After a decade of design, planning, construction, and an ever-evolving budget, the Riverfront Development Corporation's $43 million Beale Street Landing project officially opens to the public this weekend. The Flyer was granted a media tour today following a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the landing's playground.
We'll be featuring more in-depth coverage of the project's history and budget in next Thursday's Memphis Flyer. But for now, here's a photo tour of Beale Street Landing.
A handful of children in bathing suits and their parents waited outside the playground this morning, as the staff and board of the RDC, Memphis city councilmembers, and others cut the park's ribbon.
The small playground, positioned inside a man-made island, features a giant catfish tunnel named Big John (after RDC board member John Stokes), a slide, and an interactive water park.
Kids can turn the water on by pushing a button with their foot, causing water to shoot from the tops of large metal cylinders designed to look like reeds. The water can be turned on between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily.
Next to the park is another small island with gardens and seating areas. RDC vice-president Dorchelle Spence said that area is designed as a "place of respite" where people can sit and watch riverboats and barges. That area will have free wifi.
Beale Street Landing's dock, where passengers load onto the American Queen and other riverboats, is made from barges so it can rise and fall with the river. Passengers access the boat by walking or riding in golf carts (available for the disabled or elderly) down the landing's helical ramp.
According to Spence, the American Queen docks here 13 times a year. The Mississippi Queen docks 15 times a year, and two other boats — the Grande Mariner and the Grande Caribe — dock here four times annually. The Island Queen, a sight-seeing cruise boat, takes passengers on cruises at 2:30 p.m. daily and on dinner cruises at night.
The colors for Beale Street Landing's elevator shaft were chosen when its designers blew up a picture of the sun setting over the Mississippi River until only pixels were visible. They tried to replicate the colors of the Memphis sunset in the shaft. Visitors can enter the building from street level or from the deck atop the grassy roof.
The grass roof of Beale Street Landing helps retain rainwater runoff, and it connects to the rest of Tom Lee Park.
Inside the landing's building is a gift shop with snow globes, Elvis souvenirs, Memphis tees, and other Bluff City memorabilia for riverboat passengers. Spence said, when the building is rented out for private events, the gift shop shelving will be hidden.
The Riverfront Bar & Grill, managed by the RDC, will have a soft opening this weekend with an official opening set for the weekend of July 4th. There's a full bar, Southern-style menu, and outdoor and indoor seating.
Beale Street Landing's grand opening is set for Saturday, June 28th from noon to 7 p.m. There's a concert finale at 6 p.m.