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Old Posted Jan 30, 2010, 9:46 PM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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Mud Island Makeover
BILL DRIES | The Daily News

In August 1976, Roy Harrover, the Memphis architect who designed such landmarks as Memphis International Airport, Memphis College of Art and the NBC Bank Building wrote a six-page description of a project then known as Volunteer Park. It was a plan for 50 acres of city-owned property. Harrover termed it a “unique opportunity to provide (a) broad recreational and entertainment opportunity to Memphians and visitors in the Downtown area.”

-- TOP: Archival shot of Mud Island River Park under construction in 1979. -- PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
-- BOTTOM: The 5,000-seat Mud Island Amphitheater offers a spectacular view of Memphis at night but needs repairs and an upgrade to its facilities. -- PHOTO BY LANCE MURPHEY

Commercial Development:

One of the five scenarios developed by Looney Ricks Kiss would eliminate the Riverwalk and most traces of Mud Island park as it exists now. Replacing it would be a landscape of private commercial development with rows of retail, office space and residential towers. When asked if that level of change was likely, Lendermon said “probably not.” “The idea is, is there a way for appropriate private development to be incorporated in the island to provide the amenities people told us they wanted anyway in a way that helps pay for the public improvements? That is something that’s intriguing but hard to do,” he said, adding there might be a place for some commercial development, “but it has to be done with a light touch.”

Skate Park:

There has been a lot of talk about a skate park – so much that some newcomers to the issue of Mud Island’s future had to look twice at the five scenarios for the park. Skate park supporters have been so vocal that novices believed the park for skateboarders and other athletes might dominate the park. It’s a small but important part of the overall plan and one that Lendermon told The Memphis News is a strong possibility in some form at one of several possible locations. It’s a specific piece of a move in a more general but vital direction, Lendermon said. “There needs to be more recreation there and it needs to also be more connected,” he said. “You need to connect out of the park to the greenway system.”

Access to the South Tip:

“None of this is brain surgery,” Lendermon said. “Everbody understands access to the island is the issue.” One way to get more activity on the southern end of the island is to use water taxis to ferry visitors from the soon-to-be completed Beale Street Landing. “And for tourists they’re wonderful. For the everyday person who wants access, they’re too cumbersome,” he added. “In one sense, it’s easy to solve. You just provide a pedestrian bridge or two pedestrian bridges and provide connections where you want it to be.” The catch is those bridges cross a harbor that is still used by tow boats and barges. So the bridges would have to move either up or sideways to let them through. “If you go up and over like you did at the Auction Street Bridge, you can see what it looks like. That’s not a bridge anybody would walk across,” Lendermon said, referring to the steep angle of the car bridge. “It has to be grade moveable. That’s $30 million to $40 million a bridge. We absolutely love it. We would die for one. But that costs more than Beale Street Landing for a pedestrian bridge. It won’t even allow cars. … Can this community ever afford something like that?” Harrover said such a bridge would help. But he found federal bridge standards formidable in the 1980s. “You need 50 feet clearance in high water. That’s the height of the bridge that goes there now,” he said referring to the Auction Street Bridge. “I could not get the Corps (of Engineers) to reduce that, which is crazy, because only barges go up there. They’ve got enough clearance for the Mississippi Queen’s smokestacks.”

Last edited by Johnny Ryall; Aug 2, 2016 at 3:54 AM.
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