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VOL. 121 | NO. 1 | Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Unique Mixed-Use Development Planned for DeSoto

By Tracy Adams

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"I moved here permanently from Chicago in 1987, and I'd always wondered why someone had not developed that land in the delta. I always thought a small town with everything all in one place would work here."
- Ron Schillinger
partner, Riverbend Crossing LLC

A group of investors - including one Germantown resident - is planning to build what could be the largest land development in DeSoto County history.

Ron Schillinger, a partner in Riverbend Crossing LLC, said the idea of building an all-inclusive, 4,100-acre neighborhood came from his childhood memories of attending school in Memphis in the 1950s.

"I moved here permanently from Chicago in 1987, and I'd always wondered why someone had not developed that land in the delta," he said. "I always thought a small town with everything all in one place would work here."

Big plans. The development will be named Riverbend Crossing and, if approved, will be located near Tunica County between U.S. Highway 61 and the Mississippi River.

Riverbend Crossing was designed by Newport Beach, Calif.-based urban planning group PBR. The project is a planned unit development designed around a 500-acre lake that would include a 9,500-rooftop neighborhood, four golf courses and an entertainment center complete with water and amusement parks.

PBR representative Bill Phillips told county planning commissioners at a Dec. 1 meeting that the development would be built over a 15- to 20-year period in five phases. During the meeting, commissioners voted unanimously in favor of a rezoning request for the 4,100 acres from industrial to planned unit development.

Because the planning commission is strictly a recommending body, the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors will make the final decision next month at its regularly scheduled meeting.

Construction challenges. News of the development has brought up questions about how such a large-scale project could be constructed in the Mississippi Delta. Due to the flatness of terrain, the Mississippi River levee and how the levee moves and holds water, the delta poses several engineering challenges for large-scale construction projects, said Jim McDougal, deputy planner for DeSoto County.

But those challenges are part and parcel of building such a large-scale development, Schillinger said.

"We brought in engineers from other parts of the country, and no one has found one reason why we cannot build in the delta," he said. "I think there is a misconception among those who live here. Drainage and those sorts of issues are always handled from an engineering standpoint."

Riverbend Crossing LLC is working with the Pickering Firm Inc., an architectural, engineering, environmental and construction management firm with offices in Mississippi and Tennessee. Bob Pitts of Pickering Engineering said the firm is in the process of gathering technical data for the project and is compiling an engineering report that is expected to be complete in about 90 days.

Infrastructure issues. Planning commissioners and some DeSoto County residents have expressed concern over how the proposed development would receive certain county services. Riverbend Crossing would likely require its own schools that would have to be built at the cost of county taxpayers.

"This scale of development is always done with 100 percent cooperation from all involved parties," Schillinger said. "We will sit down and work those issues out as they arise."

PROPERTY SALES 94 322 4,193
MORTGAGES 95 320 4,710
BANKRUPTCIES 48 211 3,096