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VOL. 127 | NO. 84 | Monday, April 30, 2012

Our River Reflects City’s Past, Future

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For decades, redevelopment of the city’s riverfront has been an elusive goal. Look at it over the years and you can see moves toward a goal of a riverfront that is once again busy – but busy for reasons different than those when the cobblestones represented the gateway to a 19th century logistics hub.

The steps that led us to this week’s arrival of the American Queen in its new homeport at Beale Street Landing began during the administration of Mayor Dick Hackett and continued during the terms of office of Mayor Willie Herenton.

Then, as now, there were steps backward and forward.

On the north end of the riverfront, which was the city’s original river port pre-Mud Island, work continues on The Pyramid and its post-arena life to come.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. has described The Pyramid and Beale Street Landing as the bookends for a band of riverfront development that will make this part of our western border more of a front door to the city.

Memphis is already a pretty impressive sight coming eastbound across the Hernando DeSoto Bridge as our Downtown skyline rises on the horizon.

But this next stage of development that seems to have taken root shouldn’t be about an impressive view from a windshield.

It should be about a sense of place to gather at the river as we have since before this land was staked off, mapped and named Memphis.

Whatever we build as an attraction should work with that concept as its anchor.

Visit Tom Lee Park and watch children making their first riverside visit. Sometimes they run to its edge. Sometimes they walk cautiously. Some skip across the grass. Others cling. But none can look away from a current that has always been most of the undefinable and unspeakable sense of this place.

We all see different things in a river, and in Memphis there is plenty of room for all of those things in the Mississippi’s rising ridges and forming valleys and moving stillness.

When it rises as it did about a year ago, we come to watch and form stories for those who will come later. When it drops, we marvel at the artifacts of those who came before us revealed where the waters will surely run again.

It is a way to mark more than the span of lives we can see and touch every day.

What we see in our river even with its muddy water will always be a reflection of who we are and who we were.

Our development along its banks should always remember that and do what it can to add a sense of who we can be together.

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