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VOL. 131 | NO. 19 | Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The 5 Applicants for Mud Island Redevelopment

By Bill Dries

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Each company that applied to redevelop Mud Island River Park has a month to submit its detailed proposal, including specific plans and how they would be financed, to the Riverfront Development Corp.

Here are the five applicants, in alphabetical order:

Bass Pro Shops

Bass Pro Shops was the only one of the five firms that did not have some kind of plan for all or part of the river park.

“At this time, we do not have a specific project concept to present,” wrote Michael Dunham, Bass Pro Shops’ real estate director in a two-page cover letter that was the company’s complete submission.

“We have considered resort, timeshare, entertainment and museum uses, to name a few,” he added.

Dunham said its lease on the Pyramid gives it a “large vested interest” in the area and that he hoped the company would be consulted on future plans for the park even if it is not selected for the redevelopment of Mud Island.

Bass Pro Shops’ letter also highlights the company’s belief that plans for the river park should be coordinated with plans for the Pyramid, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Pinch District.

“It seems quite clear to us that all four of these projects can be uniquely tied together further enhancing the downtown Memphis redevelopment,” the letter adds.

The Mansion Entertainment and Media LLC

Branson, Mo.-based The Mansion Entertainment and Media LLC is only interested in operating the park’s amphitheater.

The company has 15 years’ experience operating various venues and is best known for the Branson theater it operates under the name The Mansion.

Mansion Entertainment’s proposal estimates it would take $3 million to rehab the amphitheater and another $1 million to upgrade equipment, including lighting and audio.

The company is proposing a schedule of up to 10 shows at the venue during the summer, plus a two-month fall series. It is still considering a spring season of shows but has expressed some concern about the weather.

Mansion estimates the concerts, at 75 percent attendance in the summer and 95 percent in the fall, would bring in $4.4 million in revenues at ticket prices of $65 to $125.

Memphis Equity Brand Management

Memphis Equity Brand Management, a Memphis resort hotel group headed by mortgage banker and hotel manager Paul Westphal, is proposing a 500-room resort hotel and spa in Mud Island River Park that would incorporate the island’s Riverwalk in its lobby.

In his cover letter, Westphal said he hopes to interest Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris as a potential investor and speculates the hotel could be a Marriott, pending negotiations with the chain.

The park’s monorail would run “almost into the hotel lobby,” according to the proposal, which also calls for a parking garage and possibly a cruise boat at the Mud Island Marina.

MEBM would keep the amphitheater, but the operation of that and the rest of the park would continue to be the responsibility of the Riverfront Development Corp.

ML Professional Properties

ML Professional Properties, the group headed by Delta Fair founder Mark Lovell, includes nearly two pages in its presentation of attractions for the park.

Those include three new bridges for pedestrian access to the park; zip lines across the city harbor; and “sky lifts” resembling ski lifts between the Pyramid and the north half of Mud Island and between Beale Street Landing and the south end of the island.

ML also proposes a U-shaped fishing pier by Bass Pro Shops, a water park that could convert to an ice rink and a museum similar to the City Museum of St. Louis.

Lovell would also poll the public for a new name for the park, dropping the Mud Island brand.

RVC Outdoor Destinations

RVC Outdoor Destinations, founded by Andy Cates, went public earlier this month with its plan to take on the whole park in a direct lease with the city that bypasses the RDC.

The plan features cottages and safari tents with lots of amenities on the western side of the park in an extension of northern Greenbelt Park to the southern tip of Mud Island. There would be additional parking but no new garage involved.

The Riverwalk and amphitheater would be renovated, with a water park feature added to the Riverwalk.

The northern road into the park would become the primary entrance. And RVC would scrap the monorail, using the walkway atop it as a modified pedestrian and bicycle crossing similar to Manhattan’s High Line pathway.

Cates has said the details of his plan are tentative and that he is willing to partner with other companies willing to take on pieces of the park but not the entire acreage.

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