"RDC mulls operating Beale Street Landing eatery, since no one else will do it."

Several dates in the past couple of years have been given for the grand-opening of the $43M Beale Street Landing. Now the Commercial Appeal has learned that there are several major reasons no restauranteur wants to take on the project, among them the fact that no gas line was run to the building.

The RDC, which is asking the City for a new 5-year contract and more money to manage the riverfront, is considering putting in a kitchen and running a restaurant itself.

Click HERE for the "Commercial Appeal article.

Amanda Burden has Helped Create Some of the Best Public Spaces in America - How & Why?

Amanda Burden's impact on New York City has been simply astounding, in no small measure thanks to her attention to detail and firm commitment to the principal that public spaces - from tiny pocket parks to long waterfront promenades - are at the core of making cities come alive!

During Ms. Burden's 12 years as New York City Planning Commissioner, she helped plan for the City's growth by 1-million people and the revitalization of the High Line and Brooklyn waterfront. She is currently a Principal in the global consultancy, Bloomberg Associates.

TN Brewery Untapped

Back in February it sounded like the TN Brewery was headed for demolition. Since then the community has not only voiced concern and a desire to rehab the historic, Riverbluff building, but taken action.
Volunteers are cleaning it up, building some temporary seating, hanging lights, and in general sprucing up the building for an experiment.

For 6 weekends, Apr. 24 - June 1, the Brewery will be back in action - open from 11am - 9pm Thurs. & Sat. and 11 am - 11 pm Fri. and Sat. for local brew, acoustic music, movies, and food truck fare.

Organizers are calling it a pre-vitalization. It's the same idea that Project for Public Spaces calls the LQC (lighter, quicker, cheaper) approach - an experiment orchestrated from the ground-up to see what works.

For more information on the organizers, donors, and how it happened, click HERE.

To volunteer on Apr. 12 or 19 to help get the building ready, email breweryuntapped901@gmail.com

You can follow the process and share your input on Facebook at Tennessee Brewery Untapped. 

Budget Blues - City Bails Out RDC with Extra $600,000

At budget time last spring, the Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC) reported a $361,000 operating deficit to the City Council but said they hoped when Beale Street Landing opened they would break even.

By early March this year, that deficit had grown, and the City Council bailed out the RDC with an extra $600,000 to cover "some of the organization’s financial shortfalls." According to the Commercial Appeal, that boosts the city’s payment to the RDC to manage the riverfront for this year to about $2.9 million.

News Channel 3/WREG took a look the Council's seeming inability to say "no". Click to watch "Informed Sources: Budget Blues."

Currently, the RDC is managing the riverfront on behalf of the city on a contract that runs through June 30, George Little, the city’s chief administrative officer, told the Commercial Appeal. “They want a five-year contract and we’ll go into negotiations with them on that,” Little said. Lendermon said the contract actually expires April 30 and that they’re amending it to get to the June 30 date.

Little says that the Wharton Administration's proposed budget will include paying the RDC $3 million to manage the riverfront. The operating budget is for fiscal year 2014-2015 and will go to the City Council in April.

RDC Management Contract with City, 2001

RDC Management Contract - Modification & Extension, 2006

City Budget Plans put RDC back in the News

Most of the headlines dealing with the riverfront in the last couple of years have been about money problems and missed deadlines. Now as the City prepares a budget for next year, it's more of the same.

Saddled with new expenses and a decline in funding sources, officials say the Riverfront Development Corp. faces six-figure budget deficits for years to come…  - Commercial Appeal 

It all started in 2000 when the Herenton Administration split-off the riverfront properties from other parks city-wide. Except for those on the riverfront, parks became a responsibility of a new City Parks department. Those on the riverfront fell under the control of the newly established Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC).

The Mayor quickly signed a 10 year management contract with the RDC. Under it the City agreed to pay the RDC $2.4M each year for 5 years. During the second 5 years of the contract, the City payment was supposed to decrease and reach 0 in 2010.  (Click HERE & zoom for contract.)

But in 2005 the contract was amended, and annual payments to the RDC did not taper out. (Click HERE for extension).

In addition to direct payments from the City, the contract also entitles the RDC to receive all income generated in the parks, including Mud Island River Park and lease and rental fees from Memphis in May, Memphis Yacht Club, and Memphis Riverboats.

On the River

Commercial Appeal journalist Tom Charlier and photographer Brad Vest travelled down River from Tamm's Landing in Lauderdale County to Mud Island to help launch the new online paddler's guide to the lower Mississippi River, "Rivergator."

 Click HERE to read about their cold weather journey and to see Vest's photo journal.

Historic Tax Credits for TN being considered

Think TN Brewery & the beautiful buildings in our historic downtown -- places near and along our Riverfront that make it special and definitely Memphis.
Legislation has been introduced to create state historic preservation tax credits to encourage restoration and reuse of these and other important places across TN. If approved by the State Legislature, TN would become the 36th state to provide tax credits as an incentive to save historic buildings.

To learn more about the legislation - House Bill 1474 & Senate Bill 1723, click HERE.

For names & email address of your legislators, click HERE.

A Tribute to Pete Seeger (1919 - 2014)

We'd like to share The Waterfront Center's Tribute to Pete Seeger with you:
The waterfront community was saddened to learn of the death of legendary folksinger, Pete Seeger -- a great proponent of clean water, maritime and environmental education, and -- waterfronts. Pete was remarkable in so many ways, not the least of which, he actually answered your letters - himself! When we decided we wanted to give an award for citizen efforts, we wrote to see if he would let us name the award in his honor. He modestly replied, "no" but that we could call it the Clearwater Award to recognize the importance of grassroots, volunteer efforts by individuals and organizations to better the urban waterfront environment in their communities and protect natural resources, especially water. Through the Clearwater Award, the Center will continue to honor the work of Pete Seeger and his colleagues.

Below is a list of Clearwater winners 1994-2013 and the trailer from a movie about Pete Seeger's life. For those from Memphis, you'll be proud to see two recipients of the prestigious Clearwater award from your city.
Read more »

"Nashville following Memphis's Example" - TN's largest cities focus on creation of parks and green spaces downtown along their waterfronts

site of former Thermal Transfer Plant, Nashville 
The Commercial Appeal article was a jolt - but it sure felt good for Memphis to be singled out as progressive and pointed to as the state leader. Sometimes in Memphis we forget that we already have an almost connected system of parks and greenways along our waterfront, something other cities are in the process of creating.

For most of their histories, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville turned their riverfronts entirely over to commerce, industry or highways that left the water largely inaccessible to the public. Nashville took its first steps toward altering that in the early 1980s, when it opened Riverfront Park, terraced down to the Cumberland River from the foot of Broadway. Now that 6-acre Riverfront Park on the west bank (downtown side) is being extended to include the former Thermal Transfer Plant, a trash-burning generator of steam and electricity torn down in the 1990s. The site, now surrounded by a chain-link fence, will be transformed into a 3.5-acre amphitheater bowl with seating for 6,500, a large green space, more greenways, and a promenade.

On the east bank, there will be a new 5-acre park between the Cumberland and LP Field that will include green space, pedestrian and bike paths and a new landing for paddlers and boaters. It will connect with the recently finished Cumberland Park play area to the south, which is also the current start of the Cumberland greenway. 

The east and west banks of the Cumberland River are connected by the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge. 

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said the $35 million to $40 million in projects, which includes an amphitheater, “will make the river truly the center of our city and an already thriving downtown even more compelling than it already is."

Read more »

TN Brewery - Can it be Rescued?

Built in 1890 on the edge of the Riverbluff (495 TN Str.) and sadly long vacant, the TN Brewery needs rescuing. Owners who bought the building in 1999 are considering demolition if a purchaser is not found.

Memphis Heritage has started a community conversation about the Brewery's future and set up a Facebook Page to share information and ideas for rehabilitation.

Click HERE to see Walter Arnold's breathtakingly beautiful photographs of the riverbluff landmark.

Click HERE to join the conversation on Facebook and to share your input.

Cleaner Water Ahead for Memphis Riverfront

A long-awaited environmental project is about to make the Mississippi River at Memphis cleaner and safer.  M.C. Stiles Wastewater Treatment Facility, which discharges into the River about 1/4-mile upstream from Mud Island and Greenbelt Park, will disinfect its wastewater discharges.

Photo by Alan Spearman
The Commercial Appeal reported that peracetic acid, a chemical used in the food industry and in treatment plants in Europe, will be used to clean the city's wastewater, that installation is expected to cost $5-7M, and the project to bring the facility into compliance with State regulations should be completed in less than a year. 

Bit of River History to Start 2014

96 years ago on the Mississippi River near Memphis.
George Lee & James Lee in the ice
We've had a couple of bitterly cold days to kick-off 2014, but no River ice like in January of 1918.

Spotted in the River @ Memphis

Seasonal Migration

May your holidays be merry and joyful!

Congratulations & Thank You, Chad Pregracke

When Chad Pregracke was selected CNN 2013 Hero of the Year, it was a win for all who support conservation and stewardship of America's rivers. 
Since 1998, when Pregracke organized Living Lands & Waters, he and volunteers have worked on river cleanups and watershed conservation. Memphis's industrial harbor, McKellar Lake, has been one of the many sites to benefit. Litter tossed from a car in south Memphis often ends up in Nonconnah Creek before it dumps into McKellar Lake and then into the MS River. 

Locally Memphis River Warriors, formed on the University of Memphis campus, is following in Pregracke's footsteps with clean-ups year-round. On Nov. 16, 175 volunteers helped clean-up the Riverside Marina area. Collecting close to 15,000 lbs. of litter in 2 hours, they exceeded their goal of removing 50,000 lbs. of trash from waterways.

River Gator Goes Live!

 River Gator: Paddler’s Guide to the Lower Mississippi River  is now complete, live, and interactive!!

This is the 1st-ever such guide written by and for canoeists, kayakers, and stand-up-paddleboarders.  It includes maps, photos, detailed descriptions, and a reference index to quickly access any landing, town, island, back channel, or point of interest along the way.  The Rivergator is open for public use, free of charge. 

The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail, described by The Rivergatoris the longest free-flowing water trail in the continental United States, over 1155 miles from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico (including the Middle Miss from the Missouri River confluence).  There are thousands of islands, backchannels, side channels and oxbow lakes to explore.  The trail connects cities, states, public lands, festivals and all of the people and businesses found along the Lower Miss.

A huge thank you to John Ruskey, the author who has been paddling, photographing, and documenting the Lower Mississippi River since 1982, and to the Walton Family Fdn., which believes in  "conservationomics" (lasting solutions that make sense for the economy and the environment) and helps support the website.

Link to River Gator

Link to article by Commercial Appeal journalist Tom Charlier and photographer Brad Vest as they travelled down River from Tamm's Landing in Lauderdale County to Mud Island to help launch the new online paddler's guide. (paywall)

Planning a Smarter Future for the Mid-South - You're Invited to Learn More & Join the Conversation

The GreenPrint Plan is about Memphis and our region becoming smarter -- gathering data; mapping; discussing and analyzing challenges; and planning for a sustainable future.
Don't miss this opportunity to learn more about it, ask questions, share your ideas -
The program is free and open to the public. You're invited by Friends for Our Riverfront and Sierra Club - Chickasaw Group. We hope you can come!

For more info. on the Mid-South Regional GreenPrint, click HERE.
Just recently, 19 local sub-projects have received grants to advance the vision of a sustainable region. Click HERE to see a list.

How about this goal for our riverfront?

To knit the unique assets and experiences of the Memphis riverfront into a seamless and welcoming public landscape, planning for environmental conservation, sustainable infrastructure and long-term stewardship.

That's the goal of the Plan that won the 2013 Top Honor Award from the Waterfront Center in Washington, DC  It's the Plan for Ocean Beach, San Francisco, CA

Or what about this plan, another Award Winner?

First make the river more natural, including restoration of streams and improvement of storm water quality. Second, make the riverside more urban, including a balance of river recreation opportunities and maintenance of the working waterfront. Third, make the river more connected to citywide networks via trails, parkways and river boulevards.

That's the goal for the Great River Passage, 17 miles of the Mississippi River running through St. Paul, Minnesota.

In addition to the two plans above, nine projects in 6 categories were selected for awards this year:

Category: Environmental/Public Works - 
Bala de Luanda Waterfront Requalification - Luanda, Angola

Category: Park/Walkway/Recreation - 
Brooklyn Bridge Park - Brooklyn, NY
Curtis Hixon Park - Tampa, FL
Gloucester Harbor Walk, Gloucester, MA
Smother's Park - Owensboro, KY

Category: Artistic/Cultural/Educational -
Ghost Fish 107, Port of Los Angeles - San Pedro, CA

Category: Mixed Use -
Urban Renaissance and Execution of Wuxi Grand Canal Qingming Bridge Conservation Area, Wuxi , Jiangsu Province, China

Category: Elements 
Cobble Garden, Surfer's Point, Managed Shoreline Retreat, Ventura, CA

Category: Clearwater Award -
Esplanade 2020, a Vision for the Future, the Ad-Hoc Esplanade Work Group, Boston, Mass.

Click HERE to see the Award Winners and to learn more about the Waterfront Center.

Smarter Cities - Signs with a new Purpose

There's been a breakdown in enforcing design and sign guidelines in Memphis, from Highland, through  Midtown, down to the riverfront. Classified as the most restrictive zone downtown and the area the public felt should be most natural, the riverfront may be seeing the worst of it.

As Tom Jones of Smart City writes for Oct.'s Memphis Magazine:  "To the south the original architectural design of Beale Street Landing, with its gentle, sloping roof, has been devastated." We have only seen the drawings of Bass Pro's signs that are headed for the Pyramid and Pinch areas, but they seem so large and inappropriate that the only alternative to tears is to laugh along with  Davis Chritopher in his parody of downtown projects for the Flyer.

But signs don't have to destroy places. In an ad campaign for IBM's Smart Ideas for Smarter Cities, Ogilvy created functional outdoor advertising - a bench, a shelter, a stair ramp - with color and curve.


FfOR & Chickasaw Bluff Conservancy Celebrate Merger

The setting on the Bluff at the National Ornamental Metal Museum & the weather were perfect for a picnic on Oct. 13th, when the Board of Friends for Our Riverfront honored the Chickasaw Bluff Conservancy and celebrated the merger of the two non-profit organizations. Both are committed to protecting public access and enjoyment along the River and to preserving the riverfront's rich historic, natural, and aesthetic character.

Chickasaw Bluff Conservancy

To learn more about Memphis's Bluffwalk and the Chickasaw Bluff Conservancy, click HERE.

Anne Whalen Shafer (1923 - 2013)

Anne Whalen Shafer has played a major, substantive role in the life of our city, and Friends for Our Riverfront is particularly appreciative of her advocacy and commitment to ensuring public access to our waterfront and the creation of the Bluffwalk.

A lifelong community activist, Mrs. Shafer served as Chairman of the Memphis City Beautiful Commission 1964 - 1966 and in her own gentle way "rearranged the furniture" and received recognition for integrating City Hall.

Mrs. Shafer was a delegate to the Tennessee Constitutional Convention in 1965, and in 1966 was honored by Lady Bird Johnson as one of 9 Democratic “Women Doer’s” in the United States for her efforts in city beautification. She served on the Panel of American Women, President of the Memphis Chapter of the League of Women Voters, Church Women United and was head of the Memphis Chapter of the United Nations Association.

Obituary in Commercial Appeal, HERE,
2008 Video Interview, HERE
"Memphis Instruments of Peace: How Volunteers and Visionaries Challenged Racism, Reactionary Politicians and the Catholic Hierarchy" by Anne Shafer, HERE
Editorial: Memphis Women carried on MLK's work, HERE.

Nashville "Naturally"

Nashville has a new conservation greenprint plan.  They're calling it the "most progressive open space protection strategy in the Southeast."

It maps every inch of protected open space in Davidson County and charts a community based vision for how to protect and connect the green infrastructure. It includes
  • strategies for Nashville to improve and protect drinking water; increase access to local, sustainable food; make it easier for people to bike, walk and play; protect scenic and historic places from disappearing to development
  • 27 recommendations that range from the simple (put signs on trails so people know they exist) to the ambitious (double the tree canopy downtown over 10 years). It calls for connecting open space in the four corners of Davidson County through a network of protected lands at key points along the Cumberland River, including a greener downtown. 
Like cash-strapped government leaders nationally, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean recognized that urban areas can't afford haphazard conservation any longer.  Actively seeking a more cost-effective conservation strategy, he and the Land Trust for Tennessee asked The Conservation Fund to inventory and evaluate the region’s natural areas, incorporate public input and technical analysis, and develop an implementable, regional vision. New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia are a few of the major cities also shifting their strategies to find cheap green infrastructure solutions like buying waterfront land to soak up water during storms, encouraging green roofs and rain gardens, planting trees and trying to create more access for people to enjoy the outdoors.

“With thousands of acres a day lost to development, we don’t have time for plans that grow dusty on shelves,” Allen says. “We need to make the smart decisions now.”

"Nashville: Naturally" Open Space Plan. Download the 7.2 MB pdf file HERE.

One Day in the Life of Downtown Memphis

We've picked 1 day - Saturday, Sept. 21 - to show you some of the great things you can do downtown this time of year. Start the day off with a cup of organic coffee and a fresh muffin at 7 am and find yourself dancing at midnight, all within a block or so of the River.

Memphis Farmer’s Market, 7am - 1 pm. (S. Front at G.E. Patterson).  Fresh produce, flowers, downtown neighbors, and always something special. On the 21st there's story-time, pet adoptions, and 3 different musicians. Click HERE

Downtown Bicycle Ride. 9 am. (Start: Central Station Pavilion, G. E. Patterson). Take a fun, leisurely ride through Downtown led by Bill Draper. Free. Helmets required. Click HERE for more information. 

Read more »

Green Infrastructure - Advice from ULI for Memphis

"A beautiful city, nobly situated on a commanding bluff overlooking the River." - Mark Twain

If you're interested in conservation, sustainability, livable cities, and Memphis, read this short summary of Ed McMahon's comments from a talk in our city June 12, 2013. McMahon, Senior Resident Fellow at the Urban Land Institute, was in Memphis to advise on the Mid South Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan.

Some key points that effect our riverfront: 

  •  Planning for conservation is as essential as planning for development, in fact, it can alleviate some of the stresses when planning for future development. 
  • Place-making is important. People come back and spend their money in places that attract their affection, and the natural approach can be the cost effective approach. 
  • You can place a value on a scenic view. 
  • Charleston, S.C. Mayor Riley: "We should give the best of the city to everyone." Creating valuable public spaces can improve overall property values and add to your city's sense of place. 
  • Tourism is all about being unique. Memphis needs to keep what makes it unique and that includes its old buildings and conservation areas. 
  • For a city to survive you need a healthy downtown, and you need historic preservation.