Thursday, July 11, 2002, Vol. 116, No. 133

RDC lobbying Congress for riverfront funds

RDC lobbying Congress for riverfront funds


The Daily News

At its regular monthly meeting Wednesday, the Riverfront Development Corp., or RDC, approved a number of motions designed to move the riverfront master plan forward.

The centerpiece was the establishment of the South Mud Island Development Corp., a joint venture between RDC, Henry Turley Co. and Belz Enterprises to acquire and develop 21 acres of land on Mud Island currently owned by developer Kevin Hyneman.

Plans for the property, immediately south of the Auction Street bridge, include single-family homes, apartments and a small office complex. Also critical to the project is an adjacent piece of property owned by city of Memphis, Shelby County, Shelby County Conservation Board and the National Park Service. All four would have to approve the purchase, which would include a land swap to meet conservation requirements. The sale is expected to take place Aug. 15.

Our discussions with all the parties involved have been very positive, said RDC president Benny Lendermon. We just have to complete the land swap.

RDC also is lobbying Congress for federal funds designed to jumpstart several Downtown projects, including Beale Street Landing, the cobblestone restoration and the land bridge connecting Downtown to Mud Island. RDC officials are hoping to have the $80 million included in the Water Resources Development Act of 2002.

Board members received a kit that included information about how the money would be used, the names and telephone numbers of the Shelby County delegation as well as other senators and representatives whose committees oversee the appropriations, and a letter they could send to each.

We would like all of the board members to personally contact each of these people, said Dorchelle Spence, RDC director of communications, who is helping spearhead the lobbying effort.

They need to know they are critical to having these projects move forward.

The three projects are major components of the RDCs master plan. Beale Street Landing would provide a place for riverboats to dock so passengers could visit Downtown. Restoration of the historic cobblestones, which are the citys doorstep, has been on the citys wish list for at least two decades. The land bridge would provide additional space for retail development and create additional access to Mud Island from Downtown.

Because the land bridge would eliminate the natural rise and fall of the river, which has been the main stumbling block to riverfront development in the past, it is considered the key component of the master plan.

I dont know when the WRDA will actually go before Congress, Spence said. First, it has to go to committee where it will be marked up. We want to make sure the final language that comes out of the committee articulates what we want articulated.

Construction of the land bridge is expected to take 18 months to complete and cost $100 million. However, before construction can begin, a number of industries in the Wolf River Harbor will have to be relocated to other sites. That is expected to take five years or longer.

Also at Wednesdays meeting, RDC approved the nominations of three new board members. Those nominated were attorney John Michael Farris, financial planner and consultant Derrick Joyce, and Memphis Grizzlies president Jerry West.

Ive spoken to Jerry, and he was very interested in being a part of this effort, said RDC chairman John Stokes.