Memphis Waterfront Needs Help!

I just read Alex Marshall’s article about Chattanooga’s urban experience [“Chattanooga Crossroads”]. My interest in the topic is related to the aspirations of my hometown, Memphis, the western terminus of the same state of Tennessee. To put it simply: we need help!

Memphis’s hopes for the renewal of its waterfront have taken an almost bipolar twist over the past year. The non-profit organization in charge of the riverfront’s redevelopment—appropriately named the Riverfront Redevelopment Corporation, or RDC—has made official its grandiose plans for promenades and docking facilities along the Mississippi. These projects would, in turn, facilitate the new land bridge and high-rise buildings also included in the plan’s fifty-year time period.

But opposition to this plan has manifested itself in the Friends for Our Riverfront. This organization would like to see all current structures along the promenade removed and replaced by a multi-block park space. Friends for Our Riverfront opposes the land bridge, the docking facilities, the formal promenade, and any development on the existing public land.

Neither group has shown any inclination to compromise. A few years ago, local architects developed a proposal that seemed to present a more balanced approach, but that plan has since been shelved. And now mudslinging by both groups threatens to create bitter divisions in the community.

Our city needs help! Your editor Susan Szenasy once visited the College of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma to deliver the Bruce Goff Lecture, and she provided the basis for both inspiration and debate among my fellow students. I ask that this same ability for insight be applied to the situation in Memphis.

Best Regards,

Jonathan Flynt

Metropolis editor in chief Susan Szenasy delivered the Bruce Goff Lecture at the University of Oklahoma in September 2004. A transcript of the lecture in PDF format is available here.

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