The Finest Edge

“The great cities of the world give the finest edges to the people,” said Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley when he spoke in Memphis to the sell-out crowd of 400+ on September 21. We promised this brief synopsis.

Riley, who is widely recognized as one of the most visionary and highly effective governmental leaders in America, said that, “Citizens should always have the best land first.” That’s what the founders of Memphis did when they gave citizens of our city the "finest edge," the Public Promenade. The Public Promenade runs along the Bluff overlooking the Mississippi River from Union Ave. north to the Interstate Bridge and from the River up to Front Street. It’s the connector between the mighty Mississippi and the heart of our downtown. Today it’s in need of improvement, but, in the opinion of many, not the private commercial development that threatens it.

Mayor Riley’s stories of how Charleston has redeveloped its downtown by creating great public spaces, preserving its heritage, and focusing on excellence emphasized how important it is to save and improve our public spot on the Riverbluff. Its revitalization as a great park would fall right in line with what Mayor Riley has done in Charleston.

Having served as Mayor of Charleston for 30 years and having worked with cities around the country through the Mayor’s Institute on City Design, Riley has seen that parks provide citizens "…a sense of pride and a place that they own…. Citizens tell me about the sunset, the breeze, the fun," he said when describing the creation of Charleston’s Waterfront Park. The applause signaled that Memphians agree. He said that Charleston's school children call their waterfront park their favorite place -- a place where they feel safe and one that is so popular Mayor Riley and his wife can find a free swing only on a cloudy day.

The Public Promenade, envisioned by the founders as a beautiful common space for all Memphians to use and enjoy forever, would serve the burgeoning residential community downtown and provide immediate open access to the River for those who work and visit in the Center City. It can foster and support the revitalization of downtown as well as inspire a sense of pride in Memphis and our heritage.

Charleston today is one of the most livable, creative, and visited cities in America. As a follow-up to Mayor Riley’s presentation, FfOR asks that you join in looking at ways to apply the success story of Charleston to Memphis

On October 16 (Sunday) at 3 p.m. go "Walkin' in Memphis" with Judith Johnston, Tennessee advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. See first hand the exciting projects in the center of our city and learn how the Public Promenade can play an integral role in the future of downtown. Meet on the Shelby County Courthouse steps (140 Adams). The rain date is Oct 22, same time.

November 7 (Monday) at 6:30 p.m. join FfOR for a Promenade Forum. Help brainstorm ways to improve our riverfront and harbor at the Central Library, 3030 Poplar Ave. It's your opportunity to have a say and make Memphis a more livable community.

FfOR hopes that you will bring your vision, creativity, and enthusiasm as we look at how to make downtown Memphis an even better place.

You can learn more about Riley’s visit from Mary Cashiola’s article for the “Flyer”, Amos Maki’s article for the “Commercial Appeal”, an editorial on Riley’s visit, and a letter to the editor on the subject.