Soil deficiencies spell trouble for Memphis river project

Soil deficiencies spell trouble for Memphis river project

Posted: Friday, November 25, 2011 8:02 pm

MEMPHIS (AP) — Soil deficiencies along the Mississippi River are the latest hurdle for a planned park at Memphis’ Beale Street Landing project, which is already behind schedule and millions of dollars over initial cost projections.
First envisioned in 2002 as a $10.4 million docking terminal along the river, plans for Beale Street Landing now include a park allowing pedestrian access to the river, a floating dock for large riverboats and a terminal building that also will house a restaurant. Cost estimates have risen to nearly $42 million, according to The Commercial Appeal.
Benny Lendermon, president of the Riverfront Development Corp., now says soil deficiencies at the site are so severe that architects must find a way to simplify the layout for the terraced park that will be built next to the nearly completed docking facility. Without the changes, the park’s walkways, terraces and islands would require an expensive number of pilings and structural supports to compensate for the poor soil, he said.
Officials at the Riverfront Development Corp. — which manages Memphis’ riverfront amenities — haven’t identified the extent of the required changes. But, the basic concept of the original design will remain intact, and the total costs of the project won’t rise any further, officials said.
“We have to use a simpler solution that doesn’t require as much structural support,” Lendermon said. “We’re looking at everything.”
International companies competed for the design of the landing eight years ago, when the cost was projected at no more than $20 million. The winning design, by RTN Architects of Buenos Aires, Argentina, featured the series of islands descending toward the water and connected by walkways and bridges to allow for varying river levels.
Officials initially hoped the landing could be completed in 2006, but a prolonged approval process and city budget constraints pushed back the timetable. Meanwhile, projected costs grew due to a spike in higher steel prices and the rates charged by contractors after Hurricane Katrina.
Projected construction costs for the entire landing had risen to $38.1 million by the time City Council approved the nearly $9.75 million slated for the park phase six months ago. Adding a $3.85 million price tag for architecture and engineering, the total cost comes to at least $41.95 million.
Soil at the site is composed largely of the mucky alluvial material deposited by the river, but it’s not deposited in a “uniform manner,” Lendermon said. As a result, it has a tendency to settle much more than other soil types.
Significant settling along the walkways winding down the riverbank could put the project out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Should that happen, contractors would have to make the costly move of driving extra pilings into the ground to shore up the walkways.
Still, much of the landing project, including the building, dock and parking lot, should be completed by the end of this year.
Lendermon said he’s optimistic the modifications can be finished in time for a contractor to begin work on the park next spring. He doesn’t foresee much of a change in the earlier completion target of late 2012, or around that time.
Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com

Published in The Messenger 11.25.11

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