Beale Street Landing - "Frozen"

… A barge crane stands like a giant sentinel at the mouth of the harbor just off the north end of Tom Lee Park. A partially completed iron dam and two red columns jut out of the water. The tip of the park is gouged and cluttered with supplies and equipment. This is the construction site of Beale Street Landing, a boat dock, restaurant, and public space scheduled to open in the summer of 2011.

The controversial project, frozen like the mighty river in January, is faced with escalating costs, pushed back timelines, and once hoped for federal funds unavailable.
Memphis Magazine's article about the project, "Frozen," is now online. Click HERE.


Channel 5 Reports on BSL Status

Channel 5's Jason Miles reported Wednesday that the RDC needs millions "more taxpayer dollars to keep the controversial Beale Street Landing project afloat." blogger, Mike Cromer, clarifies the dollar amounts needed to cover the shortfall - what the RDC is asking for now ($2M) and what will surface down the road at budget time in May ($7M more).


Illustrations of BSL - Where it started, Where it is now.

Here's the location:

Here's what was there:

Here's what 2002 RDC MasterPlan called for:

Here's the design from RTN in Argentina:

Here's a model:

Here's what we're building:

Tall buildings in background are One Beale, a private hotel/condo project on hold because of the economy.

Take a virtual tour HERE.

Here's where we are now:

Photo taken 2/10/2010. Near completion of Phase 2 with Phases 3, 4A, and 4B ahead.

  • The cost has gone from $10.3M to somewhere around $37M.

  • We currently have 2 commercial boat landings:

#1 Cobblestone Landing - serves our local riverboat excursion company

#2 Boat landing at Mud Island River Park - closed.

Do we need/can we afford a 3rd?


B$L - Numbers in Disarray

Time to call a "time-out", get independent audit and analysis!

Sports fans all know that a time-out is a good thing - a chance to see what's working, what's not working, and make adjustments. Memphis definitely needs one on the riverfront.

The numbers are in disarray. They keep changing and the city's share keeps going up. No one is clear what's been spent, what the earmarks are actually for, or what contracts have actually been signed. And no answers have been given to the important questions about paying for future maintenance and operation of the boat dock.

May 2009 Hand-out to City Council during budget hearings showed:

Total estimated cost of BSL - $33M
City’s share: $22.3M
$ 7.4M City money spent
$ 3.6M State money spent
$14.9M City money, not yet spent
$7.9M Federal money, not yet spent
(Click image at right to enlarge hand-out)

Dec. 13, 2009 Commercial Appeal reported:
$8.9M additional funding request to City as a result of $8.2M in cost over-runs and $1.4M reduction in federal funds.

Based on those numbers, it looks like the design and construction cost of BSL is now around $41.3M, with the City’s share at $31.2M. And that doesn't include what we'll have to pay to operate and maintain the boat dock if it's built.


Vibrant Riverfront for Less

A letter-to-the editor at the Commercial Appeal had
5 good suggestions for how to reduce the cost of BSL and get more bang for the buck on the riverfront.

Check them out HERE and share your ideas. Several comments so far: make it a deck not a dock; get rid of the “pods/islets” and put a playground at the N. end of Tom Lee Park; convert it to a skate park; make it a plaza with food vendors.

You can add your comments at or e-mail your suggestions to us at

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"Baby, It's Cold Outside"

And the perfect day to stay inside and
read John Branston's "Frozen" in February's Memphis Magazine.

In fact, don't miss it!! It sheds some much needed light on the controversial Beale Street Landing and raises questions that need attention before the City decides whether or not to sink more money into the boat dock. Brandon Dill's spectacular photos capture the immensity and power of the winter Mississippi. For non-subscribers, the magazine should be just-out on the newsstands or coming soon.


Unrealistic to expect local company assume cost increases of switch to BSL

With overnight riverboat companies out of business, our local Memphis Riverboats will be the only company using Beale Street Landing. Right now they pay to dock at the Cobblestone Landing, but plans for BSL call for ticketing and boarding of local tours to shift to the new boat dock.

Q: Is there a need for Beale Street Landing, or would the cobblestone landing we already have, with improvements that would cost less, suffice?

A. In an interview for the Daily News in 2006, the current owner of Memphis Riverboats Inc., Capt. William Lozier, said he thinks the cobblestones are a better investment. “We like where we’re at,” Lozier said. “Yeah, we’d like a new facility, but a new facility comes with new problems.”

BSL will come with serious debt (roughly $2M in annual interest alone) and new maintenance and operating expenses. What will those costs increases be? No one has said, but it’s unrealistic and unfair to expect our local company to assume them.

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Calls for Change on Riverfront

New citizens' group, led by Memphis watchdog Joe Saino, looks at Beale Street Landing, RDC finances, and says WHOA-Beale Street Landing? $$$$

The Riverfront work is only about 20% complete and now is the time to put it on hold, call for an audit of money spent and committed and form a citizen RIVERFRONT CONSERVANCY group to make a plan that has broad public support, contains no self interested parties and with the objectives of a lower cost, lower maintenance, historically accurate and publically usable and accessible riverfront. The present plan keeps growing in cost and now is the time to put it on hold and come up with a plan that makes sense and that is not so costly and controversial.'s goal is to monitor and investigate government activities, conflicts of interest, waste and abuse, ordinances, and regulations “in the hope that a better-informed electorate will lead to better government."


Is it too late to rethink B$L?

With project costs up, overnight riverboats out of business, the city budget stretched, and a tax increase under consideration, the answer is NO. It's time to pause, get accurate information and do a cost benefit analysis of the project before approving any more money or signing any more contracts. looks at "How far is too far to turn back?"

Memphis is not alone in the dilemma of how to deal with expensive projects in this down-economy.
The economic downturn has reined in a lot of ... big dreams and has also led to questions about whether ambitious building projects from Buffalo to Berkeley ever made sense to begin with

according to a New York Times article.


How much $ is BSL really going to cost?

In December we learned there have been cost overruns and federal reductions, and that the City has been asked for $9M more dollars for Beale Street Landing. But exactly how much money has been spent? How much money will be spent? What share of that is City money? One blog, Memphis, has been trying to figure it out. Click HERE.


B$L - The Inconvenient Truths

John Branston exposes fiscal incompetency on the riverfront and reveals why we are where we are:

Read more »


B$L - City asked for $9M More to Cover Cost Overruns

The cost of Beale Street Landing was up - to $33M, the City Council was told in May. Memphis's share would be $22M.

Now, 6 months later, the cost has gone up again. The Commercial Appeal reports that the federal share is down, cost is up, and the City is being asked for another $9M to pay for Beale Street Landing.

Letters-to-editor raise questions; point out more problems; and urge City to investigate and get answers before committing any more money.
Read more »


What's all the dirt about?

It's your tax dollars at work

Beale Street Landing under construction.
$7.4M of city money has been spent so far. $14.9M is requested in the City's CIP budget. The total estimated public cost is now at $33M.

Click below for John Branston's May 15th "Flyer" article that takes a look at the project and cost overruns and for the RDC hand-out to City Council.
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BSL to receive $475,000 in stimulus funds

An article in the Commercial Appeal announced that U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen secured $475,000 in federal stimulus funding for Beale Street Landing (BSL) - the $29.4M boat dock project underway at the foot of Beale Street.

Although "shovel ready", it seems a strange project to receive funding designed to support economic recovery. The overnight boats it was intended to serve have gone out of business.

Previous public funding for the project includes approximately $10M from the state and federal government and $19M from the City.

Click below for links to the article on stimulus funds for Memphis and for additional information on BSL.
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Beale Street Landing - "Virtual" View

The RDC has produced a short "virtual" video to clear up confusion and give us a preview glimpse of Beale Street Landing (BSL). If you haven't seen it yet, click HERE to watch.

The large twin towers seen in the background on the video are not yet built. They are the proposed $250M Carlisle Corp. luxury hotel/condo project, No. 1 Beale. Because of the economic downtown, the project has been modified.

The BSL parking lot to be built in Tom Lee Park is not shown in the video.
For a map that shows the location of the boat dock, restaurant/ticketing area, and parking lot, click here.


Beale Street Landing - a white elephant already ? !

If you drive along Riverside Drive, you’ll see that work has started on Beale Street Lanindg (BSL). But the project is far from finished, and much more tax money is slated to be spent in the future. Meanwhile, Majestic America Line, the company that wanted to use the new boat dock, is in financial trouble, trying to sell their boats, and plans no trips for 2009 or any time in the future.

Looks like BSL could already be a white elephant.

Here's the Flyer article that broke the story and other information on the $29.4M public project.
Click here to read the Flyer article.
Click here to read Majestic America’s announcement.

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Beale Street Landing Underway

by Lynda Ireland

Over 200 Memphians gathered at the river under two large shade trees at the groundbreaking ceremony, highlighted by Reverend Benjamin Hooks’ blessing and Middle Baptist Church gospel choir’s lively rendition of “O Happy Day.” Mayor Willie W. Herenton mentioned a visit years ago by Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson who pointed out that Memphis has something Atlanta is missing: the Memphis riverfront.
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Council to look at $ for Beale Street Landing

Beale Street Landing(BSL) started out as a $10M idea to do something special at the foot of Beale Street. Since that time it has morphed into a $29.M public project.

Its need, cost, design, and intrusion into Tom Lee Park for land and parking are questioned by many. Project designers and proponents, on the other hand, describe it as "terraced islands descending to the river" and avoid questions about whether its real purpose is to serve as a boat dock for a "water taxi" to Tunica.

Since its inception, BSL has been controversial. Construction is scheduled to begin on landfill for the project this July and funding for other phases is currently being reviewed by the City Council.

Here are some links to information about the project and the continuing debate.
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A Ferry to Where?

The federal $ going to Beale Street Landing is supposed to be for a ferry terminal. By definition a ferry goes from one side of a body of water to the other side in a location where there is no bridge, so the logical question has been: A ferry to where?

Benny Lendermon, president of the Riverfront Development Corp. (RDC) may have answered the questioned the other day. It doesn’t actually fit the definition of a ferry, but, according to Lendermon, “there’s an individual in Memphis, one person, who’s fairly serious about a water taxi going to Tunica from there.”

The night-time illustration of BSL makes it look like this may be part of the game plan.

For a long time, lots of people have been wondering why we’d build an expensive new boat dock. This may be the missing piece of the puzzle.


Update: BSL funding, Cobblestones, Ericson proposal

The City Council Parks Committee will meet at 12:30 Tuesday (Dec. 18) to consider a resolution to approve $6 million for Phase 2 of the Beale Street Landing project. In Phase 2: Steel pilings will be driven into the riverbed and landfill brought in to create four new acres for the project. (Much more below...)
Read more »

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An Update on BSL – the details

At the request of the The TN Dept. of Transportation (TDOT), FfOR sent suggestions about ways to avoid or minimize the negative effect of Beale Street Landing on the unique historic integrity of the Memphis riverfront. We did a little research and came across some earlier plans that, with modification, just might solve the problem – give us an exciting public space at the water level, restore the Cobblestone Landing, and provide a place for commercial and private boats to dock.

Here is some background on the 106 process, FfOR’s letter to TDOT, illustrations of earlier designs, and links for more study.

Read more »

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BSL doesn't meet guidelines - Plan raises new questions

The TN Historical Commission has ruled that the RDC’s proposed Beale Street Landing project (BSL) will “adversely affect the Cotton Row Historic District.” Articles about the ruling in the Commercial Appeal, the Memphis Business Journal, and on several websites have raised new questions about the project and leave the old questions of need and location still up in the air.
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"Buzzing" BSL in a satellite

Here's the picture that got people buzzing today:

We carefully traced the RDC architect's drawing of the Beale Street Landing complex onto a Google satellite photo of the riverfront. As you can see, BSL (yellow outline) will consume a portion of Tom Lee Park -- an area used to stage concerts during Memphis in May. On the north end, BSL also covers a portion of the lower Cobblestones.
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BSL renderings

Most people haven't really seen what Beale Street Landing will look like in detail, except for the smallish pictures posted at the RDC's site. We're going to solve that problem.

We obtained from the RDC a large-format printed copy of the four artist renderings -- the same book of drawings they gave out to Council members and others last May. Our webmaster scanned them in high resolution, and then re-balanced the color a bit because the printing process the RDC used had made them too orangey. Those renderings are now posted in the Library.

Updated: We've also made some to-scale diagrams, overlaid on a satellite photo of the riverfront, so that you can see the scale and location of the project. All that and still more is in the Library.
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Whether we want it or not – Council votes to pay for boat dock

The Council Chamber was packed -- standing room only. But neither the size of the crowd nor impassioned pleas to cut Beale Street Landing, resonated with the City Council. The vote was 7 to 3, with one abstention, to spend $29.4 million of taxpayer money to build the new commercial boat dock.
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FINAL vote Tuesday -- whether to pay $29 million for new boat dock?

Right now $29.4 million is back in the budget to build a new commercial boat dock for the city. That's about 1/2 what we spent on the Pyramid.

This Tuesday, June 5, at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main, the Council will vote "yes" or "no" on the project. If approved, the RDC says work will start this fall.

The February Project for Public Spaces (PPS) newsletter took a look at “Waterfront Renaissance” and the opportunity waterfronts bring to create great public spaces that attract and inspire us?”

Does Beale Street Landing do that? Here's what PPS thinks.
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Beale $treet Landing back in the budget

The City Council is convinced that what Memphis needs is more glitz, this time in the form of a new commercial boat dock. On a motion by Councilmember Ricky Peete, $29.4-million is back in the City budget to build Beale Street Landing.

At the CIP wrap-up session on May 24th, few facts were discussed, but the Council was back in lock-step with the Administration to see that this project goes forward. As Peete, the Council’s former representative on the RDC Board, said, “We have to have some vision if we are going to be on a par with Atlanta.”
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What's happening at Beale $treet Landing?

We got a copy of the proposed Capital Improvements budget, and to our surprise and consternation, the cost of Beale Street Landing has jumped from $29-million to $47-million. What happened?

We’ve heard it’s an error by the finance department. Well, $18-million is a pretty big error.
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Beale Street Landing - what, where, why, who, ... Do we need it? Can we afford it?

Work is scheduled to begin soon on a retaining wall that will allow construction of Beale Street Landing.
A recent article in the "Flyer" and an editorial in the “Commercial Appeal,” raised some serious questions and suggested Memphians take a closer look at the project before we spend $29.3million dollars on something we may no longer need or be able to afford.
Here is a "who, what, where" kind of look at the project.
Corrections and updated information (as of 11/11/08) have been added in red.
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RDC Changes CIP Budget Request

Even the RDC felt the pinch of this year's budget-tightening. Just prior to the presentation of their CIP request to the Council's CIP Budget Committee, some numbers changed. It was good news for the Public Promenade and Cobblestones and mixed news on the Beale Street Landing project.
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