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VOL. 132 | NO. 208 | Thursday, October 19, 2017

Lendermon To Retire From Riverfront Development Corp.

By Bill Dries

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Benny Lendermon is retiring as the founding president of the Riverfront Development Corp. effective in April.

Lendermon announced his retirement to RDC board members Tuesday, Oct. 18, as Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's administration unveiled specific riverfront plans, including a Mud Island renovation with two aquariums and a bridge linking the river park to a possible new location for the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art on Front Street between Union and Monroe avenues.

“Things are moving forward. But to make all of this happen it’s a huge undertaking,” Lendermon told The Daily News. “It’s going to take lots of different things, including different and additional staff, and I think with me turning 66 I certainly wasn’t going to stay to the end of that. It’s really better for the organization and myself that I give them another six months and we can get things organized a little bit more and the new staff can come together in a way that it can stay together for hopefully a lengthy period of time.”

Lendermon said he will likely be visible in some other part-time civic role once he leaves the RDC post.

The RDC was created by Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton in 2000, with Lendermon coming to the agency after serving as the city’s Public Works Division director. As public works director, he was already working on some riverfront issues and attractions, including the expansion of Tom Lee Park and the Bluffwalk project on the bluff above the park.

“No one remembers what the bluffs, Downtown parks or Riverside Drive looked like before Benny and the RDC,” said Dorchelle Spence, vice president of the Riverfront Development Corp.

The RDC, which has its own board, operates and maintains city parks and property along the riverfront for the city, including Mud Island River Park, the cobblestones, Tom Lee Park, the adaptive reuse of the Pyramid by Bass Pro Shops and Beale Street Landing.

During Lendermon's tenure, the city began building Beale Street Landing to accommodate the overnight river cruise industry, but the project drifted and the industry collapsed twice before roaring back to life in 2012 as the landing opened and became the docking location for several revived cruise lines and the home port for the American Queen.

As Strickland started his tenure as mayor in 2016, the RDC began playing a more visible role at the head of the accelerated move to a riverfront development plan announced this past July and a more coordinated approach to build the support necessary to fund the elements of the plan.

“I think we pushed really hard the last two years to get the organization and more than the organization – the board – in a good place in common mind of what needs to be done and to be enthusiastically supportive and willing to do the fundraising and the other issues that need to be done to make some of these things happen,” Lendermon said. “It just was a good breaking point. If you stay any longer, you almost need to stay two or three years to get some of these projects done.”

PROPERTY SALES 61 61 6,453
MORTGAGES 46 46 4,081
BUILDING PERMITS 113 113 15,474
BANKRUPTCIES 19 19 3,289