By Amalia Otet, Associate Editor
The Riverfront Development Corp., a non-profit organization committed to reshaping the Memphis riverfront and turning it into an outdoor recreational venue, is making efforts to keep the Beale Street Landing project on track.
With financing coming from various sources in a public/private partnership, the $38.1 million development that began in 2004 is slated to be completed by early 2012. Yet Phase 4B of the project, to include the construction of guitar pick-shaped islands, terraces and the plaza that will connect the landing with Beale Street, appears to have hit a roadblock; the agency rejected all certified bids received for its construction as exceeding budget and is currently working on a design change to bring down the costs, which are estimated around $9.75 million, as reported in a Memphis Business Journal story.
Beale Street Landing is expected to have a strong impact on the city’s economy as, in addition to outstanding recreational amenities, it will also feature a modern docking facility that will serve as a welcoming front door to visitors arriving by riverboat.
The efforts are finally starting to pay off as the Great American Steamboat Co. decided to bring the American Queen to the Mississippi River and relocate its corporate headquarters to 6,944 square feet at One Commerce Square in downtown Memphis. The move comes with significant job creation for Memphians, as 60 percent of the 258 crew positions available on the vessel are to be selected from the Memphis metro area, according to company statements; an additional 26-27 job positions are to be created at the headquarters.
The American Queen was purchased this year by an affiliate of the Great American Steamboat Co. for $15.5 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation; the city of Memphis threw in $9 million in support of the project through federal Housing and Urban Development loan funds, to be paid back over a period of 10 years through a $89 docking fee paid wherever the boat docks, as reported by the Memphis Business Journal; upon completion of a $5 million renovation, the 418-foot steamboat will sail out of Beale Street Landing on an inaugural cruise on April 11, 2012.