Friday, January 29, 2010

Still the "B.S." Landing

As of this writing, the RDC's web page still says the following:
Because the Beale Street Landing project is under design, the former Delta Steamship Company has increased its dockings in Memphis by 40%. They are trying to build their market here in anticipation of the new docking facility, adding a strong economic development aspect to the project that benefits the City for years to come.

The truth? Those big riverboat companies have gone out of the business and have drydocked their boats. We are spending $36 million to build a boat dock to nowhere!

Learn some more truths about B.S. Landing. Tell your City Council how you feel.

Write your City Council representative

If you want to make your feelings about "B.S." Landing known to city officials, here are their emails. Just click a name to send a message.

Mayor@memphistn.gov,
Bill.Morrison@memphistn.gov,
Bill.Boyd@memphistn.gov,
Wanda.Halbert@memphistn.gov,
Harold.Collins@memphistn.gov,
Jim.Strickland@memphistn.gov,
Edmund.Fordjr@memphistn.gov,
Swearengen.Ware@memphistn.gov,
Joe.Brown@memphistn.gov,
Janis.Fullilove@memphistn.gov,
Myron.Lowery@memphistn.gov,
Kemp.Conrad@memphistn.gov,
Shea.Flinn@memphistn.gov,
Reid.Hedgepeth@memphistn.gov

Monday, January 11, 2010

The real truth about B.S. Landing

An open letter to members of the Memphis City Council:

The RDC will be asking for a $2 million to $9 million increase in its CIP (Capital Improvements) budget, to account for a loss of Federal funds and increases in steel costs for Beale Street Landing.

You should vote NAY and deny their request.

You should also ask Mayor Wharton to order a freeze on the RDC's projects, and obtain an independent audit, giving him the time and the facts he needs to re-evaluate our riverfront strategy and consider alternatives.

You will of course need a justification to cite with your NAY vote. Take your pick of any or all of the following:

1. In 2002, this project was supposed to be a feature enhancement to the restored Cobblestone Landing, at a cost of $10.4 million. Now it's a $37.6 million replacement for our historic landing. The City has more important priorities.

2. Its design has grown to more than twice the size envisioned in the Master Plan, extending deeply into and forcing the reconfiguration of Tom Lee Park.

3. When the land bridge was canceled in 2005, Beale Street Landing became unnecessary. We already had, and still have, Mud Island's riverboat landing. It could be spruced up at relatively small cost. (The RDC's website doesn't mention these alternatives.)

4. In any event, those big overnight riverboat cruises have since gone out of the business and dry-docked their boats. (The RDC's website doesn't mention that.)

5. The Memphis Queen Lines (daily cruise) operation doesn't need Beale Street Landing. All they need is for the City to properly restore and maintain the Cobblestone Landing -- something the RDC has deliberately avoided doing during the ten years since it has had responsibility. (The Memphis Queen Lines have had to maintain their small area at their own cost.)

6. The overblown and unneeded BSL project has sucked the funding and support away from our historic Cobblestones. For the latter project, RDC wants to get away with doing only half the job, or "cobbles under glass."

7. The overblown and unneeded BSL project is directly contrary to the recommendations in the Master Plan, which called for a full restoration of the Cobblestone Landing serving as a Union Avenue terminus. (The switch in plans wasn't pointed out to previous City Councils.)

8. When you discount the unneeded "boat dock to nowhere," the snack bar and a playground, what is left is just a huge and expensive example of urban art. (I'm not against art but frankly, that's a lot of money and real estate to expend on a piece of art.)

9. The RDC has never properly accounted for the ongoing operating costs of BSL, which is expected to be open 24/7. It's clearly a security risk. The police coverage alone would cost much more than the $100,000/year RDC officials casually estimated when asked about it at a CCC Design Review Board meeting, March 2008.

10. The RDC has never produced a business plan for Beale Street Landing, much less documented the claim they've been heard to make that it will "pay for itself in a year."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Letter to the editor: A vibrant riverfront -- for less

The Commercial Appeal published my letter to the editor this morning:

As the mayor reconsiders whether to spend $26.6 million more after the $11 million we've sunk into Beale Street Landing, the question remains: What are the alternatives?

Here are five practical and affordable ideas to rejuvenate our riverfront area, with my estimates of the costs. These ideas aren't radical. Most have been suggested many times by others.

1. Filling the hole, landscaping, sidewalks and signage. At the very least we must clean up the mess down there and restore the area to something comparable to the rest of Tom Lee Park. My guesstimate: $3 million.

2. Add a snack bar, restrooms and visitors center. Riverfront Development Corp. supporters have long complained that you can't buy a Coke and hot dog on the riverfront. Let's fix that problem by adding a snack bar. Don't call it a restaurant; that just jacks up the cost. My guesstimate: $3 million.

3. Add a family playground. Beale Street Landing offered play areas within those strange pods. Maybe that's not such a bad idea, so let's include a playground in our new plan. My guesstimate: $1 million.

4. Provide a landing for the big riverboats, should they ever return to Memphis. We don't need a new dock because there is already a landing at Mud Island. Right nearby is a gift shop and a snack bar. Perhaps it needs a facelift and better facilities for the elderly and disabled. My guesstimate: $2 million.

5. Restore the historic cobblestone area as an active and vibrant riverboat landing. The RDC proposes to do half the job (preserve the cobblestones) for about $6 million, which they've already lined up as a federal grant. Let's double that to $12 million to do the whole job: Restore the Cobblestone Landing so that the Memphis Queen Lines can be proud to stay right where they've always been. Smaller boats can use and enjoy the landing too. Net cost: $6 million (floating restaurants extra).

The total comes to $15 million. For that, we get everything Beale Street Landing would have provided and more.

The RDC could have figured this out 10 years ago. By now the work would be done, at even less cost, and we'd all be enjoying it. But they refused to investigate any strategy but their own hallowed land bridge (now defunct) and later its replacement, the overblown Beale Street Landing.

Incapable of considering anything except grandiose plans involving millions of square feet of new development, the RDC has been a great obstacle to the improvement of our riverfront. We need to take back control over our own great riverfront.

Further reading