Beale $treet Landing back in the budget

The City Council is convinced that what Memphis needs is more glitz, this time in the form of a new commercial boat dock. On a motion by Councilmember Ricky Peete, $29.4-million is back in the City budget to build Beale Street Landing.

At the CIP wrap-up session on May 24th, few facts were discussed, but the Council was back in lock-step with the Administration to see that this project goes forward. As Peete, the Council’s former representative on the RDC Board, said, “We have to have some vision if we are going to be on a par with Atlanta.”

Councilmember Joe Brown seconded Peete’s motion.

There were two opposing voices: Councilmembers E. C. Jones, Chairman of the CIP Budget Committee, and Carol Chumney.

“I love the riverfront, but my constituents can’t get sewers,” Jones said. “Not one person from my district has called and asked for a new commercial boat dock.... Part of District 1 had to wait twelve years to get one street fixed. The Police Department needs a new helicopter, but we can’t find the money.”

It’s a “$29-million boondoggle, a glitzy project that’s not going to work out,” Chumney warned. “This is the type of choice that has gotten Memphis in the situation we’re in. We don’t have the riverfront we need because we haven’t taken what we have and made it work.” She suggested that a better approach to the riverfront would include figuring out what to do with the Pyramid and re-opening restaurants and shops on an under-utilized Mud Island.

Councilmember Scott McCormick shot back that “Mud Island is not under-utilized.” McCormick is the Council’s new representative on the RDC board.

It’s “current New World architecture,” said Councilmember Tom Marshall to support the design that had been criticized in committee.

Councilmember Dedrick Brittenum also supported the project, but pointed out that we need to balance infrastructure needs with new projects and that for the same amount of money we could get the new 911 Call Center we so desperately need. The Call Center is not in the budget.

The vote was not by roll-call, so it’s unclear where Councilmember Madeleine Cooper Taylor, who opposed the boat dock in committee, stood. But it was clear that Councilmember Barbara Swearengen Ware is for it and for the rest of the new riverfront development, too.

Councilmembers Sammons, Lowery, Taylor, and Ford were absent.

There will be three readings of the budget and a final full Council vote on June 5, but, as things stand now, we’re headed for another expensive project. It all seems so deja-vu. In the ‘80s we believed that a public-private plan for a Pyramid and tourist development of Mud Island were going to create the “Ninth Wonder of the World.” Click here to refresh your memory.

The questions remain: Do we need it? Can we afford it? Will it work? If you’d like to let the Councilmembers know where you stand, you may e-mail them at this Web page.