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Enhancing Memphis’ Riverfront Experience

The Mississippi River has always been integral to the City of Memphis. Founders of the city once dedicated the riverfront to the public “now and forever,” cementing the relationship between its people and the water. The Memphis riverfront landing was originally paved in cobblestones in the mid-19th century and has figured into shipping avenues, public parks, and riverboat docks. Nowadays, some of the most expensive real estate in the City resides on Mud Island and the historic Memphis Bluff with Riverfront views. Now the west side of the city, with the help of SSR, will see the expansion of two landings, looking to offer locals, tourists, and river cruise passengers a new view of Old Man River.

The design for expansion of Beale Street Landing, located at the foot of historic Beale Street, and Greenbelt Landing, located on Mud Island, began nearly five years ago in a request from the Memphis River Parks Partnership (The Partnership) and the City of Memphis to renovate and enhance the city’s riverfront experience. Already lined with public parks and a dock located at Beale Street Landing, the newest venture hopes to create more space for large passenger cruise vessels looking to dock during voyages up and down the storied river.

SSR was involved in the original Beale Street Landing redesign, which opened in 2012. We designed the now iconic red helical ramp which was specifically intended to accommodate for the continually fluctuating river water levels, allowing passengers to embark and disembark in all conditions. Then in 2018, we become involved not only in the design for the renovation and expansion, but also in acting as liaisons for the City. For the past several years, we have been involved in appropriations request forms and grant applications to secure funding for both the Beale Street Landing expansion and Greenbelt Landing development in addition to working with architects and developers in providing new designs for both docks. The expansion to Beale Street Landing will see a lengthening of the dock to accommodate for two vessels at once. The new Greenbelt Landing will be able to dock up to three vessels depending on the vessels and the river levels. From space for two vessels to potentially five, the riverfront is about to get even more inspiring.

This project has been both challenging and rewarding. We have somewhat become amateur river experts (which we realize is an oxymoron)! We wanted to learn as much as we could about the water and the vessels that come up and down the river every day so that we could provide the best design possible to meet our clients’ needs. One of the most rewarding parts of this project has been getting to work with different clients and having the opportunity to work more directly with the City of Memphis, the Memphis River Parks Partnership, and the owners of the three cruise vessel companies. As part of the design process, we also got to speak to pedestrians as they disembarked on vessels at Beale Street Landing to understand the customer side of the dock and riverfront experience. After gathering this information, we could then work to provide a design for expansion to meet those needs. 

An especially rewarding aspect of the project, though, has been working with a team consisting of a majority of women, from the architects to civil engineers to designers to managers throughout the City. The experience of working with incredibly smart and talented women striving together toward the same goal for our city has been the best part. This project has had a level of collaboration that the team hasn’t seen in a lot of cross-disciplinary projects, and we am grateful to be part of it. 

And soon all our hard work will pay off. We have managed to secure funding and our new designs for Beale Street Landing and Greenbelt Landing have been approved. Now we wait until we can begin implementing and seeing our designs come to life to make the riverfront an even more robust and exciting destination for locals and tourists alike.