What can be done with $7 million

When we began discussing a way to restore the riverfront for as little as $7 million, the RDC became greatly agitated. They attacked the idea as flawed and unaffordable. It will cost $20 million just to move the fire station, they reminded us. "[Any plan] no matter what you put back is very costly -- $50 million." Lendermon wrote.

We can understand their alarm. $7 million is less than the RDC's annual budget.

But we really don't appreciate their distortions of what we said.

Take the fire station. We didn't propose moving it. The City has to move our fire service headquarters because the building doesn't meet earthquake code. If they haven't already set aside for the move, the people of Memphis should demand to know why.

We didn't propose moving the Post Office. Let the Feds do that when they're ready. But we will keep the building, thank you, because it's a beautiful bit of our history, and there have been several good ideas for its adaptive reuse.

We didn't propose a new library. Just tearing down the front part, and saving the rest of the original Cossitt for future restoration.

Those garages? They were supposed to be underground in the first place. Plus they've served their useful life. The CCC has already figured out that there's plenty of parking downtown. And isn’t the idea to get parking off the Riverbluff anyway?

We stand by our estimate: $7 million, give or take.

$7 million plan - click to enlarge
What we proposed was a simple, baseline concept for bringing the Promenade back to being, well...a Public Promenade. Bulldoze the garages, the fire station (after the fire department moves out), and the library addition. Restore all available area to green space. Landscape it. Rebuild the Bluffs and finish the Bluffwalk - including three new pedestrian bridges.

If Memphis wants to do even more, it will cost more, of course. But why not start with this?

And why not have a real public process to determine what Memphians want, and then how to pay for it? We’re a pretty creative, entrepreneurial bunch. Maybe we’ll want it lighted at night, planted with every native tree, a curving drawbridge to connect to Mud Island, places for artists to display their work, a tumbling waterway to the river, vendors selling fried green tomatoes and watermelon in the summer, outdoor movies in the fall, a platform for speakers/musicians/playwrights … Who knows what we’ll come up with. Give us a chance to dream and create our own space.

Figure: Here is how our Riverbluff might look if Memphians wanted to add a few additional-cost features. Click the picture for a closer look. Drawing by Jack R. Tucker Associates, Architects.

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