Riverfront concept design still has several steps before becoming reality

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Chicago architecture firm brought in to re-imagine the Memphis riverfront released its conceptual renderings Tuesday.

The chair of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's Riverfront Task Force said the group will start using the findings and suggestions from citizens in the next 60 days.

"We heard loud and clear, people want shade. They want a great place to sit," said Gia Biagi, Principal with Studio Gang Architects," Those are things that come in small packages. Those are benches. Those are trees."

Biagi's firm presented a fresh look at the Downtown Memphis riverfront Tuesday. The most noticeable additions included the recommendations of trees and green space.

"There's going to be a lot of images people see," said Alan Crone, chair of the Riverfront Task Force,"They're going to react to it both positively and negatively. We'll start those conversations."

Mayor Jim Strickland first convened a Riverfront Task Force back in January.

Crone said in the coming weeks, the task force will use the conceptual renderings presented Tuesday to discuss possible projects. There's no price tag at this point.

Crone said the city can't fund all the projects. Non-profits and companies will have to chip in to help the project along.

"We've got people coming, more people moving into downtown, more people coming to work in downtown, and more tourists coming, and it's just like anything else you've got to add attractions," he said, "You've got to add amenities."

The architecture firm went to more than 20 community meetings and got responses from 4,500 online surveys. The firm said it's clear that Memphians' care and connection to the riverfront is remarkable.

"We heard a couple who said whenever they get in a fight they both find their way to the riverfront separately, and then they find each other and talk about what's going on. You can't define that. You can't invent that. Those things happen," Biagi said.

The city maintains the new renderings are just concepts, not even a plan.

It remains to be seen what will come of them, as Tuesday it was mentioned there have been roughly 11 riverfront plans put forward since 1980.

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