ll do picking up and dropping off of passengers from Beale Street Landing, in a safe manner in an ADA-acceptable manner.

BOYD: Alright, that’s…thank you I appreciate that. A lot of people have concerns about retaining that look of boats on the Cobblestones.

Are there any plans to bring back the land bridge proposal?

LENDERMON: Not that I...

DUCKETT: Not at this time. That’s a big component of this project, but if you don’t have the funding then why even talk about it.

LENDERMON: I mean, after we’re dead and gone, somebody else can bring it back.

BOYD: When the company recommended, as you mentioned a moment ago, that the RDC concentrate on developing the Promenade area, I guess this is a question [inaudible]. Now that circle, is that circle just north of the Pyramid where you show the turnaround.

DUCKETT: It’s a roundabout. That’s on Mud Island.


BOYD: Now was that turnaround north of the Pyramid, was that part of your all’s project?

LENDERMON: No. And that was not part of our CIP budget either. The way that came about was, the City administration approached us about wanting to deal with the traffic issue at Auction Street. And they wanted to do an innovative traffic circle, and they wanted to know if we would build it for them, as a traffic control piece, and do it in an attractive way. That’s how the project came about. The funding was never in our quote “CIP budget” In the course of the CIP that you Council Members approved, you won’t find the traffic circle because it never existed as one of our projects. It basically was a City of Memphis project that we did for them on a contract. We sort of take a little credit for it in our slides, but it wasn’t part of our plan or program.

BOYD: Last question, Mr. Chairman. I’d like for you to answer this. A few weeks ago in regard to the little green area where the up growth of trees are, between the Cobblestone area and the parking lot.

LENDERMON: Right. Point-four acres of wetlands.

BOYD: Point-four [0.4] acres of wetlands. You said that would be replaced in a four-to-one ratio with park up in the Wolf River area?

LENDERMON: Right. In the Wolf River flood control basin somewhere.

BOYD: And that [0.4 acres] would be replaced by the Landing.

LENDERMON: Yes. At the time that the Landing is constructed we are required by our permitting to also construct these wetlands and maintain these wetlands consistent with their requirements, on our 404 permit.

BOYD: Thank you.



Apart from all the spin, I can't let some of these representations stand alone without counterpoint.

Lendermon says that the land bridge (pictured below) would connect Mud Island River Park to the mainland. Later on, he leaves us with the impression that the land bridge would have solved some of MIRP's "problems."

In fact, the land bridge design would have eliminated MIRP and the monorail. If anything, the land bridge would be a "connection" between the residents of upper Mud Island (Harbortown and future developments) and downtown. It would be another way to get downtown and back by auto.

Second, though he says the land bridge was "transformational," he goes on to downplay the it as just "a component" of the Master Plan that the RDC and City Council decided later to "jettison."

In fact, the land bridge (and the lake it would have created) was no less than the centerpiece of the Master Plan, which devoted pages and pages touting it. It was also more than half of the plan, if you look at the mixed-use development that was proposed for the land bridge. By my calculations, 60 per cent. Jettisoning it literally gutted the Cooper Robertson proposal. Furthermore, the RDC has never updated this so-called "living document" to account for the major change. All that's known about this change is a mere two-line City Council resolution in January, 2006.
Adopted a resolution supporting the removal of the Land Bridge component from the Memphis Riverfront Master Plan of the Riverfront Development Corporation.

Lendermon describes the Promenade Plan as the controversial component, but neglects to mention that the land bridge and lake has turned out to be even more controversial -- just not during the original 2002 City Council meeting when it was approved. By 2005, the rising public heat over land bridge was the very reason the RDC had to "jettison" it.

The land bridge, from a drawing in the Cooper Robertson Master Plan. I have added the street names and indicated where the existing harbor, museum, and monorail are.

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