Memphis Riverfront
Memphis Riverfront

Memphis sits high above the Mississippi on the Chickasaw bluffs, with a commanding view of the river and the Arkansas floodplain. The riverbank at the end of Beale Street is a chain of historic cobblestones, parks, trails and the little visited Mud Island Museum. Yet Front Street, which was historically the site of cotton warehouses and dealers, had become overtaken by parking garages and civic buildings with the backs of the library, fire station, and post office facing the river. The river was no longer visible from the streets of downtown.

This plan was built on many stakeholder and public meetings, where the community made it clear that the city needed to return its front to the river, find opportunities for new investment and living along the riverbanks, renovate Mud Island, renovate Tom Lee Park, and connect it all together with a new river edge that gave unlimited access without harming river boating access or historic values.

The key to this plan is the relocation of four industries from the Wolf River (which sits between downtown and Mud Island), to President’s Island. This will allow the US Army Corps to discontinue costly dredging of the shipping channel, and allows for new land to be created to connect Mud Island directly to downtown. With the barge traffic gone, this will allow a new pedestrian bridge to be built from Beale and Union Streets directly to Mud Island, opening up easy access to the most desirable place in town - the edge of the river.

The plan was fully approved and led to the recent construction of a new Paddle Wheeler terminal at the end of Beale Street. Allowing river cruise boats to dock safely in any water level at a site where the river can fluctuate as much as 59 feet in a given year. The plan has further led to other new investments along the riverfront, beginning a revitalization of the city and the riverfront together.

Client: Memphis Riverfront Development Corporation
Collaborators: Cooper Robertson & Partners
Completed: 2000
Budget: $1 million, plan