Wednesday, May 28, 2003, Vol. 117, No. 103

Five firms vie to land Beale Street project

Five firms vie to land Beale Street project


The Daily News

The Mighty Mississippi is rolling along, unaware that within months, a decision will be made that will significantly alter this citys imprint on its banks.

Yet, the rivers majestic force is driving the decision that ultimately will define the Downtown landscape. Following the initial phase of an international design competition that will culminate in the development of Beale Street Landing a cornerstone of the Riverfront Development Corp.s 50-year master plan for the citys waterfront five finalists from three countries now are working to finesse their ideas for the 5-acre public space and docking facility.

The river presents both their biggest challenge and biggest opportunity.

More than anything else, (the winning design) must portray and take advantage of our greatest resource that river out front, said RDC president Benny Lendermon. The river is so large and so expansive that its going to overshadow anything you do there structurally.

However, following the competitions launch in January, 171 architects, urban designers, landscape architects, students and other design professionals were willing to take on the challenge. A team of six jurors selected the finalists earlier this month.

As divergent as the projects are, they each propose simple solutions to very difficult challenges, said RDC communications director Dorchelle Spence. That is what the jurors found to be so intriguing about the set of five.

The finalists teams will travel to Memphis individually over the next two months to explore the site and gain more insight into the city, the river and the needs the project must meet, Lendermon said.

The (RDC) staff will spend all day with them walking the site, explaining it, letting them feel it, discussing the technical issues, he said.

Following that meeting, the teams which each were awarded a $2,500 prize upon being chosen as finalists, as well as a $7,500 stipend to complete work for the second phase of the competition will refine their ideas and submit a new series of boards to the jury, which meets Oct. 29 for the final judging.

The winner should begin full design work by the first of next year. Initial site work could begin by fall 2004, and construction probably will take two years, Lendermon said.

Construction cost is projected at $15 million to $20 million.

Spence said the winning design team will work with local companies, including minority- and women-owned firms.

When completed, Beale Street Landing will accommodate the docking of large passenger vessels, serving as a sort of terminal. But, its overall goal is to provide a public space designed to welcome visitors and residents alike into Downtown and provide breathtaking views of the Mississippi.

It has to knit Beale Street to the river, to Riverside Drive, to the cobblestones, to Tom Lee Park, Lendermon said. It will bring all those things together in one great, civic place.

Downtown officials envision the site as Memphis eventual postcard view.

The landing also will include a small commercial component with elements such as a small cafe and newspaper stand.

I think residents will enjoy being able to go to the park and have somewhere they can buy a Coke or an ice cream cone, or actually get lunch, Spence said. Additionally, it will be a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the river.

The project finalists are Alejandro Martin Dafunchio of Paulo Gaston Flores in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Mason White and Lola Sheppard of Lateral Architecture in London; David Hong of New York; Roger Courtenay, Jim Hyatt, Steve Hanson, Aki Omi, Alma Du Solier and Erin Bullock of EDAW in Alexandria, Va.; and Javier Rivarola, Gustavo Trosman and Ricardo Norton, also of Buenos Aires.

The winning project will mark the first major development stemming from RDCs planning efforts. The agencys master plan is designed to bring more residents, businesses and opportunities for recreation and entertainment to the waters edge.

The riverfront is a vital part of Downtown, and Downtown is a vital part of the riverfront, said RDC chairman John Stokes at the organizations annual meeting.

Center City Commission president Jeff Sanford said CCC staff has been eagerly watching riverfront plans develop.

The riverfront is not only the crown jewel of Downtown, but of the whole community, Sanford said. To see the RDC plan advancing is very exciting. As a member of the RDC board, it is particularly pleasing to see the kind of response received to the request for design proposals.

And I am sure the ultimate design will be world class.