Wednesday, April 05, 2000

New Agency to Take Bids for Riverside Walkway, Plaza

Commercial Appeal
by Deborah M. Clubb

The Riverfront Development Corp. will take bids in two weeks for a long-delayed cobblestone walkway and plaza on Riverside Drive.

The new nonprofit organization will contract with the city to spend $4.1 million that the City Council appropriated for the project more than three years ago.

The goal is to begin construction at the end of the Memphis in May International Festival and be done before the 2001 festival starts, said RDC president Benny Lendermon.

The city's Riverfront Steering Committee, appointed by Mayor Willie Herenton, officially became the RDC Tuesday when its members became the RDC board of directors and approved its bylaws.

"This marks the beginning, hopefully, of a wonderful time with the river," said RDC incorporator and chairman John Stokes.

RDC leaders are pushing to make the cobblestone walkway their first success as they take charge of management and development of Memphis's 5-mile waterfront.

A minority contractors' lawsuit stopped the original cobblestones project after its designs were approved in early 1997.

The Pickering Firm designed the 10-foot-wide walkway to wind from Jefferson Davis Park and the Tennessee Welcome Center to Tom Lee Park on the western edge of Riverside Drive.

Ritchie Smith Associates designed the $400,000 Ron Terry Plaza funded by First Tennessee Bank to overlook the river on the cobblestones near the foot of Union. Terry was the bank's longtime chairman.

Lendermon said the new bid should be free of the lawsuit's concerns that arose when the city rejected the low bidder.

On Tuesday, Stokes named steering committee members to the RDC board and introduced voting ex officio members: Pete Aviotti Jr. to represent Herenton, Councilman John Vergos to represent the City Council chairman, and chief administrative officer Rick Masson.

Aviott, a Herenton adviser, also chairs the mayor's light rail planning committee and the Super Terminal-Memphis Steering Committee.

Other RDC members are Redbirds co-founder Kristi Jernigan, vice chairman; Plough Foundation executive director Rick Haynes, treasurer; former University of Tennessee, Memphis, chancellor James C. Hunt, secretary; architect Diane Dixon, hotel operator Mabra Holeyfield and TVA official Bill Taylor.Center City Commission president Jeff Sanford and Public Works deputy director Cindy Buchanan were named nonvoting ex officio members.

Fred Davis, a member of the Memphis Park Commission who had been a steering committee member, has said he will join the RDC board only if the park commission survives current City Council actions to eliminate it, Lendermon said.

An RDC nominating committee will seek three to five additional members "with a real love for the river" from the private sector, Stokes said. New members would fill gaps on the board with expertise in areas such as law, marketing and individual philanthropy, said Jernigan.

The RDC will issue requests for proposals for a riverfront master plan on April 14. A firm will be selected on May 24.

Lendermon said he was encouraged by the interest shown by major firms in a recent request for qualifications that was distributed internationally. Some have worked on major waterfront redevelopment projects.

"But the key is to get the person who is best for Memphis. Memphis is different. Memphis is unique," said Lendermon, who retired as city Public Works director to head the new nonprofit RDC.

Copyright 2000 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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