Beale Street Landing Looks Beyond Early Curiosity

By Bill Dries

The Riverfront Development Corp. is filling in a calendar of events at the newly opened Beale Street Landing that stretches into the fall and demonstrates the role of programming in holding the larger public’s interest beyond those coming to the landing now out of curiosity.

The Riverfront Development Corp. has big plans for Beale Street Landing, adding to a growing list of events planned beyond just the summer months.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“We want to do dancing on the docks this fall where we partner with the Rumba Room,” said Dorchelle Spence, the corporation’s vice president, who added there might be a movie night on the landing’s lawn or a sports night featuring Thursday night football on a big screen.

The landing was delayed for years and over budget but the Riverfront Development Corp.’s president, Benny Lendermon, said the success of the facility should be judged by whether it brings people to the riverside and animates the area.

“There’s a reason that Memphis has had no connection to the water for 100-plus years – it’s complicated,” Lendermon said on the WKNO-TV program “Behind The Headlines.” “It was to fix Tom Lee Park. Tom Lee Park is a great place for Memphis in May (International Festival). … Beale Street Landing provides all of the amenities that aren’t in Tom Lee Park to make it a wonderful world-class riverside park.”

The program, hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video page,

Lendermon also talked about the engineering challenges of the Beale Street Landing project that formally opened earlier this month.

“Purposely we chose to shoehorn it in between Tom Lee Park and the cobblestones,” he said. “We didn’t want to have any historic implications for the cobblestones and didn’t want to greatly affect Memphis in May. Because of that it was a very difficult engineering feat that was compounded by soil conditions very similar to what The Pyramid’s faced.”

The RDC is about to start a feasibility study on water taxi or ferry landings for small boats to ferry passengers to and from the landing with other destinations including Mud Island and The Pyramid. The city has secured $1 million for planning and implementation with the Tennessee Department of Transportation also involved in the project.

“They want to do a little more logistics on it … before we start designing the actual construction project,” Lendermon said of the state’s role. “They want to make sure we can deal with the (Americans with Disabilities Act) issues and landing issues at the sites we select.”

On the same program, Downtown Memphis Commission President Paul Morris said City Hall should begin moving on developing a master plan for the Pinch area once the nearby Bass Pro Shops development in The Pyramid becomes a known quantity.

The retail store along with other attractions and a hotel being developed by the outdoors retailer are scheduled to open in December.

“The Pinch doesn’t know what to do now. It is sitting there dormant,” Morris said. “Until Bass Pro really gets going, I don’t think we are going to see a lot in the Pinch.”

He offered few clues about the reworking on the One Beale high rise project at Beale Street and Riverside Drive pursued by developer Gene Carlisle and his Carlisle Group just before the onset of the recession made financing impossible.

“I will tell you that Gene Carlisle just sold a bunch of Wendy’s,” Morris said, referring to the restaurants that Carlisle owned. “He’s got a lot of cash to move forward on something spectacular. … It’s one of the very few properties in Downtown that have riverfront views and riverfront property that you can privately develop.”