Memphis Magazine — "Revising the Riverfront"

Photograph by Justin Fox Burks

"Two years ago, a plan commissioned by the then-Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC) was presented by Chicago-based architecture and urban design firm Studio Gang that proposed a way to connect five distinct zones along the six-mile stretch with bike trails, playgrounds, parks, performance areas, and plazas. The concept was comprehensive and intended to come to fruition in short-, medium-, and long-term stages. The major component was a makeover of Tom Lee Park designed by the New York-based landscape architects SCAPE, the details of which were revealed last month. The resulting discussion continues, with passion.

At the center of Memphis’ ambitious $70 million reimagining of the riverfront is Carol Coletta. As president and CEO of the Memphis River Parks Partnership (the upgraded replacement to the RDC), the urban revitalization expert has been instrumental for some years in pulling together the resources necessary to make the project succeed: She’s had a role in eliciting money from foundations, support of politicians, participation of civic groups. She’s also championed the work of the two architectural design firms behind the concept.

...The two architecture firms that have presented the evolutionary vision for the Memphis riverfront are top-tier, innovative enterprises, both headed by women with MacArthur Foundation Fellowships. Jeanne Gang (a 2011 MacArthur Fellow) founded Studio Gang 20 years ago in Chicago and has built a reputation for projects that are often daring but always grounded.

...The Studio Gang team in Memphis is led by Gia Biagi, whose title is principal of urbanism and civic impact at the firm, and who, Coletta says, knows as much as anyone about the Memphis riverfront."

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