This week’s meeting of the Design Review Board with Bass Pro Shops was a tense one on many fronts.
It was a packed board room at the Downtown Memphis Commission’s 114 N. Main St. office. It was packed full of Bass Pro executives, government officials, lawyers, design professionals, community stakeholders and members of the media. It was also packed with varying opinions about Bass Pro’s exterior plans to The Pyramid.
And understandably so. It’s a Memphis landmark, and people feel pretty strongly about it. As DRB member Rebecca Conrad pointed out, while there was initial controversy that came with the idea of The Pyramid before its construction in the early 1990s, we can all agree that it’s an iconic structure for Memphis now. She likened it to the St. Louis arch in what it means for the city.
Prepared for several public comments on Bass Pro’s proposed signage, the DRB had a sign up sheet at the door for the 4 p.m. meeting Wednesday. After about half a dozen of citizens expressed their respective concerns, a last minute addition was made to the public comment list. It was Robert Lipscomb, director of the city’s Housing and Community Development Division. Here’s what he had to say:
I think everything we’ve tried to do is represent the city of Memphis and bring commerce to city of Memphis. I do strongly believe in something that be found on (our) coin, and that is E Pluribus Unum. E. PLURIBUS. UNUM. Out of many comes one. And that’s what democracy is all about and that’s what the project is all about. So even though I was the front runner of all of this, I figured I had all of Memphis behind me. And I did. As we started out, there was whole community behind me that represented this community really well and we were able to contract a great retailer. (Turning to Chooch Pickard, former director of Memphis Regional Design Center who has been extremely vocal about his opposition to Bass Pro’s signage on The Pyramid) I mean, Chooch, we don’t disagree. We want to have your comments to make it better. Every comment that we heard we took into consideration and said, ‘let’s go back and look and see if we can make it better.’ That’s what democracy is all about. We don’t have to be disagreeable in our disagreements. So I did want to say that. That’s what democracy is all about. And we are willing to change, compromise, whatever. But that’s what E Plurbus Unum says. Out of many is one. So thank you.
Following his public comment, Lipscomb promptly left the meeting.