Thousands in Taxpayer Dollars Used for Ideas to Spruce Up Downtown Memphis

Thousands in Taxpayer Dollars Used for Ideas to Spruce Up Downtown Memphis

Years of planning have gone by to revamp downtown Memphis but there's still no action.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Years of planning have gone by to revamp downtown Memphis but there's still no action. That's why Mayor Wharton's Office hired an outside city planner to make changes now.

The planner unveiled a dozen ideas to spruce up the heart of downtown and you paid for it. The city planner travels all around the country, redeveloping downtown cities. He says there's a lot of potential in Memphis and starts with making downtown more pedestrian friendly.

The only thing that's "happening" is Beale Street Landing. The urban city planner, Jeff Specks from Washington D.C., says there's a lot more that needs to be done.

"The people are very excited of having a better, more active, more accessible, and more walkable riverfront,” said Specks.

One idea from the city planner is to make the far west lane of Riverside Drive into bike lanes and the far east lane into parking spots. Specks says it will force drivers to slow down and make pedestrians feel safe.

"The proposals I made for Riverside Drive are just restriping, you don't have to build anything,” he said.

Having user-friendly parks was another key aspect to the Riverfront and bringing people downtown. Memphis Chamber of Commerce knows that very well. Across the street from where the chamber is one of the many downtown parks, and you can get free WiFi. The chamber started providing that free internet service two years ago but not many people know about it. Chamber CEO John Moore says it's all about how we use green spaces.

"Look out here and you see these benches,” Moore said as he’s looking outside from his conference window towards Front Street. “Well two thirds of the benches don't even face the river and I can tell you this is the most beautiful sunsets right out here."

But planning costs money and taxpayers are paying thousands. When asked Specks how much the city is paying him, he replied, “You know I don't remember the exact contractual amount but it was significant, certainly we put a lot of effort into it." He later said it was in the upper five figures.

Specks also talked about making Mud Island more accessible to downtown, making the Pinch District more attractive, and their ideas to improve the riverfront. If you want to see his entire list of recommendations, read Speck’s report at: http://www.memphistn.gov/Portals/0/pdf_forms/Jeff%20Speck%20final%20report.pdf
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