Sunday, December 09, 2007

Work finally set to start on Beale Street Landing

Waterfront plans revised after historic group had objections
Commercial Appeal [link]
By Tom Charlier

Satisfied that modest design changes will protect the Downtown cobblestones area, Tennessee historic-preservation officials have cleared the way for construction to begin on the Beale Street Landing project.

The Tennessee Historical Commission dropped its objections to the $29million riverboat dock and waterfront amenity after the city's Riverfront Development Corp. agreed to change color schemes and relocate and downsize one feature of the landing.

With the revisions, the project will not "adversely affect" the cobblestones area, which is part of the city's historic landing on the Mississippi River and within the Cotton Row Historic District, commission executive director Patrick McIntyre said in a letter last week.

The commission's consent was needed because federal grant money will help fund the project.

The decision removes the last barrier to construction, which will begin "real, real, real soon," said RDC president Benny Lendermon. Completion is expected in 2010.

"We're really pleased to get this resolved as quickly as we did," Lendermon added.

The landing, situated at the foot of Beale between Tom Lee Park and the cobblestones, will feature an elaborate docking facility serving excursion and cruise boats and other vessels no matter how high or low the Mississippi might be. It also will include terraced pods designed to help bring people closer to the river.

Critics, however, have described the project as an extravagant boondoggle.

The RDC, a nonprofit group overseeing improvement projects along the city's frontage on the Mississippi, had been planning to begin work more than two months ago when the historical commission ruled that the original design would have adverse effects.

State officials said the vertical profile of the landing was out of character with the downward-sloping cobblestones.

Although the commission outlined six conditions for dropping its objections, the key changes clearing the way for the project included:

Making the color of the dock and ramp structures "earthen rust" rather than the originally planned red.

Moving the "island," or pod, closest to the cobblestones to the east, closer to Riverside Drive, and reducing its size by 15 percent. As a result, it won't stick out as much over the cobblestones.

A prominent critic of the landing said the revised design represents an improvement.

"It kind of calms it down, makes it less intrusive," said Virginia McLean, president of the group Friends for Our Riverfront.

She's not sold on the landing yet, though.

"It's going to cost a lot of money," McLean said.

[More on the decision here.]

Thursday, December 06, 2007

BSL Design Revisions - TDOT/SHPO Approvals

On December 5/6, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) approved, and the State Historic Preservation Office conditionally approved, a set of proposed design changes for Beale Street Landing.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Editorial: New day, new way for mayor?

Commercial Appeal [link]
Sunday, December 2, 2007

MEMPHIS MAYOR WILLIE HERENTON sounded like a man with a renewed sense of purpose.

After meeting with most of the members of next year's City Council at The Rendezvous last week, Herenton said he plans to revive discussions about some issues that have long been on his to-do list.

"I'm going to be revisiting some of the dramatic and bold statements I've made in the past," Herenton told reporters after his get-acquainted session with the new council. "They fell on deaf ears before."

The golden oldies Herenton plans to put on his play list again include riverfront development, fairgrounds redevelopment, football stadium construction or renovation and that classic stand-by, consolidated government.

It was classy (and politically savvy) for Herenton to meet with the incoming council members.

There will be nine newcomers next year, eight of whom attended last week's session. Obviously, it was smart for Herenton to try to get off on the right foot with people he'll be working closely with over the next four years.

But if he's serious about bringing some of those sticky-wicket issues up for discussion again, meeting with council members was the easy part.

They probably share many, if not all, of his goals.

The real challenge is selling some of those ideas outside the sympathetic confines of City Hall.

The mayor wants riverfront development? He'll need to engage with groups like Friends for Our Riverfront, the Overton family heirs who own the so-called "Promenade" property and others who are intensely interested in what happens along the city's waterfront.

He wants to redevelop the fairgrounds? It would help to get the support of the various neighborhood groups surrounding the property.

A new or renovated stadium? Might be a good idea to work something out with University of Memphis officials and those boosters who are aggressively lobbying for an on-campus stadium instead of one at the Liberty Bowl site.

Government consolidation? That might require going into the lion's den to deal with suburban mayors who have long opposed that idea.

And, if Herenton wants the results to be any different this time around, he must do more than briefly share space in the same room with people who disagree with him.

For example, it wouldn't change much if Herenton were to show up at a meeting with those suburban mayors, tell them why he's right about consolidation, then head off to his next gig.

He needs to actually sit down and exchange ideas, to listen to other people's points of view and then try to persuade them. In a word, it'll require diplomacy.

A similar strategy is needed for virtually all of the other big-ticket items on that list.

After 16 years as mayor, Herenton has had plenty of time to accomplish the things he could do without anyone else's help. The goals he hasn't been able to achieve yet are the ones that require cooperation from other stakeholders -- in some cases, many stakeholders.

To build the kind of legacy Herenton has indicated that he wants, he'll need to reach out to people in ways he has never done before. Doing that might not come naturally or easily for the long-serving mayor, but it's probably the only way he'll be able to make real breakthroughs.

As the well-worn saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If Herenton wants to finish his mayoral career on a high note, he would do well to take that to heart.

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