Moving in the Right Direction

For a long time the Riverfront Development Corporation tried to avoid discussing the 50-acre dam they called a landbridge. Now they’ve acknowledged it was unfeasible and unpopular and are asking the City Council to remove it from the 2002 Memphis Riverfront Master Plan.

The Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC) Board of Directors has voted to recommend to City Council that plans for the landbridge be removed from the 2002 Memphis Riverfront Master Plan. The landbridge, actually a 50-acre dam, was the "central" component of their 2002 plan and would have extended from Court to Poplar, provided massive new land for development, and made our harbor into a lake.
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This step by the RDC signals that someone may finally be beginning to listen to what the citizens of Memphis have been saying since about 1997 – namely that we don’t want a fake lake and that we do want a public riverfront.

Hopefully the City Council will vote to remove the dam, but they shouldn’t stop there. The RDC says the dam/landbridge was politically and financially unfeasible. Let’s look at the numbers. They say the landbridge/dam was going to cost $78 million and that the riverfront masterplan weighs in at $292million in public expenses. So if you take $78 from $292, that means they still intend to spend $214million in public money. On what?

Now’s the time for the City Council to get some facts and figures from the RDC and the Administration and take a hard look at the riverfront masterplan.

Since 1997, a lake has been the central component of a massive proposal to reconfigure the Memphis riverfront. Now’s the time to take a look at all the components, especially the part that plans to take the only four remaining blocks of public land on the high bluff and turn it over to private developers for hotels, offices, condos, and shops. This land, known as the Public Promenade, is not owned by the City and it is not theirs to turn over to private developers. It was set aside for all the citizens of Memphis to use and enjoy as a promenade forever.

The RDC has sought to justify their plan for private commercial development of the Public Promenade by saying that the buildings now standing on this land block us from the river. On that we all agree. It’s what replaces them that is the issue. The City needs to come up with a new plan that respects what the public has been saying, that removes the parking garages from the Public Promenade without adding luxury condos, a plan that improves our harbor and allows the Public Promenade to remain public.

The removal of the landbridge/dam from the riverfront plan looks like a first step in the right direction. The sooner all the unrealistic, unpopular components of the masterplan are removed, the better. Then our City can truly focus on improving and revitalizing our riverfront. The RDC needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan for the riverfront that is economically sustainable, good for downtown redevelopment, and improves the quality of life for Memphians.

For more information, check the new "Commercial Appeal" and "Flyer" articles and editorials posted in the library. To get there, just click on library in the menu bar at the top of the page.