Riverfront Master Plan

A strategic plan to unite five miles of riverfront.

The City of Memphis has a storied history regarding its relationship to the Mississippi River. Whether through its popularity as a transportation hub, the hardships endured through great floods, or the culture from which the Blues and Rock ‘n Roll evolved, the Mississippi River has defined life in Memphis. Over time, the city seemed to separate itself from the river, no longer relying on it for commerce and transportation. The RDC worked with the public, through Cooper, Robertson & Partners to create and present the Memphis Riverfront Master Plan, a strategic plan to unite five miles of riverfront, to the Memphis City Council for consideration. The vision “Reunite the City with the River” was designed to do just that by making the majestic Mississippi River more accessible and visible for area residents and visitors to the Bluff City.

The Memphis Riverfront Master Plan was designed to be a “living” document that looked at the Memphis waterfront from a 35,000 foot elevation and considered its needs over a 50-year span. Since its initial acceptance by the Memphis City Council in 2004, a number of the plan elements have been further planned or designed, such as the docking facility at the foot of Beale Street and the blocks along the bluff commonly known as the Promenade.

One element of the Memphis Riverfront Master Plan, referred to as the land bridge, was later reviewed and determined to be unfeasible. After much discussion and debate, it was eliminated from the plan by the RDC Board of Directors. That change was subsequently presented to and approved by the Memphis City Council. As we continue to listen to public feedback, adjustments and enhancements are being made to help create world-class riverfront that everyone can enjoy.

Take a look at the Master Plan, but keep in mind: progress on the riverfront is being made all the time.


The Memphis Promenade runs along Front Street from Union Avenue on the south to Auction on the north and was dedicated by the city’s founders for public purpose. It was once the land closest to the river, with no parks or roads below. Today, nearly 250 acres of greenspace exists between these blocks and the Mississippi River. With the help of a group of civic-minded citizens and urban designers from Cooper Robertson & Partners, the RDC has developed an exciting new plan to make the section of the Promenade running from Union Avenue to Adams more pedestrian-friendly. The plan, which add more than 60 percent of public open space to the area, includes: preserving the historic Customs House and Confederate Park, opening up more views of the Mississippi River, creating underground parking instead of parking garages, allowing river side space for outdoor cafes, gathering places and creating pedestrian paths that will allow for an uninterrupted stroll around the Promenade. Follow the links to PDFs of the entire study.

IntroductionExisting Conditions and AnalysisUrban Design Principles – PrecedentsPublic Realm Elements Development Guidelines

Mud Island Land Use Study

Beginning in March 2009, the public provided ideas and guidance for the comprehensive land use study of Mud Island. The first round of input gathered a very broad range of possible ideas for improving Mud Island River Park from a diverse a group of citizens throughout Memphis.

The second round of input involved nearly 200 citizens in designing possible land use scenarios using elements from the public’s first round of input and gathered feedback on interest in these elements from 533 survey respondents. Targeted stakeholder groups also shared perspectives on possible combinations of proposed land use.

In the third and final round, a broad range of ideas for improving Mud Island River Park was gathered through on-line surveys, public meetings and stakeholder focus groups, ultimately leading to a cohesive framework for future land use. This framework will guide development at Mud Island River Park for years to come.

You can download the final report and results from all three surveys below.

Final Report Part IFinal Report Part IIPhase Three Public Input ReportPhase Three Survey ResultsPhase Two Public Input ReportPhase Two Survey ResultsPhase One Public Input ReportPhase One Survey Results

Urban Land Institute Panel

Once the Memphis Riverfront Master Plan was completed, RDC began looking for the most effective way to evaluate its feasibility. They turned to the experts—The Urban Land Institute.

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) is a non-profit education and research organization that has more than 16,000 members worldwide. ULI’s mission is to provide responsible leadership in the use of land in order to enhance the total environment. Interdisciplinary teams of senior-level professionals provided a comprehensive appraisal of our development process, from identifying opportunities and constraints to determining methods of implementation.

The panel toured the study area, interviewed stakeholders, and developed recommendations that were presented at the conclusion of their visit. Their comments were overwhelmingly favorable and have provided RDC with the independent assessment it needs to move forward with complete confidence that it is heading in the right direction.

Urban Land Institute Advisory Services Panel Report