Monday, January 23, 2017

New Plan, New Task Force Coming for Riverfront

Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2017 at 3:58 PM

click to enlarge riverfront_.jpg

A task force will soon be convened to guide the next stage of development for the Memphis riverfront, a move that comes as riverfront officials have hired consultants to establish a new plan for that new development.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is expected to announce the new task force in a news conference Wednesday morning, Benny Lendermon, president of the Riverfront Development Corp. (RDC), said in a meeting Monday. Lendermon said the task force will be comprised of mainly Downtown stakeholders.

Its mission will be, essentially, two-fold. The first will be to handle what Lendermon called some of the “hot button” and “volatile” issues on the riverfront now. He gave Riverside Drive (Is it a four-lane road or a complete street?), Tom Lee Park (It vanishes for a couple of months for Memphis in May.), and Mud Island (What is its future?) as examples.

The group will also work with Studio Gang, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in “architecture, urbanism, interiors, and exhibitions” as it works on the “Riverfront Concept Plan.” Studio Gang will study the city’s riverfront and then make recommendations for improvements.

That plan comes thanks to donations from the Hyde Family Foundation and the Kresge Foundation. But those donations come with promises that the RDC will raise $350,000 to implement portions of the plan and that the city of Memphis sign on as a plan partner.

John W. Stokes, the board’s chairperson emeritus, said board members would need something exciting to sell to potential donors for the $350,000 and hoped to see some of the plan before they’d go out and ask for money.

“We haven’t been good fundraisers, the board hasn’t in the past,” Stokes said. “I think that’s the way the city and others perceive us.”

RDC board member Chase Carlisle questioned the need for plan, questioned the end goal of a new plan, and wondered if the board was having “champagne dreams on a beer budget.” He said he did not want the RDC to come up with a new plan “and then go to the mayor, saying we need another $25 million” to execute it.

Board chairman John Farris agreed with Carlisle that “we don’t need another big plan that is out of reach.” He said he hoped Studio Gang would present a large vision for the area but also have some quick wins.

Studio Gang officials are expected to arrive in Memphis Tuesday for a series of initial meetings and walking them “through the mud and weeds” of the Memphis riverfront, Lendermon said.

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