A better way

Cities around the country are rejuvenating their waterfronts to jumpstart downtown redevelopment. Where it’s been most successful, the plan has focused on the city’s uniqueness and the goal has been to make the city the most attractive, pleasant place to live. According to Mayor Richard Daley whose city Chicago has witnessed a spectacular renaissance, business will follow.

Memphis has a head start. We sit on a dramatic Bluff overlooking the most important river in North America.
Photo by Michael Cromer, click to enlarge

Mark Twain recognized its beauty in 1883 when he wrote in Life on the Mississippi, "It is a beautiful city, nobly situated on a commanding bluff overlooking the river."

According to Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown, designers of the 1987 Center City Development Plan, “it is the vastness and almost overwhelming grandness and beauty of the river and the Arkansas flood plains coupled with the city’s spectacular siting on the bluffs, that most strongly distinguishes downtown Memphis.”

It is the riverfront that shapes our identity as a City and gives us a pride of place.

The public riverfront and harbor are irreplaceable.

Rejuvenating them should be our goal, and it doesn’t have to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. In fact, if you’ve ever watched a sunset from the Bluff or big barges make the turn into our harbor, you’ll have trouble believing anyone would even suggest making Memphis a bluffless city on Wolf Lake, much less spend tax dollars to do it.

There's a better way.

Let’s start now, and let’s do it right.

Any plan for the Memphis riverfront should
  • build on our strengths and those things that make us unique,
  • improve the quality of life for the people of Memphis,
  • respect our history,
  • foster downtown’s renaissance,
  • and stimulate use of our harbor and public spaces.

Any plan for the Public Promenade should honor the use for which the land was dedicated and give us what we’ve said we want – a great urban park on our riverfront.

Where cities are successfully rejuvenating their riverfronts, parks are helping bring them back to life. Parks bring space, air, and beauty into a city and provide social, environmental, economic and health benefits. They often become a city’s signature and prime marketing tool.
Federal funds, foundation grants, and individual gifts are being used to support and create park projects.
And the parks are having a major impact, not just on the quality of life, but also on the economic vitality of their cities.

Check out the successes in other cities, and remember -- It can happen in Memphis.

We have one of the few slack water harbors in the country; it can be full of boats.
The Public Promenade is ours to use as a great urban park; it can be part of a greenbelt that connects the river to our historic downtown and provides us with the framework for what we’ve said we want on our riverfront:
Click to enlarge
  • flexible open spaces;
  • beautiful gardens;
  • places to play, walk, hear music, eat a sandwich, get a cup of coffee;
  • a place to gather, picnic, and watch the sunset…

That’s how we define progress.
Take the vision test.
See what we can do with $7-million.
Check out the success stories in other cities.
Read Mayor Richard Daley’s comments. – It should be required.
Get involved.

It’s our riverfront – save it.