VOL. 115 | NO. 134 | Monday, July 16, 2001
RDC is not holding back
Riverfront Development Corp. not holding back
By SUE PEASE
The Daily News
Visitors to the Riverfront Development Corp.s Web site, www.memphisriverfront.com, will see on the development guidelines page, the phrase "We were asked not to hold back."
Its positioned in the title tag at the top of the page and in essence conveys the importance, difficulty and interest in redeveloping the citys hallmark feature its riverfront.
The RDC, a non-profit board created to oversee the riverfront redesign, is directing the huge task and understands the projects importance is as deep as the river itself.
RDC president Benny Lendermon has seen excitement and controversy at public meetings during the last year about the various drafts of the riverfronts master plan.
The huge task promises never a dull moment but that can be exciting when putting together an overarching plan, that asks not to hold back.
"The planning is much more exciting and the implementation becomes much more difficult, but the payback is that it is much more meaningful. You are really doing something that is significant and will make a difference for the next 50 to100 years vs. just doing a project that will have significance for a few years," Lendermon said.
Some people would prefer smaller changes such as painting and tweaking the area, which is fine, Lendermon said.
However, some people want significant change. That is the point the city seems to have reached.
"Through the process of working with our board and working with the community, they got the sense the time was right in Memphis where you could make a significant change and you could get the community to support it," he said.
The balancing act of making significant changes to the area while "not messing it up," creates challenges everyday.
These challenges are not new however, because the idea of developing the rivers banks is not new.
"Various plans have been kicked around since the early 1900s, theyve all had some form of improved waterway," said Tony Bologna, former vice president of development for the Henry Turley Co., the company that developed Harbor Town.
After the last public meeting in May, the consultants are ironing out the final details and should have a report to the RDC board by the end of this month, Lendermon said.
The consultants are New York-based Cooper Robertson & Partners along with Denver-based Civitas and Memphis company PDR Engineers.
After the RDC board approves it, the plan will be presented to the Memphis City Council, probably in September, Lendermon said.
A key issue is the financing.
The board stressed the plan not only needs to transform the riverfront and be beneficial to Memphis future, but also be affordable and somewhat self-financing, Lendermon said.
Much of the real estate developed on the riverfront will be on public land. By building in stages over years, the first revenues coming in from initial private projects will help pay for the debt service of the bonds used for public infrastructure projects.
"We want to do it in a way so we are not going to taxpayers saying we need $200 million and well make a wonderful riverfront.
"Instead we are saying we need some monies, but a significant portion of what we are doing will be paid for through long-term revenue of the land we are creating or enhancing," Lendermon said.
Very rough initial estimates of the cost for public development is $200 million that will allow for an estimated $600 million in private development.
The final master plan will cover 12 miles of land, from the north end of Mud Island, south to the Harahan, Frisco and the Memphis and Arkansas bridges.
The biggest proposed element of the plan is the creation of a 70-acre land bridge filling in the harbor, lengthening a portion of Downtown to the rivers edge.
Streets that would be lengthened to the rivers edge are Court Street to Poplar Avenue.
Filling in the harbor with dirt would create a 150-acre lake to the north of the land bridge.
The dirt for the land bridge will be acquired from dredging the Mississippi.
In essence its like vacuuming the bottom of the river, said Adam Brown, project manager for PDR Engineers.
There are designated areas along the river to dredge from where sediment problems occur.
The amount of hydraulic fill needed for the bridge is an estimated 3 million to 5 million cubic yards, Brown said.
As with other developments such as Harbor Town and Tom Lee Park that were filled in with hydraulic fill, monitoring the settlement is important and could take a number of years.
"There are some developments that are built on fill that years later there are pockets of settlements, problems, sink holes and things," he said.
However, a benefit of using river material is it is granular, compact and does not expand.
Waterfront real estate is often prime realty.
Creating a plan is good for the real estate business Downtown, according to some real estate agents.
Richard Wallace and Co. agent Glen Bascom said when the city announces plans such as the riverfront redesign, clients are more interested in the area.
"It always helps having a master plan," Bascom said.
Dont forget this is still an initial plan, he cautioned.
"There are a lot of hurdles to cross."
"Personally, its not something to jump up and down about for me, but at least there is a plan out there and they are trying to work toward it and that draws interest in Downtown."