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Jeff Speck to Share Recommendations for Memphis Riverfront

"The City Livable: Modest Suggestions for Making Memphis Great" -- That was the fascinating, funny, thought provoking talk that author/consultant/new urbanism advocate/planner Jeff Speck gave in 2008 as guest of the Memphis Regional Design Center.

He will be back in Memphis, and you won't want to miss it. At the request of Mayor Wharton, Speck has analyzed past plans and will share his thoughts and recommendations for the Memphis riverfront.

March 18 (Mon.),  5:30 pm
Memphis Cook Convention Center, Rm. 205
Free. Public Invited.
Thanks to Gates of Memphis blog, here is

Is Memphis Landing 'cobblestoned' or 'setted'?

The Memphis Landing is paved with real rocks, but are they cobblestones? The answer requires a little historical and etymological digging.

'Cobblestone' comes from the old English word 'cob', which means a large rounded lump. In the 15th c. the diminutive suffix 'le' was added to give us 'cobble', a small stone rounded by the flow of water. It was these smooth 'cobbles', gathered from stream beds, that were used to pave the first 'cobblestone' streets. Paving with cobbles helped prevent ruts, mud in wet weather, and dust in dry weather - the same benefits that came to Memphis from paving our Landing.

By the 19th century, granite was being quarried and used for paving. The quarried rocks were called 'cobblestones', but the real term for them is 'setts'. Unlike stream rounded cobbles, setts are more even, roughly rectangular in shape, and laid in regular patterns.

It seems that Memphis Cobblestone Landing might more properly be called Memphis Sett Landing. The rocks that pave it were quarried at seven sites, shipped to Memphis, and laid as a public works project in two phases: 1859 - 1869 and 1879 - 1881.

But whatever the correct term for the paving, the Memphis Landing holds a significant place in American history. For more information, click HERE and HERE for starters.

Trash & Money Problems Surface

@ Beale Street Landing - Trash Problem. Pre-2008, part of this area was a small wetland and much of the debris washed in by the River was hidden from view. Today trash is still brought in by an eddy and part of it trapped between Beale Street Landing's floating dock and sheet pile wall. Unfortunately maintenance and operation costs were not calculated as part of the now $42M project, most of which has been a City expense.

@ Cobblestone Landing - More Money Needed.  RDC says that TDOT regulations and federal cutbacks have put the project in jeopardy unless the City can come up with an extra $1.1 to $1.2M.  Gone is the $7M appropriated by State of TN for restoration of the Cobblestone Landing in 1996, spent in 2002 on the sidewalk at the top of the Landing along Riverside Drive and in 2009 on Beale Street Landing (phase 2).

Pyramid --

* Building Changes Approved; Work Out for Bid

* Signs Head Back to Drawing Board

It's a bit confusing, because there were two applications by Bass Pro before the Downtown Memphis Commission Design Review Board (DRB)  -- One for changes to the outside of the Pyramid building itself and a second application for signs.

The outcome:
  1. Exterior building changes (excluding the flag at the Pyramid's pinnacle) approved. Bass Pro putting the work out for bid.
  2. Sign application to be modified based on comments and concerns and resubmitted, along with information about flag, for review Mon. Mar. 18 at 9 am.
Putting a big box store into an urban setting is not easy, and this is a first for Bass Pro and for downtown Memphis. At the DRB meeting, everyone seemed to want to collaborate to support the financial success of Bass Pro and the urban quality and livability of adjoining sections of downtown.

Before the meeting, Bass Pro had made some changes to address concerns:

* A modified map with 30 proposed signs was shown. The 6-story, digital screened, pylon sign, proposed for Riverside Drive at Jefferson, had been eliminated. (image at left, click to enlarge)

* The log cabin-style main entrance had fewer logs and more glass, an effort to fit better with the sleek Pyramid. (image at left, click to enlarge)

Concerns that the Pyramid will not have an east entrance door to Front Street and the Pinch District had been voiced, but Bass Pro said that the store's interior layout did not permit an entrance on that side of the building. That decision could strike a long-term blow against refurbishing the Pinch District as a pedestrian commercial area with connections to St. Jude Hospital.

The revised Sign Map indicated 30 locations for signs. Many of the comments centered on the Pyramid building itself and the proposed fish logo signs.

Comments were thoughtful and thought provoking. Click
Channel 3,  Channel 13,  Commercial Appeal,  Daily News.

Bass Pro has headed back to the drawing board. A new sign application will be submitted to Design Review Board for consideration at their Mar. 18 meeting.
Update (3/13):  Mar. 18 DRB meeting postponed to allow Bass Pro to fully consider comments and consider design options.

FfOR Urges DRB to Work with Bass Pro on More Appropriate Signs for Downtown Memphis

click to enlarge


How BIG are the Bass Pro signs?

They're BIG, and they're not just going on the Pyramid. Here's a map.
(click to enlarge)

Each logo sign  is 66' x 90'. That's 4,169 square feet each; larger than most houses, and they are lighted. There are 4 of them, one on each side of the Pyramid.

Each pylon sign is 64' tall (excluding the flags on top). About the height of a 6-story building, they're 2 -1/2 times as big as the statue of Ramasses and taller than the head of President Washington at Mount Rushmore. There are 2 of them, and the screens are digital.

The entry signs are 23' high and more than 41' wide. There are 2 of these.

To see all the signs in the submitted sign application, click HERE.

Design Review Board meets Wed. at 4 pm at 114 N. Main.
OR email Brett Roler <>