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GRACELAND GROWTH COULD BE A SPRINGBOARD FOR WHITEHAVEN
March 05,  2017  -  The Commercial Appeal  /   Elvis Express Radio
Graceland is one of the city’s major tourist attractions, drawing some 600,000 tourists a year. But it sits in middle of a commercial-retail artery that has declined over the last
decades.

In fact, the city’s first enclosed mall, Southland, opened at Shelby Drive and Elvis Presley Boulevard in 1966.

Whitehaven was once a predominantly white suburb of Memphis. However, school desegregation and annexation by Memphis in the late 1960s and early 1970s sparked the
community’s transition to a predominantly African-American community.

The area lost many of its first-tier retail and commercial entities along Elvis Presley Boulevard and Shelby Drive as that transition progressed.

Today, the 38116 ZIP code, which comprises the traditional boundaries for Whitehaven, has a population of some 41,000 residents and is about 90 percent African-American,
according to City-Data.com..

It remains a mostly middle-class area, where homeownership is high, which has left Whitehaven boosters puzzling over why it has been so difficult to attract first-tier retail and
commercial establishments, especially with Graceland attracting so many tourists and similar demographics in adjacent ZIP codes.


For Whitehaven residents, Graceland’s huge investment, combined with city’s planned $40 million-plus improvements to Elvis Presley Boulevard, are harbingers that the economic
investment needle is about to swing to right.

Hints of that happening already are in evidence. A new Holiday Inn is under construction and two new strip shopping centers are seeking tenants.
Those are the kinds of investments that create jobs. Eighty-percent of the employees hired for The Guest House at Graceland live in the 38116 ZIP code, for example, exceeding
Graceland’s goal of 70 percent.

Whitehaven has been on a retail-commercial roller coaster in recent years.

Kroger, for example, invested heavily in expanding its store on Shelby Drive just of east of Elvis Presley and Southwest Tennessee Community College spent nearly $5 million to
renovate Kroger’s old location at Elvis Presley and Finley into  the school’s new Whitehaven campus.

Methodist Hospital-South has remained committed to area, along with longtime commercial staples Piccadilly Cafeteria, Piano’s Flowers & Gifts, Marlowe’s Ribs & Restaurant and
the China Inn Buffet.

But, amid those pluses, Macy’s closed its store that anchored the east side of Southland Mall.

Graceland officials have made it clear that they want their investment not only enhance Graceland’s appeal, but to also become a springboard for a Whitehaven economic
renaissance.

Whitehaven residents sure hope so.