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.]

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