In Memory of Ann Breen with gratitude for her commitment to community planning and the Memphis Riverfront

It is with heavy heart that we share an announcement from the Waterfront Center announcing the death of its co-founder and co-director, Ann Breen, on Friday, January 7, 2022, after a brief illness.

Following eight years as the Waterfront Coordinator for the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Coastal Zone Management, Ann had the vision to co-found the Waterfront Center in November, 1981 with Dick Rigby; she served as its co-director for 41 years. Through the Center, she traveled the world providing community consulting; in 1981, organized an industry-leading annual conference; and ran an annual juried awards program to recognize outstanding plans and projects. 

In 1999, the City of Memphis hired The Waterfront Center to lead participatory community planning workshops on the riverfront; thus began Ann's and the Center's commitment to our riverfront. In 2000 they honored the Chickasaw Bluff Conservancy for preserving public access along the Blufftop and the resultant Bluffwalk. In 2009 the Center honored Friends for Our Riverfront for leadership in protecting and promoting an environmentally sustainable, historically sensitive, public riverfront; and in 2017, the Center awarded the year's top honor award to Big River Crossing, which transformed the Harahan Bridge to include a pedestrian crossing from TN to AR and future parks and trails along the river.  Link to Waterfront Center searchable database of projects.
Born in Philadelphia to John and Mary Mallon Breen, Ann graduated from Sacred Heart Academy of Bryn Mawr, and went on to earn her undergraduate degree at Trinity College and Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from George Washington University, both in Washington, D.C. She also attended London School of Economics while in England. She co-authored three books with Dick Rigby: WATERFRONTS: Cities Reclaim Their Edge (McGraw-Hill, 1994); The New Waterfront (Thames and Hudson, 1996); and Intown Living: A Different American Dream (Praeger Publishers, 2004). In 2018, the American Society of Landscape Architects named Ann as an Honorary Member, their highest honor for non-landscape architects. 

Ann held an equal passion for celebrating life with good friends and good food. Her love of Cape May began with childhood family vacations, and for the last three decades, she spent summers and many New Year’s celebrations there. She remained a loyal friend to many from all parts of her life and was well-known for the parties she hosted. She was quick with a good story, a smile, and a laugh. Ann expressed her deep affinity for art and art history through collecting art, supporting artists, and creating her own photography of cities around the world. 

Most important to her was her family. Ann is dearly missed and forever loved by her family, which includes her partner of 43 years, Dick Rigby; children John Cowey; Sara Cowey (and Bruce Solomon); David Cowey (and Jody Handley); Catherine Cowey (and Andy Springer); four grandchildren; stepchildren Chris Rigby; Nan Rigby (and Lou McBryan); and Betsy Rigby (and Andy Meyer); six step-grandchildren; her cousins; and many dear friends across the country. Ann’s celebration of life is being planned for the spring. 

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Inc.,, or Southern Poverty Law Center, Send remembrances to: The Waterfront Center, PO Box 53351, Washington, DC 20009 e-mail: See a tribute to Ann Breen HERE The Waterfront Center | PO Box 53351, Washington, DC 20009