Memphis riverfront cobblestones to be restored
Posted: Monday, May 28, 2012 8:00 pm
MEMPHIS (AP) — A plan is in the works to restore the cobblestones that line the bank of the Mississippi River in a $6 million project that also will include a plaza, a fountain and walkable pathways.
The Memphis Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/Ju1z3W) that the restoration project will take place just north of the Beale Street Landing, which opened in May. Riverfront Development Corp. president Benny Lendermon says the construction work will begin this fall.
Officials say the project will include a ramp for launching canoes and kayaks in the Memphis harbor. The area will remain accessible to cars and have a walkway by the river’s edge as well as two east-west paved walkways leading to the river.
The undertaking is expected to cost $6 million, much of it federal funding. The city has put up $400,000 in matching funding for the federal planning dollars.
The Downtown Memphis Commission’s design review board approved the plan earlier this month. That was the last local stop before the amended plan went to Nashville for state approval.
The cobblestones are believed to have been first laid out in the 1850s. Over the years, they either have been piled long and high with cotton bales and other freight, or have been used as a parking area for office workers and the site of the old Waterway Marine facility that ferried goods to barge crews moving up and down the river.
In 1979, the cobblestones were added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Cotton Row district. About 80 percent of the existing cobblestones won’t be touched in the restoration.
Some preservationists argue that paved walkways are an unnecessary break in the field of cobblestones. Others point to old asphalt paving over the cobblestones expressly for access to the excursion boats at the foot of the landing as well as pedestrian access to the water.
The same features that allowed the cobblestones to hold tons of cotton have also made the landing difficult to walk on for any great distance. The city was sued at least twice during Lendermon’s tenure as public works director over people injured while walking on the cobblestones.
“In many situations even people very much invested in historical preservation have very different opinions,” Lendermon said. “This is a very harsh environment. Whatever we put there will be flooded.”
The north-south walkway along the top of the landing will tie in with Beale Street Landing and the water’s edge walkway. It is part of a harbor walkway that Lendermon said Bass Pro Shops developers have talked of linking up to as they prepare to renovate The Pyramid as a super store with other attractions.
One dispute is over how much access to the river should be possible on the cobblestones and other features along the riverfront.
“Why are you even possibly encouraging people to go down there?” asked Design Review Board member David Schuermann.
“Are you kidding?” replied fellow board member Ray Brown. “That’s what it should have been all along. That’s what people have been looking for.”
Information from: The Memphis Daily News, http://www.memphisdailynews.com
Published in The Messenger 5.28.12