The city of Memphis has raised the matching funds to build the “Main to Main Connector,” the $29.7 million project designed to link Main Street Memphis to Broadway Avenue in West Memphis via a boardwalk for bicyclists and pedestrians on the north side of the Harahan Bridge straddling the Mississippi River.
“What a great opportunity to provide free amenities that are there for everybody to use,” said John Moore, president and CEO of the Chamber, “This is what happens when the community comes together. When that happens, generally we get results.”
“This is just so fantastic because it’s really a nation spotlight-like project.” said Moore. ‘We can take advantage of what we have with the river and be a leader.”
In May, the Greater Memphis Chamber took the extraordinary step of asking the community to raise $250,000 in private donations to meet a looming federal deadline. In order for the project to secure a $15 million federal grant, $1 million needed to be raised privately. The Greater Memphis Chamber pledged $1,000 to the fund and encouraged others to make pledges. Bicycling trail advocate Charles McVean, the brains behind the ambitious project, always maintained that the $1 million in local funds would be raised.
On Tuesday, Memphis-based Boyle Investment Company stepped forward with a large pledge of $50,000 towards the initiative.
“We are pleased to contribute to this important collaboration between the public and private sectors to enhance the quality of life in the greater Memphis area,” said Henry Morgan, Co-Chairman of Boyle. “Memphis citizens, businesses and community leaders have responded positively to this new amenity and have expressed enthusiasm for additional greenway segments throughout the community, and so Boyle is proud to play a role in this significant initiative.”
The bridge boardwalk would be the first part of the plan with construction beginning in September. But the other parts follow quickly and will be underway as the boardwalk is being built.
Plans have shown a Harahan Bridge boardwalk that is more expensive than the original estimate of approximately $12 million because the original steel structure on the bridge can no longer support the weight of a new surface and those who would use it.
While much attention has been focused on the 97-year-old Harahan bridge, and connecting Memphis to West Memphis, a weighty chunk of the money, up to $11 million, will be used to make improvements to the ailing Main Street Mall in Downtown Memphis
“The most dramatic feature would be the (Harahan) bridge and the changes to Main Street, and they are major changes, but they’re more about fixing things that have been neglected for years and making the pedestrian and bike corridor around Main Street a safer and more enjoyable experience.”