Beale Street Landing: Where The Money Went

(Memphis) From missed deadlines to money troubles, Beale Street Landing seems to be plagued with problems and controversy.

Supposing it opens next month, the building and riverboat dock in Tom Lee Park along the river in downtown will end up costing taxpayers $43 million.

Work on the building started more than a decade ago.

“This whole project is built to give people access to the water’s edge,” said Dorchelle Spence, who works with the Riverfront Development Corporation.

The RDC proposed Beale Street Landing as a riverboat docking service where passengers can grab a bite to eat and hang out.

The group saw it as a destination for riverboats on the Mississippi.

Spence said the city signed off on it with no architect, design or price tag in place.

“We decided to do the project in phases, so we did not bid the whole project at one time. We did not get an estimate for the project at one time,” said Spence.

Spence said the city approved each phase of the project, but never gave the RDC an overall budget.

Nobody could give WREG a reason why.

When the RDC set a grand opening date for June, it announced the project’s final price: $43 million.

While their website states $10 million came from grants and donations, $33 million will come from the taxpayer to fund a project the RDC said You envisioned all wrong.

“In the beginning, we were approached by people, and people got caught in the hysteria of doing almost a destination restaurant at the facility, but that’s not really how the building was designed or put together. But we entertained that idea,” said the RDC President Benny Lendermon.

“They talked about a lot of eateries, a lot of shopping, and so of course, that’s what the citizens are expecting. Even now, I don’t think we’ve seen that,” said Memphis City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert.

Other city council members admit they are worried.

“I’m concerned they didn’t put a gas line in,” said Councilman Myron Lowery.

The restaurant owner that was to open in Beale Street Landing backed out.

Now, the RDC is stepping up and opening its own bar and grill.

When the plans were announced in April’s board meeting, some members seemed hesitant saying there’s little parking, security issues and again, no gas line in the kitchen.

“The question is it necessary? The answer is no. Not all restaurants cook on gas. In fact, the whole Disney complex does not have gas anywhere in it,” said Spence.

WREG found out some restaurants inside Disney parks do use gas stoves.

A spokesperson told WREG it’s necessary, and popular grills like Local, Kooky Canuks, Huey’s, B.B. King’s and Bayou Bar and Grill agreed.

“We are not trying to make a lot of money or see it as a money maker,” said Spence.

That’s not what taxpayers had in mind.

“If they could generate money and maybe get the taxpayers something back out of it, instead of that being a money pit down there,” said Robert Martin.

Many taxpayers are afraid this project will be a flop like other city projects.

“Take a look at [the Pyramid] and all the money they’ve put in Peabody Place,” said Wanda Shapley.

Right now, when these taxpayers look at the strange-looking building, they call it the world’s most expensive souvenir shop.

“I think there’s other places in the city we could have used that money towards,” said Shapley.

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