Phase One of the Memphis Riverfront Concept

In 2017, Mayor Strickland’s riverfront task force partnered with internationally-recognized architecture firm Studio Gang to develop the Memphis Riverfront Concept. The concept envisions a series of small, elegant, connected moves that, together, create outsize impact. The concept was constructed with significant public input including an online survey that garnered more than 4,000 responses. Phase one of the concept includes the completion of the River Line trail, a new Mississippi River Park, redesigned Tom Lee Park and Riverside Drive as well as a new Civic Terrace centered around a reinvigorated cobblestone landing.

The Memphis River Parks Partnership is a nonprofit organization that stewards Memphis’ River Parks with and for the people of Memphis on behalf of the City of Memphis. The partnership manages, maintains and activates all existing river parks and is advancing the concept by leading a $75m capital campaign. The partnership will be the ‘client’ for development of final construction documents and will work with contractors to oversee construction. The partnership works closely with aligned organizations to produce programming and streamline and amplify communications. In particular, the partnership is a lead collaborator on the Reimagining the Civic Commons project on the Fourth Bluff. Partners include the City of Memphis, Downtown Memphis Commission, Innovate Memphis, Memphis Public Library and Memphis Grizzlies.

The Memphis Riverfront Concept was built on a significant baseline of public engagement including intercept surveys of park users, tabling at community events and an online survey that generated more than 4,000 responses from every ZIP code in Shelby County. As the partnership moves to execute the concept by developing final construction documents and starting construction the community will stay engaged through regular programming designed to build stewardship and ownership and to ensure that communication is clear, consistent and constructive.

Completion of phase one of the Memphis Riverfront Concept will advance five connected and complementary outcomes: connection, economic growth, equity, health and environment.

Connection – The five riverfront park districts will be connected seamlessly with walking and biking trails. Connections between the riverfront and downtown will be strengthened while disinvested adjacent neighborhoods will be connected to the river for the first time. By linking to the Wolf River Greenway and the network of trails across the Big River Crossing in Arkansas, the riverfront will sit at the center of a nationally significant trail system.

Growth – The riverfront signals the ambition of the city. Across the country, riverfront parks have sparked urban renaissances and delivered outsize returns on investment. The same can be true here as the riverfront attracts more residents and businesses back to the urban core and increases the city’s tax base.

Equity – The riverfront is and will remain a place where all Memphians come together and share space. It will catalyze economic opportunity and reinvestment in disinvested, downtown-adjacent neighborhoods.

Health – The riverfront will encourage physical activity and more time spent in natural surroundings. It will serve to combat air pollution and benefit the city overall.

Environment – The riverfront will be restored to natural conditions. Native ecology will encourage a more dynamic relationship between people and the river while playing an important role in protecting and conserving native plant and animal species. The partnership is measuring progress with a detailed measurement framework that includes intercept, neighborhood and physical surveys together with observation mapping and data analysis.