Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Architects urge open space on riverfront

Commercial Appeal
By Tom Charlier

Instead of pursuing the "high-density development" envisioned in a current proposal, Memphis leaders should provide for more open civic space in the downtown promenade area, a local architects group says.

The Memphis chapter of the American Institute of Architects adopted a resolution asking the Riverfront Development Corp. (RDC) and City Council to "explore a broader range of alternatives" than the plan recently adopted by RDC.

The RDC proposal, which now is before the City Council, would allow for private development, including high-rise towers, as part of a larger scheme of improvements designed to bring more people to the promenade area.

The council voted Tuesday to hold a May 18 public hearing on the proposed plan for the promenade. About two dozen residents had come to the council meeting, thinking they would be heard on the issue, but were not.

The promenade is a bluff-top stretch of downtown along Front Street encompassing the parking garages, a library, a fire station, the Old Custom House and Post Office and Confederate Park. The acreage was set aside by Memphis's founders.

The AIA Memphis resolution favors what it calls the "founders' vision of a largely unobstructed, open, civic space, including restoration of the bluffs and the preservation of historic buildings."

Chapter president Rebecca Conrad said the group does not want to discourage development of the promenade. But development should be done, she said, in ways that preserve historic buildings, allow for "active urban space" and frame unimpeded views of the Mississippi.

RDC president Benny Lendermon said officials "worked a great deal" with AIA Memphis in the planning process. He attributed the resolution to a small, biased group within the organization.

"It was disappointing and somewhat laughable how they handled it," Lendermon said.
- Tom Charlier: 529-2572

Copyright 2004, - Memphis, TN.

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