Monday, March 4, 2013

Flotsam and Jetsam at Beale Street Landing

Posted By on Mon, Mar 4, 2013 at 9:29 AM

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  • Memphis Flyer photo
If you only get one chance to make a first impression then $42.5 million Beale Street Landing could be in a tough spot this Saturday when the American Queen steamboat with 430 passengers visits Memphis and 430 more board for the return trip to New Orleans.

They might need to be issued mud boots and blinders. The project, which the Riverfront Development Corporation says on its web site ("The Truth About Beale Street Landing") was supposed to be finished in the summer of 2011, is far from finished today.

The gift shop and main building opened last Friday, and the steamboat is scheduled to make its first visit of the 2013 season in five more days. Barring a massive cleanup operation, passengers will step on to the new floating dock and see several months accumulation of trash trapped in the backwater around the dock and cylindrical ramp.

Jimmy Ogle, newly appointed general manager for Beale Street Landing, was at the park Sunday and Monday when I visited it and said he hopes at least some of the trash can be removed before the boat lands. His first thought was using john boats, but "we can't get them in there" so he hopes that long rakes might work instead. The big logs that washed up on the banks will remain there for a while, said Ogle and Benny Lendermon, director of the Riverfront Development Corporation, who was also at the site Monday morning. Lendermon said the new completion date is November or December of this year, with a grand opening next spring.

An eddy in the river at the southern tip of Mud Island forces water and debris back toward the dock and ramp. Lendermon said the long-range solution is a screen or boom to block debris from reaching the landing. The river is expected to rise two feet by Saturday.

I have no urge to bash Beale Street Landing. Its cost overruns, construction delays, and unusual design choices such as the "pixilated sunset" colors on the roof are a well-reported matter of record. I work near the landing and hope it works, but the RDC seems to have bitten off more than it can chew. Appointing Ogle was a good move. He is as pleasant and diligent an ambassador as any city could have.

I was walking the riverfront Sunday afternoon with developer Henry Turley. We entered the building, which was open for business and selling souvenirs from the Memphis Queen, which was taking passengers out for a cruise. We saw what any visitor will see. Signs that say "Please Excuse Our Mess While We're Under Construction" might earn BSL some points for caring, but the reviews could be brutal.

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