Wednesday, May 19, 2004

TV: Revamping the riverfront

Action News 5
By Darrell Phillips

"I've been around a long time and I've heard the adage no public money's going to be required many times and it never seems to happen," says Memphis City Councilmember Jack Sammons.

Sammons is one of three who voted against the massive plan to revamp the riverfront.

Planners say it will pay for itself. "Private money generated to pay for public improvements," says riverfront planner Benny Lendermon. HeƊsays Companies will pay the City to lease the property. Costs are absorbed by the developers and not the taxpayers.

Sammons doesn't buy it.

"I think we need to be straight with our customers," he says. "Customers are the taxpayers. We need to look 'em in the eye and say ultimately this is going to cost you some money."

Others worry how that money might add up.

"The finances don't work," said an opponent Tuesday night.

Councilmember Carol Chumney said, "We hear that no money's going in but yet we're looking at approving eight million dollars in bonds this year for the Riverfront Development Corporation."

Memphis developer Jack Belz weighed in in writing. His letter to the Council warns, "it is misleading to imply that there will be no cost to the community..."

He writes that moving big business to the promenade will hurt businesses in areas already developed.

"We will in fact be sacrificing the area east of Front for a new town west of Front," writes Belz.

The downtown fire station will have to go too. That will cost someone.

"It'll cost 20 million dollars to move that fire station," says Sammons. "That's the headquarters of the Memphis Fire Department. Not something you can just put in a little building somewhere."

And what about infrastructure costs, sewers, drainage, landscaping, lighting?

Benny Lendermon tells me it's all part of the plan. That private development will cover those costs. But he's clear, nothing will happen without lengthy discussions. He also says it is possible that the downtown fire station will be a problem taxpayers might have to pay for.

Copyright 2004, WMC Channel 5 - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.

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