Tuesday, February 03, 2004

What He Said

A great guest commentary in the Tuesday Commercial Appeal by James Williamson about riverfront development. He was involved in the 1987 riverfront plan and takes issue with the new plan. I don't have much to add to what Mr. Williamson says. He gets right to the heart of the matter: the founders of this city bequeathed a magnificent bluff-top area to their future and we should respect that and protect it.

The original plan preserves open space and encourages public participation. It ties the City intimately to the River, something we've been criminally lax in doing in recent decades. Read what he has to say; I can't improve it.

One thing I would add is that we should use the opportunity of redevelop to open a discussion about Confederate Park's name and purpose. It's a painful subject and it may get demagogued, but this would be the right time to explore whether we need to make changes and what those changes might be.

The new plan proposes to take a majority of the promenade area and hand it over to private developers, to convert into private residential towers and hotels. It's the same old story. Open area is anathema to developers, as a vacuum is to nature. They see it as a criminal waste of usable space. Look, for example, at what happened to all that wonderful greenfield south of Beale and west of the Temple. It's being filled in and "developed." Look at what happened to the fields west of East High. Look at what's being proposed for Shelby Farms. Encroachment is a natural occurence; it takes vigilance and will to stop it.

We need leaders with some of that. The 1987 riverfront plan is the superior one; it's the way we need to go. I fear though that the current crop of "leaders" we grunt and sweat under will only respond to the green of money, not the green of Nature's vistas. That's a shame.

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