DRB Approves Cobblestone Work

By Bill Dries

The Design Review Board of the Downtown Memphis Commission has approved the cobblestone river landing project tentatively set to start work sometime this fall.

The review board is one of the final stops for the long-planned project to stabilize the cobblestones by the river as well as create a plaza at the foot of Union Avenue and allow public access to the river’s edge.

The review board’s vote Wednesday, May 2, was a unanimous voice vote that came after lots of questions and some debate.

Riverfront Development Corp. president Benny Lendermon said approval by the state is still to come with the paperwork going to Nashville this week. Then the paperwork is filed to get the nearly $6 million in federal funding flowing to contractors who still must be picked. A local match of $400,000 has already been spent on planning.

The approval by the design board this week and that being sought by state officials includes amendments to the plan worked out over several years. Those include no use of rip rap material to prevent erosion except around a water pipe in the cobblestones area and two instead of three east-west walkways to the river’s edge.

The other change is the use of concrete material in the general shape of cobblestones to replace sunken areas or areas where there are gaps in the original cobblestones.

RDC planners said the restoration work will involve approximately 20 percent of the seven-acre site with federal preservation standards prohibiting any disturbance or removal of the other areas where the cobblestones are stable.

The project won the approval of the Memphis Landmarks Commission last week as Memphians gathered at the nearby Beale Street Landing project for the arrival of the American Queen steamboat at its new home port.

The design board also approved design revision plans to the Beale Street Landing project governing the islands and terraces offering river access to pedestrians at that facility as well.

The board delayed approval of signage for the landing on an elevator tower until members can get a more specific look at plans for it. The RDC withdrew the item pending a later meeting to show the board the signage.