That $100 million

The topic was the land bridge, and the room was packed. So many attended the League of Women Voters meeting Monday night, they had to bring in more chairs.

At the end of the program, someone in the audience asked how much of the $100 million earmarked for the RDC in the 2003 budget has been spent on the Public Promenade phase of the Master Plan and on the land bridge.

Mr. Lendermon referred this question to Rick Masson, who had served as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer in the Herenton administration and who is now a vice-chairman of the RDC board.

Mr. Masson seemed mystified and said he didn't know anything about $100 million in the CIP budget.

We think we can help solve the puzzle.
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Notes and Readings from League of Women Voters presentation February 28, 2005

On February 28, Virginia McLean and Benny Lendermon gave presentations to the League of Women Voters on the subject of the land bridge. Here are some notes and further readings from Virginia McLean's presentation.
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Friends for Our Riverfront, formed in 2003, is a nonprofit citizen group dedicated to protecting our harbor and revitalizing our riverfront.
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About our organization

Friends for Our Riverfront, formed in 2003, is a nonprofit, all-volunteer citizen group dedicated to the wise use of our riverfront resources for the enhancement of our community.

Our goal is to promote improvement of the public space along the riverfront to its full potential as a green space for public enjoyment, preserving its historic, natural, and aesthetic character, and to support a clean and vibrant harbor.

Our Board of Directors

Virginia McLean, President
John Gary, Vice President
Lisa Snowden, Secretary
Susan Caldwell, Treasurer
Jeanne Arthur
Heathie Colvett
Rénee Lartigue
Bill Tillner
Cyndy Grivich Tucker
Sue A. Williams

Contact Information

Friends for Our Riverfront, Inc.
P.O. Box 111387
Memphis, TN 38111

On the riverfront, some board members and supporters. From the left: Don Richardson, Sue A. Williams, Michael Cromer, Renee Lartigue, Patricia Merrill, Jeanne Arthur, Hite McLean, Lynda Ireland, Susan Caldwell, Virginia McLean, Lisa Snowden, Bert Merrill, Heathie Colvett, John Gary.

Some snapshots:

Click HERE to come join us.

Recognition and awards

Garden Club of America Awards 
for Design, Preservation & Conservation

April 15, 2015 was a heady night for Friends for Our Riverfront. Along with former First Lady Laura Bush and First Lady of TN Crissy Haslam, three FfOR board members received awards from the Garden Club of American. Left to right: Lisa Snowden for Design, Virginia McLean for Preservation, and Jeanne Arthur for Conservation.

Waterfront Center Jury

Friends for Our Riverfront president, Virginia McLean, was invited to serve on the Waterfront Center jury to select the 2012 Excellence in Design award winners. Each submitted project is evaluated in terms of good design; economic feasibility; how well the project fits the individuality, history, and economic climate of its community; participatory planning; environmental sensitivity; and provision of maximum amount of public access to and along a waterfront. Also serving on the jury were: (Front row, left to right) Eric Burchill, executive director, Waterfront Development Corp., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; Tim Arntzen, executive director, Port of Kennewick, WA; (Back row, left to right) Mark O. Dawson, principal, Sasaki Associates Inc., Watertown, MA (jury chairman); Ms. McLean; and Mathieu Schouten, landscape architect, Municipality of Nijmegan, The Netherlands.

Memphis History Award

At the 2011 Shelby County History Awards Dinner, Virginia McLean received an award from Dr. Nick Gotten, president of Descendants of Early Settlers, for FfOR's efforts to protect and preserve Memphis history along the riverfront.

The awards event is sponsored annually by Shelby County Historical Commission, West Tennessee Historical Society, Descendants of Early Settlers, Bartlett Historical Society, Davies Manor Association and the Shelby County Historian. Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr. was the keynote speaker at the Aug. 10 awards dinner held at Davis Manor.

Clearwater Award

On Oct. 23, 2009, FfOR received the prestigious Clearwater Award given annually by the Waterfront Center of Washington, DC to recognize citizen organizations who support public spaces, unique cultural features, civic pride, sensitivity to the water, economic sustainability and environmental values for their city's waterfront.
FfOR secretary Renee Lartigue and president Virginia McLean in Seattle accepting the Clearwater Award.

Garden Club of America’s Zone IX Improvement Award

Friends for Our Riverfront (FfOR) board member, Lisa Snowden, received the prestigious award in 2010 for her significant contribution to conservation in Memphis and for her commitment to good public spaces, clean water and sustainable development.
Lisa has served as president of Memphis Botanic Garden, president of Little Garden Club, and a leading force in the design of our city’s recently opened $5M children’s garden, My Big Backyard.

50 Women Who Make A Difference

FfOR president, Virginia McLean, was selected as one of 50 Women Who Make a Difference for 2007. An urban planner by education and author of The Memphis Guide, Virginia was recognized for her involvement in heightening community awareness of Memphis's treasures and as an activist who works tirelessly for the betterment of Memphis and its citizens. With Virginia at the award ceremon on Aug. 27 were FfOR Board members Susan Caldwell, who received the honor in 2006, and husband Hite McLean.

Friends for Our Riverfront board member, Susan Caldwell, was selected one of the year's 50 Women Who Make a Difference for 2006!!

Sierra Club Smart Growth Award

Friends for Riverfront received Sierra Club's "Smart Growth" Award in December, 2004. The award was in recognition of FfOR’s plan to protect the harbor and to restore the Public Promenade. The Promenade, which was donated by City founders as a public greenway, is currently on the Tennessee Preservation Trust’s "Top Ten" list of most endangered sites.

Sierra Club award - Click to enlarge
Virginia McLean holding the Sierra Club 2004 Smart Growth Award. With her from left are board members Jeanne Arthur, Sue A. Williams, Don Richardson. Click photo to enlarge.

Memphis Heritage 2004 Preservation Planning Award

On September 23, 2004, at the historic Parkview Hotel, FfOR president Virginia McLean was presented with the Memphis Heritage Preservation Planning Award for 2004. This honor was given "for outstanding efforts to foster historic preservation activities through the use of the urban planning process."

Board members and supporters
On behalf of FfOR, president Virginia McLean accepting the Memphis Heritage 2004 Preservation Planning Award. From the left: Hite Mclean, Don Richardson, June West, Jeanne Arthur, Virginia McLean (front), John Gary (back) Judith Johnson, Susan Caldwell, Sue A. Williams.

1819: A gift to the public

The bank of the Mississippi River rises abruptly in four places in Tennessee. On the fourth and most southern of these Bluffs, three Tennesseans saw the potential for a great river city with open civic spaces. That city would be called Memphis.

Usually safe from flooding and strategically important for control of the river, the Bluff had been the home of early Woodland Indians, the hunting ground of the Chickasaw, a port for traders, and the location for French, Spanish, and early America forts.

In 1819, Andrew Jackson (7th president of the U. S.), John Overton, and James Winchester owned 5000 acres on the Bluff at the point where the Wolf River flowed into the Mississippi. As real estate speculators, they envisioned an important city and commissioned surveyor William Lawrence to lay the groundwork. Lawrence drew a map of the new town designating lots, public squares, a Public Landing, and a Public Promenade.

The city's founders saw the importance and value of a public common space along the riverfront, and set aside the land along the river as "public ground" to be used and enjoyed by all Memphians in perpetuity.

Memphis was incorporated in 1826, and in 1828 the city's founders or their successors executed a document putting to rest any doubt what their intentions were as to the public use of the property along the riverfront.
Thirdly: In relation to the piece of ground laid off and called the Promenade, said Proprietors say that it was their original intention, is now, and forever will be, that the same should be public ground for use only as the word imports, ....

Jno. Overton (seal)
Jno. McLemore (seal)
George Winchester (seal)
William Winchester (seal)

Office of the Register of Shelby County, Tennessee

The 1980s: Emphasizing conservation and public spaces

By the late 1970s downtown Memphis had been abandoned for the suburbs. The Public Promenade and Front Street were lined with parking garages -- the City had turned its back on the River. Searching for a way to rejuvenate a depressed downtown, the City decided to take another look at the riverfront.
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The 1990s: Development becomes the focus

In the 1990s, plans began to focus less on quality of life issues and more directly on economic development of the riverfront. Mayor Herenton came into office saying he wanted to turn the scenic but underdeveloped Memphis riverfront into an "economic engine" for Memphis. In 1994, he outlined an ambitious plan to enhance tourism and commercial use of the riverfront.
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The RDC Plan: Paving Paradise

When the RDC was established, several obstacles to private commercial development of the riverfront were removed, and the RDC plan took form.
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Design: Memphis deserves better

What looks good to one person may not appeal to another. Some people like yellow; others, purple. Those are not points to argue about. But when we plan new buildings that will be standing for years, we owe it to ourselves to follow some basic design concepts and to try to imaginatively create spaces that are authentic and appropriate. The RDC plan fails the test.
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Economics: A Pyramid of new debt

Few Memphians have seen the financial projections for the Memphis Riverfront Master Plan -- they're not good news for a City now battered by fiscal crisis. The project will lose money for at least 20 years, with debt piling up to a peak of over $140 million. We boil the issues down for you.
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Environment: The unanswered questions

The proposal to dam up the harbor with a "land bridge" and to create Wolf Lake is a cause for concern. The dam is simply urban sprawl and raises water quality contamination issues. Water seepage could also damage the buildings already constructed on Mud Island and those planned for the dam.
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Public versus private

When government creates a quasi-public entity and shifts a well-defined function or responsibility area to it, that can be a good thing. It can often lead to greater focus and business-like efficiencies. With proper accountability, that can be a net positive for the public. A common example: Turning farmland over to a public authority to build and operate a city airport.

But quasi-public entities are ripe for abuse, too. They can remove important processes from direct public scrutiny. They put important public policy questions, not just operational decisions, in the hands of people who are neither elected nor reporting to elected officials.
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Let's go to the minutes

RDC officials told Tom Charlier of the Commercial Appeal in October, 2004 that they would try to avoid eminent domain, calling the approach "very convoluted." Judge for yourselves. Here are some relevant portions of the Executive Committee minutes.
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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.
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Let's talk about vision

The RDC Promenade Plan boosters all wore "Get the Vision" name tags at the Council meeting on May 18, 2004. The message, of course, is that they are the visionaries, and the rest of us just don't get it. Take this simple, three-step vision test to see if you "get it."
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What can be done with $7 million

When we began discussing a way to restore the riverfront for as little as $7 million, the RDC became greatly agitated. They attacked the idea as flawed and unaffordable. It will cost $20 million just to move the fire station, they reminded us. "[Any plan] no matter what you put back is very costly -- $50 million." Lendermon wrote.
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Success stories: Parks bring beauty, activity, and investment

Cities around the country are competing to attract people, businesses, and money. To win – they’re polishing their image and rejuvenating their downtown. If they’ve got a waterfront, they’re finding it a good place to start. The spectacular successes seem to be the cities that have figured out who they are and what their citizens want. Memphis can join the list.
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Information for the press and media

This page provides information for the press and other media.
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