FfOR's 2004 letter seeking further discussions, and Mr. Stokes' response

During the Q & A section of the Public Issues Forum Sunday July 10th, the subject of further discussions between FfOR and the RDC about the riverfront was raised. In response, two letters were mentioned: a request by FfOR for such dialogue and a response from Mr. Stokes on behalf of the RDC. Several people have asked for more information about those letters, so we have posted their text here for you to read.

Borod & Kramer, P. C.
80 Monroe Ave., Suite G1
Memphis, TN 38103

May 20, 2004

Honorable W. W. Herenton
City of Memphis
City Hall, 125 N. Main
Memphis, TN 38103

Honorable Joe Brown
Memphis City Council
125 N. Main Street
Memphis, TN 38103

John Stokes
Riverfront Development Corp.
22 N. Front Street, Suite 960
Memphis, TN 38103

Re: Our Riverfront/Promenade


As we are all aware, the Memphis City Council, by a vote of 10 to 3, adopted and passed an amended resolution endorsing and accepting the RDC’s conceptual master plan for the development of the Memphis Riverfront, including the land encompassed by the Promenade Easement granted to the City by the original proprietors of the City of Memphis. The language of the dedicated Promenade Easement is unambiguous. The intent of the dedicators was reiterated in unambiguous language: “In relation to the piece of ground laid off and called the ‘Promenade,’ … their original intention is now, and forever will be, that the same should be public ground for such use as the word imports….”

The premise and the raison d’etre of the RDC’s plan is to take “public ground” and use it for private development to raise revenue to provide revenue for the RDC and its projects. This premise, in our opinion, does not comport with either the spirit or the letter of the Easement to establish the Promenade.

However, as was evident by the presentation of the RDC, as well as by the statements of proponents and opponents, and by the comments of Council members, there is grave concern not only as to the legality of the proposal, but as to its economic feasibility. It was, in our opinion, unfortunate that the proposal was viewed as “either progress and development” on the one hand, or “stagnation and status quo,” on the other.

As you are also no doubt aware, there was significant discussion and expressed sentiment for a compromise. There was also a recognition that the proposed amended conceptual Master Plan and the Council’s adoption thereof may all be in vain if the City cannot legally use the Easement as envisioned by the RDC. The Council recognized, as did the RDC, that without a final resolution by the courts, nothing can be accomplished. We all know that litigation is expensive, protracted and uncertain.

Unfortunately, there is a perception that both the RDC and Friends for Our Riverfront (FfOR) are intractable in their positions. As was expressed by Virginia McLean, President of FfOR, the organization is not opposed to development consistent with the Easement and a vibrant, animated Riverfront.

It appears there was consensus that the Riverfront development does not need and should not contain “skyscrapers,” that the historic heritage and “feel” of the Riverfront should be preserved. There is also consensus that the present state of the Promenade is unacceptable. Further, it appears that there is consensus that the present parking structures should be removed and Cossitt Library should be restored to its original building, that the fire station should be relocated and that the Custom House and Post Office should be used as the home of the University of Memphis Law School. These are significant and major points of agreement. It appears that there is more agreement than disagreement. Everyone wants a revitalized, animated, vibrant Riverfront accessible and used by all strata of the public which will be a magnet for tourists and visitors and a credit to the City.

FfOR is of the opinion that the parking lots presently existing on the Promenade violate both the spirit and letter of the easement and should be removed, the “new” section of the Cossitt Library be removed and the original section of the Cossitt Library be restored for adaptive reuse commiserate to the neighborhood and the Promenade should be restored to its pristine condition consistent with the Easement.

Thus, we respectfully propose that a process be implemented to create a dialogue between and among the City, the RDC and the FfOR to allow constructive engagement and exploration of a Master Plan for the Promenade.

Friends for Our Riverfront

Bruce S. Kramer

Cc: Sara Hall, City Attorney
Allen Wade, City Council Attorney
All City Councilpersons
Jeff Sanford, Center City Commission
Virginia McLean

John W. Stokes, Jr., Vice Chairman
Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc.
Morgan Keegan Tower
50 N. Front St.
Memphis, Tennessee 38103

June 7, 2004

Mr. Bruce Kramer
Attorney at Law
Borod & Kramer, P. C.
80 Monroe Avenue, Suite G1
Memphis, Tennessee 38103

Dear Mr. Kramer:

Thank you for your letter dated May 20, 2004. We appreciate your interest in the Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC) and the Memphis Promenade Public Realm Plan.

The citizens of the Memphis community played a huge role in bringing this collective Promenade vision to fruition. From many public meetings and community presentations, the comments and suggestions of hundreds of people were combined to create the blueprint for a world-class waterfront.

It is our belief that the plan approved by the Memphis City Council is consistent with the dedicated Promenade easement. Contrary to what your letter implies the vision of the RDC is to create a world class waterfront destination rooted in the unique history and character of Memphis that showcases the Mississippi River’s power and majesty and binds us together as a community.

Our mission is to create and implement a Master Plan for the development of the Memphis Riverfront which includes green space, public amenities, private development and economic opportunities developed jointly with citizens and funded through a public/private partnership. In keeping with that, the RDC meets with community groups regularly and upon request. In fact, RDC is participating in a joint presentation with members of Friends for Our Riverfront on June 11, 2004. Again, thank you for your interest in this important civic issue.


John W. Stokes, Jr.
RDC Board of Directors