Downtown Review Board Avoids Beale Street Landing "colorful topper"

On July 11, the Design Review Board (DRB) steered clear of reviewing the colors for Beale Street Landing's elevator shaft and instead considered only the back-lit letters and logo that will be attached to it. There was some discussion, but basically they passed the buck and told citizens to take their concerns to the Mayor, elected representatives, and the courts.

The applicant, the Riverfront Development Corporation, told the DRB staff that the colorful panels had been approved by the DRB on March 5, 2008, and that, based on the approval, RDC had bought the panels.

DRB searched their records. They found no mention in the minutes of the March 2008 meeting that the elevator shaft would be any color but gray, and the illustrations submitted with the application showed a gray elevator shaft.

RDC illustrations submitted to DRB.
On left, March 2008. On right, July 2012.

Downtown Memphis Commission president, Paul Morris told DRB members, "I think a case could be made that we (DRB) didn't, maybe we didn't, review that part of it, and a case could be made that we didn't reach that level of detail or whatever," but Morris urged the Board not to go beyond looking at the letters and logo. "...the City made the decision to have RDC design and implement the riverfront development plan, and they didn't choose us to do that."

DRB members talked about Beale Street Landing's colors, but, in the end, they side-stepped the issue and passed the buck. As they said, if there is to be any review or opportunity for citizen input about the multi-colored elevator shaft, it will have to come as a result of appeals to the Mayor, elected representatives, or the courts.

Click HERE to email the Mayor. Or cut and paste his email address,

Click HERE to download audio of the meeting. (1 hour and 5 minutes playing time; 87.9MB)


Beale Street Landing's Topper Needs to Play by the Rules

The elevator shaft/sign on Beale Street Landing didn't look big. In fact it didn't really even show up. It was just a small gray box on top of a grass-roofed glass and concrete building.

RDC Beale Street Landing, 2012 project illustration

The building was large, but it looked like it was going to blend in with the River and the views. That was this spring, when the project was under review again because some pods and walkways were being eliminated. Groups and people met with the RDC to consider the changes. As always, the illustrations of the building showed the elevator shaft as gray, and everyone agreed that the landscaping changes would make the project less intrusive, more natural, and minimize its adverse effect on the adjacent Cobblestone Landing.

That was before the elevator shaft turned out to be about the size of an interstate exit sign, and plans for it to be bright and multi-colored surfaced.

At the Memphis Downtown Commission Design Review Board (DRB) meeting on May 2, 2012, while the amended design and a sign application were being considered, "colors" on the shaft were first mentioned. Only a black and white diagram (below) and the project overall illustration that showed a gray shaft were on hand, and there were no sample materials. Review was postponed.
Later in May, the first color illustrations of the shaft surfaced. And there wasn't just one illustration; there were two. They showed different colors and were sent by the RDC on the same day to two different review bodies: one to the DRB and a different one to the TN Department of Transportation.
Now both bodies have the same color illustration to review. It's the one on the left that looks like a night-view with back lit letters and logo. The DRB meeting is at the Memphis Downtown Commission (114 North Main Street), Wednesday (July 11) at 5 pm. The staff has taken the position that the colored shaft was approved by the DRB in 2008, but a review of the meeting minutes and illustrations presented in 2008, shows that the colors were never presented for review.

Meanwhile, even though the topper hasn't been approved, workers are busy down at Beale Street Landing putting up the substrata framework for the colored panels.
DRB meetings are open to the public. Or if you'd like to send your comments, you may mail them to Paul Morris and ask that they be presented to and considered by DRB board members.


Restoration Project Will Fix Drainage

The Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC) has committed to correct any drainage problems that may be damaging the Cobblestone Landing.

The work will be part of the $6M federally
funded Cobblestone Landing Restoration Project that the RDC will be overseeing for the City. They told the Memphis Downtown Commission Design Review Board, TN Department of Transportation, and TN State Historic Preservation Officer that the situation will be assessed, and, if storm water run-off problems are found, they will be corrected.

The photos illustrate potential problem areas.

For more information about Cobblestone Landing Restoration Project, click HERE.


A "part-time" $42M boat dock - Beale Street Landing Dry Docked

Sheet pile wall & hydraulic arm normally connects dock.  
Photo by Mike Brown for Commercial Appeal.
Beale Street Landing has another problem. It doesn't work at low-water. Underneath where the floating dock is supposed to sit, needs to be dredged deeper.

Today's Commercial Appeal reports dredging will be done next week and take a week or two. 

Who's paying? 

  • The Corps of Engineers said it's not in their scope of work. John Branston reported for the Flyer
  •  RDC President Benny Lendermon said, "It was included in the project from the very beginning" and won't cost the City "a penny" more.  Tom Charlier reported for the Commercial Appeal.  

How much will it cost?

Don't know, but it makes you wonder if it wouldn't have been cheaper to dredge before they attached the dock to the helical ramp. That way maybe they could've avoided the expense of unhitching the dock and moving it over to the Cobblestone Landing.

In hindsight, it also might have been a good idea to pay more attention to that part of the RDC Riverfront Master Plan where it talks about the constant slope of the Cobblestone Landing and calls it "the perfect form for boat landings given the river's rising and falling tendency."

Ole Man River Brings Low-Water Blues


There's no harnessing Ole Man River - floods last year and a drought this summer . Two weeks ago the American Queen was forced to tie up to a tree on Mud Island. Yesterday the new Beale Street Landing floating dock had to be disassembled and moved to the Cobblestone Landing. 

But just as you start to feel sorry for the RDC, something like the multi-colored topper pops up.