Tuesday, April 27, 2010

$2 million promised to revive work on Beale Street Landing

The Commercial Appeal [Link]
By Amos Maki, April 27, 2010

The Riverfront Development Corp. has raised $1 million from private sources and the city’s Division of Housing and Community Development will provide another $1 million to continue construction on the troubled Beale Street Landing project.

The $2 million will allow the city to finish the docking facility and the building housing a restaurant and retail space. The RDC would likely still need another $7 million to finish the project as planned.

“Thank you for finding those dollars and I hope you continue to keep looking,” said councilwoman Barbara Swearengen Ware.

The RDC is facing a projected $8.9 million deficit to cover cost overruns and funding shortfalls for the project at the foot of Beale Street, between Tom Lee Park and the historic cobblestones.

The landing's design - the product of an international competition - includes an elaborate docking facility accommodating large excursion boats, a structure containing a restaurant and retail area built into the landscape, and terraced pods on which visitors can descend to the river.

But construction costs have ballooned from early estimates of $27.4 million to more than $35 million. The RDC, the nonprofit corporation overseeing the city's efforts to enhance the riverfront, attributes the overruns mainly to delays caused by historic-preservation issues and city budget problems, as well as declining federal funding and skyrocketing contracting costs along the river in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Construction on the landing, which was supposed to be a cornerstone of the city's efforts to redevelop its Mississippi River waterfront, began in July 2008 - two years behind schedule - and was to be completed next year.

Mayor A C Wharton told council members in an e-mail that he is committed to completing the project, which he said complements Bass Pro Shops’ plan to transform The Pyramid and efforts to revive the Pinch District.

“The southern area of the new riverfront is Beale Street Landing, and if it is to achieve its full potential, it must be completed as designed,” said Wharton in a letter delivered Tuesday. “It is clear to me that Beale Street Landing will have an iconic status similar to The Pyramid, but what remains for us is to decide if the icon is positive or negative.”

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