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River cruise firm buys harbor dock, plans to clean cobblestone site

By Published: April 05, 2019 8:02 AM CT

The river company that operates sightseeing paddle-wheelers from Downtown’s historic cobblestones has just purchased the vacant Cargill dock 2.5 miles up the Wolf River Harbor.

Memphis Riverboats Inc. bought the 5.25 acres sandwiched between the harbor and North Second for $292,500.

The company has two primary plans for the dock that is near the north end of the harbor and opposite the northernmost residential subdivision on Mud Island.

Memphis Riverboats will run the facility as a business, making the dock available for companies to unload any commodities such as sand, said Capt. William Lozier, a riverboat captain whose family has operated Memphis Riverboats for 64 years.

The company also will use the property in its effort to clean up the cluttered, rundown parts of its Downtown cobblestone operation visible to so many tourists and Memphians, Lozier indicated.

The three or four paddle-wheelers used for sightseeing excursions, dinner cruises and private parties will remain moored to a barge where the cobblestones meet the water.

“All of those will stay on the cobblestone,” Lozier said of the paddle-wheelers. “They are trademark and historic.”

But the company’s extra parts, equipment, floating sheds and other less-attractive infrastructure will be moved to the former Cargill property at 1387 N. Second.

“Anything I need to store I will store up there,” Lozier said. “The front of Memphis will be nothing but paddle-wheel boats. That’s what they have asked us to clean up, and it’s what we’re doing.”

“They” refers to the Memphis River Parks Partnership, with which Memphis Riverboats has a business arrangement.

The company gets to dock its paddle boats at the cobblestones and also use nearby Beale Street Landing both to sell tickets and start and end its cruises. In return, Memphis Riverboats gives a percentage of its ticket sales to the partnership.

The appearance of Memphis Riverboats’ cobblestone operation emerged as an issue more than a year ago. Lozier had bought a large, former casino barge – measuring 276 feet long by 78 feet wide – with plans to renovate it and keep it permanently at the cobblestones, 45 S. Riverside.

But the Memphis River Parks Partnership disliked the sight of the rundown barge and its size. Partnership officials pressured Lozier to move it away or risk being evicted from the cobblestones and Beale Street Landing.

Lozier obliged, floating the old casino barge up to the former Cargill dock where he removed its three-story top.

He said he has already removed much of the clutter from the site and out of the view of Downtowners.

“We’ve gotten rid of a lot of equipment that had been down there over the years,” Lozier said. “… We’ve scrapped over $150,000 worth of stuff the last year.”

"We’re pleased that Captain Lozier is working with us to improve the riverfront for all Memphians," said George Abbott, spokesman for Memphis River Parks Partnership.

As Lozier continues decluttering the cobblestone operation in coming weeks, he will leave in place the barge to which the paddle-wheel boats are moored.

“You can’t push the boats into the cobblestones,” he said. “I need the one barge.”

The most noticeable part of the old Cargill property is the row of eight concrete silos where corn, soybeans and other crops were once stored. That massive structure soon will be demolished and removed by the previous owner, Rickey Matthews, Lozier said.

Lozier bought the property to use the docking facilities, not the silos and other small buildings. “I couldn’t build a dock for that,” he said of the $292,500 he paid.

“The property doesn’t look like much. Don’t get me wrong:  The docking portion is what I bought the property for,” Lozier said.

Topics

Commercial Real Estate Riverfront
Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey covers business news for The Daily Memphian. A Tupelo, Mississippi, native, he graduated from Mississippi State University. He's worked in journalism for 40 years and has lived in Midtown for 36 years.


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