Coletta to Lead Changing Riverfront Development Corp.

By Bill Dries


The new president and CEO of the Riverfront Development Corp. will oversee changes in the organization that runs the city riverfront under a contract with the city. The changes include more of an emphasis on raising private money for the city’s riverfront plan as well as a name change to be announced later.

Carol Coletta was approved by RDC board Monday, March 26, to succeed Benny Lendermon – the founding president of the RDC who announced in October that he would retire from the post effective in April.

Coletta, a native Memphian active in Downtown redevelopment since the 1980s, is a senior fellow with the Kresge Foundation based in Detroit. The philanthropic organization has been active in Memphis in recent years, providing funding for, among other projects, the Fourth Bluff effort seeking to activate two riverside parks, the bluff behind the University of Memphis Law School and the Cossitt Library.

She will retain her roles in the Fourth Bluff effort and at Kresge while at the helm of the RDC.

Coletta will be considered by Kresge as a “loaned executive” to the RDC.

RDC board chairman John Farris, in a written statement after Coletta’s selection, said the organization’s focus is now carrying out the riverfront plan laid out last year by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

“This is our moment to create the riverfront Memphis deserves, and we are eager to make the Memphis Riverfront Concept a reality,” Farris said.

For the RDC, that means more than its original mission of maintaining the city park land and other city-owned amenities along the riverfront. The organization is developing a new business plan and plans to hire more staff toward a goal of raising private money to finance a good deal of the city’s plan.

The riverfront plan was developed by the planning group Studio Gang. It got an immediate boost two months after the concept was unveiled when the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art board voted to pursue moving the Overton Park institution to the riverfront. The Brooks picked the block between Union and Monroe avenues that the Studio Gang plan had indicated could be a site for a “cultural asset.”

The Studio Gang plan revives and adapts plans for an aquarium originally proposed for the Pyramid that would instead be on the south end of Mud Island River Park with a pedestrian and bicycle bridge connecting the south end to the riverfront site of the Brooks Museum and a renovated Cossitt Library.

“Our riverfront represents a tremendous opportunity to transform Memphis,” Coletta said. “And I cannot wait to begin this important work.”