Saturday, May 14, 1994

Herenton sees economic potential of waterfront; Plans are floated to get projects rolling on the river

Commercial Appeal
By Richard Gardner

Mayor W. W. Herenton outlined an ambitious plan Friday to turn the riverfront into an "economic engine" for Memphis, capitalizing on the Mississippi's lure to tourists.

The riverfront could, with proper planning, "become as important to Memphians as the skyline to Chicago, the Arch is to St. Louis and the French Quarter to New Orleans," Herenton said.

The mayor -- at a press conference aboard the visiting Mississippi Queen -- called for the creation of a riverfront development authority to oversee an ambitious range of public and private improvements.

Among improvements the authority would help direct is the proposed renovation of the historic cobblestones.

The project also provides for installation of a retaining wall for a boat basin along the riverfront from Beale Street to Court Avenue. The river would be dredged in that area to accommodate large vessels.

Concrete-filled steel pipes would be driven into the river bottom to anchor dockside facilities, such as floating restaurants and stores.

An estimated 75,000 square feet would be leasable with those improvements.

Delta Queen Steamship Co., whose executives were represented at the press conference, have tentatively committed to increasing their stops in Memphis if the city improves the harbors.

The plan also includes a commitment by the Corps of Engineers to transfer ownership of surplus Dredge Burgess and Motor Vessel Mississippi to the city for use as an interpretative center. The Corps vessels would be linked to the Mississippi River Museum on Mud Island and the new Welcome Center.

The total cost of the Wolf River Harbor improvements -- cobblestones, bank improvements and interpretative center -- is estimated at $19.7 million, with federal funding expected to provide about $15 million.

The authority would oversee an area roughly bounded by the Wolf River diversion channel on the north, DeSoto Park on the south, Front Street and the western city limits.

The plan, which goes to City Council on May 24, also recommends saving the historic Tennessee Brewery and Orgill buildings. The plan estimates the cost of renovating the buildings into museums, stores or business headquarters at $21 million.

Other items on the eclectic wish list include:
-- Giving Confederate Park a facelift that includes putting real Civil War-era cannons in the park.
-- Finishing The Pyramid, including finding a way to light the downtown arena.
-- Turning the Wolf River Harbor into "an urban recreation area'' with boat rentals for crew, sculling, canoeing and kayaking.
-- Finding uses for vacant buildings at the U.S. Marine Hospital complex at DeSoto Park.
-- Lighting the Frisco, Memphis & Arkansas and Harahan bridges to give the riverfront "a symmetrical look.''

Herenton, joined by top development and tourism officials, said the authority will provide the "proper planning and execution'' to develop a now underutilized natural asset.

Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau president Kevin Kane said riverfront development will "pole vault us into the big time."

Council reaction was positive. "It's dynamic," said chairman Florence Leffler. "Everyone who comes to Memphis as a visitor wants to see that river and is awed by the river."

Caption: By Richard Gardner Mayor W. W. Herenton held a press conference aboard the Mississippi Queen Friday to outline a proposal for a riverfront development authority to enhance tourism and commercial use. photo

Copyright 1994 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

Labels: ,

[Read the complete article...]

Friday, May 13, 1994

Herenton set to boost Memphis riverfront

Commercial Appeal
By Roland Klose

Mayor W. W. Herenton will announce plans today for a comprehensive plan to develop the Memphis riverfront, capitalizing on what city officials have called one of the city's greatest but most neglected assets.

The plan includes the formation of a riverfront authority that can issue bonds, lease property and grant tax freezes.

The authority -- called the Memphis Riverfront Redevelopment Corp. -- would be organized under state law as an industrial development board.

Initial funding of about $200,000 for the board would come from the division of Housing and Community Development, according to a summary of the plan.

The goal is to encourage private investment into riverfront development, while providing oversight.

The riverfront plan calls for coordinating projects that already have been approved, including the $3.9 million downtown welcome center dedicated Thursday at a groundbreaking ceremony.

Projects that have been on the drawing board for years will be accelerated under the proposal, including renovation of the historic cobblestones.

The cobblestones are uneven and make walking and driving difficult.

Included in the plan is completion of a recreational trail from Shelby Forest in the north to the Indian mounds at DeSoto Park in the south.

The plan identifies more than $85 million in public improvements, including a $12.2 million extension of the trolley loop along Riverside Drive already included in the city's capital budget.

Also on the list is the $21 million preservation of the vacant Tennessee Brewery at 477 Tennessee in the South Bluffs district and a $26 million completion of amenities in The Pyramid.

A $1 million facelift of Confederate Park also is part of the plan.

The plan also calls for creating attractive "gateway" streets leading from downtown, and connecting the key downtown neighborhoods of The Pinch, Greenlaw and South Main area.

The plan is designed to turn the riverfront into a magnet for attracting tourists, emphasizing Mississippi River history and activity.

The plan calls for a yearlong celebration of the state's bicentennial observance in 1996 that would celebrate Memphis progress.

Development of the riverfront has been one of Herenton's top priorities since taking office in 1992.

Copyright 1994, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

Labels: ,

[Read the complete article...]