Urban planner and designer Jeff Speck has told city government leaders that the recently renamed Jefferson Davis Park is the “obvious next opportunity” for riverfront development plans and represents a “big bang in an important place.”
The idea of keeping the visitors center and park next to it and surrounding it with mixed use development and a possible connection to Mud Island is one of several recommendations Speck made to the city of Memphis.
The city asked Speck to review 20 past and current plans for the city’s riverfront and within the framework of those recommendations come up with a set of short term recommendations.
He made his presentation to Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and his administration earlier in the day Monday, March 18. He then presented them at a public forum at the Memphis Cook Convention Center that drew a group of around 200 people.
His other recommendations included trimming Riverside Drive from four lanes to three lanes. That would allow for creating parallel parking lanes on both sides of the drive as well as a bicycle lane on the western side of Riverside as it runs along the Mississippi River.
With the curbside parking on Riverside Drive, Speck said parking lots in Tom Lee Park should be taken out of the park to create more greenspace. He also said the blocking of Riverside to traffic during the Memphis in May International Festival each year as well as a traffic count of 11,000 to 17,000 vehicles a day proves Riverside doesn’t need all four lanes to handle the traffic it now has.
He also suggested a slimming and similar bicycle and parking lanes for the road that is the south entrance to The Pyramid. Speck said current plans by Bass Pro Shops for a more parkway like design should be changed and moved to the east to create more possibilities for development of several acres by Jefferson Davis Park and the visitors center.
Speck praised the Beale Street Landing project and urged access across what is about 400 feet of the Wolf River harbor to the southern tip of Mud Island. He suggested a continuously running river ferry.
As for the island park, Speck said improving access to the park and better connecting it is a more long term project that should have as its goal a park that is open year round from sunrise to sunset.
And Speck said the Riverwalk on both sides of Riverside Drive should be completed to eliminate several “dog legs” that cause pedestrians now to double back on a loop in order to get back on the Riverwalk. One suggestion was two more pedestrian bridges like the one between the University of Memphis Law School and what was until recently Confederate Park.