By 2010, a $30-million makeover to the Memphis riverfront should be completed, offering an easy-access boat dock for excursion boats, a restaurant, parking, and concrete islands to get visitors closer to the water.
A groundbreaking was held last week to commence work on the Beale Street Landing located at the tip of Beale Street in Tom Lee Park.
The project is a "simplistic, yet elegant response to an age-old problem in our city, and that is how to bring the public to the river's edge despite the sometimes 57-foot fluctuation in the water," said Riverfront Development Corporation's (RDC) chairman Greg Duckett.
Captain William Lozier, owner and pilot of Memphis Riverboats, says the new landing will allow more people to enjoy the Mississippi River. Tour-boat passengers currently embark from the historic cobblestone landing.
"The cobblestones lack accessibility, which intimidates our tour-bus companies, the handicapped, tourists, and local residents," Lozier says. "Many passengers enjoy our cruises but criticize our location, and many others just avoid us entirely."
But not everyone has been happy with the project. There were concerns surrounding the destruction of a small wetlands area at the construction site. Under a Clean Water Act permit acquired by the RDC, the development must create or enhance 1.72 acres of wetlands as compensation.
RDC president Benny Lendermon says an agreement is in the works to purchase acreage for the wetlands, which must be four times the size of the destroyed area.
"We're hoping that we can make it part of something larger — maybe more wetlands — not just a little spot of wetland," Lendermon says.
The Beale Street Landing project was first approved by the City Council in 2002 as part of the Memphis Riverfront Master Plan. At a budget hearing in May, Lendermon told the City Council that the project would be funded with $19.5 million in city funds and $10.5 million in state and federal funds.