Memphis looking to Detroit for guidance on riverfront area


Tom Lee Park

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Bluff City is looking to the Motor City for some guidance.

The president of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy will visit Memphis to talk about how Detroit’s waterfront transformed from what they’re calling an "Industrial Wasteland to a World-Class Gathering Space."

This comes at a time when Memphis is looking to try new things with our riverfront.

Memphis and Detroit are 750 miles apart, but distance aside, the two cities have a lot in common: rich music histories, similar populations, both located along a river...and looking to spring back from economic hardships.

"They thought they needed to start at the riverfront and give people something to be proud of. That they needed to change the front door of the city, change the perception of the city, change the perception to the world and give the people from Detroit something to be proud of," said Benny Lendermon, President of the Riverfront Development Corporation here in Memphis.

Lendermon visited the Detroit Riverfront with other leaders. He said the Mississippi and Detroit rivers are very different, but Detroit is a good example of how the city executed a plan.

"They got people to work together. And their riverfront most like everyone else's other than ours, they had a whole lot of industrial property they had to buy and move and piece together and then make something happen, but when they did it, they did it with a plan of how it's all connected, it's connected back to the neighborhood."

Connecting back to the neighborhood is Memphis' goal — and part of the $5 million grant for reimagining the Civic Commons. It's how the ice skating rink over the winter was funded and the upcoming pop-up park off Riverside for the summer.

Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, said he's excited to visit Memphis and learn from our city as well.

"You’re doing a lot of things to test and experiment with the space. I think that will yield great results in the future. Every city has its own needs, and the community will really tell you what they're looking for by how they use the space, so to start off with some basketball, different activation I think is a smart approach."

If you would like to come hear Wallace’s presentation, it will be 5 p.m. Thursday at the second floor of the Cossitt Library.

To RSVP for the special discussion, you can call 901-312-9190 or email

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