Saturday, March 27, 2004

CCC gets look at group's riverfront plan; Opposition, legal issues remain to be resolved for RDC

The Commercial Appeal
By Linda A. Moore

Center City Commission board members saw and heard a private presentation Friday of plans for redeveloping the Memphis riverfront, a series of projects likely to involve the CCC at some point.

"Overall, the board's position is to look at ways we can beautify and make downtown a more inviting place," said Virginia Wilson, a CCC board member and risk management analyst in the law division of the City of Memphis.

Riverfront Development Corp. president Benny Lendermon and communications director Dorchelle Spence gave a history of the riverfront master plan and projections for the project.

The nonprofit RDC paid $750,000 for the master plan, which was completed in January 2002 after 18 months of study, public meetings and consultants' analysis. The plan envisions multiple projects along the riverfront that would cost more than $292 million in public and private funds and spur $1.3 billion in private real estate investment downtown.

The projects include a $20 million park-like landing at the foot of Beale Street and other beautification projects. But a key component of the plan has recently attracted opposition.

That part of the plan would allow private development of riverfront land owned by the city and donated by the founding fathers in 1828 for use as a public "promenade." That land now contains the remnants of the old Cossitt Library, a fire station, the old Customs House and post office and Confederate Park.

The heirs of the founders who donated the promenade land hold title to it and are divided on the proposal.

The development cannot move forward until the legal issues are settled, Lendermon told the CCC board. Once those are resolved, it would take two years for any work to begin, he said.
If the city gains full title to the property and the project proceeds, it would retain ownership the land through ground leases and would require that the bottom floors of all development be for public uses.

Although the Memphis City Council ultimately will decide the fate of the projects contained in the master plan, CCC board members appreciated the presentation of issues that will involve them as well.

In other action Friday, the CCC board:

  • Approved Omega General Contractors for $613,000 in renovations at the Court Square gazebo. The Downtown Rotary Club has given the CCC a $160,000 toward gazebo renovations.
  • Voted to hire Cushman & Wakefield for a $55,000, nine-week downtown market study to look at the residential, office and employment, retail and tourism aspects to determine what the community needs.

The last such study was conducted five years ago. The information will be used to provide more information to developers, retailers and real estate professionals interested in downtown.

Copyright 2004, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN.

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