(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
The grass-covered hill that forms the roof of Beale Street Landing was an immediate hit with riverfront visitors Tuesday, Sept. 24, as the first construction fences came down on the site.
“We’re finally far enough along in construction that we feel like it’s safe enough to take down the fencing in certain areas,” said Dorchelle Spence, vice president of the Riverfront Development Corp., which manages the landing and 11 other riverfront parks, including Mud Island, for the city of Memphis.
So Tuesday afternoon, construction crews took down the fences and encouraged those coming to the park to go where they haven’t been able to go until now.
“We took down the fence on the south side of the building to allow access to the grass roof and the patio,” Spence said. “We took down the fencing on the east side to allow runners and walkers to run through the loading zone and not have to go onto Riverside Drive.”
The fencing is still up for the newest focuses for construction crews, construction of two “islands” that are part of the terraced approach to the river’s edge.
Construction is underway on the landing’s playground and another one of the islands that are part of the park setting, including terraces that will allow visitors access to the river’s edge.
“One of them is a play area for children 10 and under,” Spence said. “The other is going to be a Wi-Fi zone for picnics and gatherings. Of course there will be the grass terraces that will take you down to the river level.”
The landing building has been the site of special catered events for several months now, but there is still no contract for a restaurant tenant in the building with regular hours. The building houses the ticket office and souvenir shop for the Memphis Queen daily excursion boats, and the landing serves as the dock for the American Queen and other overnight river cruise ships when the river’s level is higher.
The Mississippi River at Memphis was at -5.54 feet Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. The river was at -9.86 feet a year ago this month, which was much closer to the all-time low reading at the Memphis river gauge of -10.7 feet in July of 1988.