Tuesday, February 16, 1999

Meeting Aims to Plot Future of Riverfront

Commercial Appeal
by Deborah M. Clubb

Exploring the next step in riverfront redevelopment tops the agenda today during a public workshop hosted by Mayor Willie Herenton.

Powered by a $10,000 grant from the Plough Foundation, the workshop is from 8 a.m. to noon in the Mark Twain Auditorium of the Marriott Hotel, 250 N. Main.

Dick Rigby of the Waterfront Center in Washington will join city engineer John Conroy in a presentation about the importance of urban waterfronts and the future direction for redevelopment of the Memphis riverfront.

The Waterfront Center is a nonprofit corporation that helps communities enhance urban waterfronts.

The outcome of the workshop will determine the city's next step in riverfront redevelopment, said city Public Works director Benny Lendermon said.

Federal officials did not fund Herenton's request for a $43 million redesign of the harbor. That design would shape a lake at the cobblestones with a new northern opening for harbor traffic and a "land bridge" from Beale Street onto Mud Island.

"Almost a year ago, Mayor Herenton told the city council and the public that if there wasn't forthcoming monies to move the navigational channel from in front of the cobblestones area, to allow us to spring into a larger, grander project, he would go back to the public and eventually the council to get input on what should be done with the Memphis riverfront," Lendermon said.

That's what today's workshop will do, Lendermon said, and with fresh leadership from the Waterfront Center.

"We're not even going in assuming something needs to be done on the riverfront," Lendermon said. "We want to have a frank and open discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of our riverfront and where we need to go from here, what would people like to see change."

Rick Masson, city chief administrative officer, noted that Knoxville, a city much smaller than Memphis, spent $47 million on its waterfront. "We need to find out what kind of interest there is in our riverfront."

Lendermon said he is "flabbergasted" by the "diversity and caliber" of people who pre-registered for the workshop. The roster includes business leaders, advocacy groups, agencies and citizen groups. The meeting is open to the public as well.

Copyright (c) 1999 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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