Sunday, April 01, 2007

Ideas for riverfront flow at workshop

Proposals include fountains, cafes, concessions, play area

The Commercial Appeal [link]
April 1, 2007
By Pamela Perkins

For anyone walking along the Mississippi River bluff in the stifling Memphis summer heat, just looking at a large body of water is not enough.

It would be nice to have public water fountains at parks that overlook the Mississippi River -- among other user-friendly touches at areas along Front Street and Riverside Drive, such as garbage cans, more cafes, food and beverage vendors and bicycle racks.

Those were the prevailing ideas at a "Placemaking" workshop led by New York-based Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit agency that helps make public areas more attractive. Its projects include Rockefeller Center in New York and Chapel Street in New Haven, Conn.

"They say, 'This is your space. How would you use it?'" said Virginia McLean, board president of the nonprofit Friends for Our Riverfront, which organized the workshop along with Rhodes College, the University of Memphis Mid-South Planning and Zoning Institute and Memphis Heritage.

The workshop's 135 participants included Downtown residents, planning students from the U of M and Rhodes, and Center City Commission officials. They divided into groups, and toured sites along the river, interviewing visitors.

Upon returning, they presented their findings, many of which included more landscaping, lighting and signs that explain the historic nature of sites such as the Cossitt Library, Confederate Park and Court Square.

The rusty fountain at Court Square should be working, one group suggested.

Cafes, concessions and more public events would do well at Confederate Park and Jefferson Davis Park, which also needs a play area for children, better seating and water fountains, they suggested.

Also, the cobblestone area on Riverside near Madison could be given a name as well as seating and signs.

"We're going to try to put it all together and get a report done," McLean said. The group eventually may present the report to city officials.

The Friends group has been wary of the city-owned Riverfront Development Corp's. plans, which it believes diminishes Downtown's character.

Dianne Dixon, a founding member of the RDC board who also attended the workshop, said what she heard at the workshop jibes with the Riverfront group's plans.

After the $27 million Beale Street Landing project is completed, the RDC wants to restore the cobblestone area in a "preservation manner," she said.

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