Wednesday, July 19, 2017

New Vision Unveiled for Riverfront

Posted By on Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 11:30 AM

An elevated trail through the treetops, a boathouse on the Wolf River harbor, festival grounds, open air markets, a pedestrian bridge to Mud Island, and more are suggestions for the Memphis riverfront from Chicago-based Studio Gang.

The group was hired earlier this year by the Riverfront Development Corp. to survey the riverfront and devise a vision for what it could be. Studio Gang unveiled that vision in a Tuesday news conference.

To get there, the group took stock of the existing assets on the river, surveyed locals, talked with stakeholders close to the river, and reviewed the 11 riverfront plans that have been drawn up since 1987. Studio Gang looked at current planning projects like Memphis 3.0 and looked to the future of the riverfront for changes that could come from climate change and shifts in socioeconomics.

Overall, the plan seeks to connect five major existing assets on six miles of the riverfront — MLK Park, Tom Lee Park, Mud Island, the Fourth Bluff, and Greenbelt Park. The report said it hopes to foster civic pride, restore some of the natural conditions around the river, and connect the those pre-existing assets.

Here are some of the big suggestions Studio Gang has for those five major places along the river:

MLK Park
• Close the nine-hole goal course
• Build a dedicated festival grounds
• Connect South Parkway to McKellar Lake

Tom Lee Park
• Build an adventure park with a rock climbing wall
• Build a boardwalk that goes over the Mississippi River
• Build a Civil Rights History Loop, an interpretive walking trail from the park to the National civil Rights Museum
• Build pavilions for performance and pop-up markets
• Make Riverside Drive two lanes with spaces for parking, bikes, and pedestrians

Mud Island
• Set up areas for camping
• Partner with the University of Memphis to establish Eco Hub, a center for freshwater biology education
• Build pavilions and astronomy cones

Greenbelt Park
• Build a tall lookout at north end of Mud Island
* Build a canopy walk in the treetops in the park

Fourth Bluff
• Replace parking garage at Front and Monroe with a cultural amenity
• Establish Bluff Walk for people to shop, eat, and play
• Activate the Wolf River Harbor with shade, lookouts, and better walkability, including a bridge to Mud Island

But Alan Crone, special counsel to Mayor Jim Strickland, cautioned that the concept presented Tuesday was in no way set in stone. The plan is a set of options offered by Studio Gang. So, he warned against any Memphian looking at the pictures and arguing about their details.

“Studio Gang did not give us a plan but a starting point for community conversations to make the riverfront as great as the river is great,” Crone said.

He repeated Strickland’s pledge not to use any general fund money for the project. Instead, he said the city would be a partner in riverfront development along with philanthropy, business, and individuals.

Riverfront Development Corp. President Benny Lendermon said he and his board have worked constantly with Studio Gang over numerous visits. He said there exists now in Memphis a swell of support to agree on a plan for the riverfront and execute that plan.

The next step in the process will be for Mayor Jim Strickland’s Riverfront Task Force to closely review the concept and to choose what, if any, portion of the plan it wants to build.

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