Bureaucratic snafus, a lack of city funds and the transformation of The Pyramid into a Bass Pro Shops store led the city to lose a $316,680 federal grant for a riverfront bike and pedestrian system.
The proposed trail was supposed to run behind the floodwall at the arena and connect to the path at the state visitor center Downtown, a key link in creating an almost seamless trail system from Greenbelt Park on Mud Island to Ashburn Coppock Park to the south.
But along the way the state began around six years of seismic work on the Hernando DeSoto Bridge that delayed any work on the trail, the Memphis City Council withdrew matching city money from the project and then Bass Pro Shops became the dominant player in the area, said Benny Lendermon, president of the Riverfront Development Corp.
“The state held it up for six years while they were working on the bridge and then Bass Pro moved in and took over everything,” Lendermon said. “Somewhere along the road the city matching funds disappeared from the budget.”
These additional details came to light the same day The Daily News first reported the state was pulling $316,680 in funding from the project. The original story can be found in the June 17 issue of The Daily News, www.memphisdailynews.com.
Lendermon said the team planning the Pyramid project was interested in using the funds for the walkway.
“We sent it over to The Pyramid committee for them to incorporate that in their project,” he said. “They were going to build some sort of walkway. They were trying to see if they could get the state funds shifted over so they could utilize it.”
Neil Hansen, transportation alternatives coordinator with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, said in a letter sent to Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. that the Federal Highway Administration was withdrawing the money because of “prolonged project inactivity.”
In an email to an RDC official, TDOT transportation planner Lisa Dunn said she had not had contact about the project since 2011, when RDC officials “were going to review the funding and see if they could move the project further down since the project was running behind The Pyramid that was in a re-design.”
Dunn referred to the loss of the funds as “bad news” and that she was unable to get “any information out of anyone on why there was such a delay in getting the project constructed.”
While Dunn said she was unable to get information about the delays out of anyone, she said in a November 2012 e-mail that she had been in touch with a consultant, Cindy Reaves of SR Consulting, working on the project for The Pyramid design team and that “they are fully aware” they needed a new state environmental clearance.
RDC officials said that on several occasions they sent The Pyramid design team – led by O.T. Marshall Architects – information on the grant funds.
“Other than the limited communications to provide advice and information to the design team, the RDC has not pursued this project for a number of years,” said Dorchelle Spence of the RDC.
Robert Lipscomb, director of Housing and Community Development and point man for The Pyramid project, said The Pyramid team was still interested in the trail.
“I am not sure we were ever approached formally regarding the management of the trail,” said Lipscomb. “We are still interested in the project and the completion of the work.”