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Memphis City Council members vote Tuesday on a Graceland Tourism Zone master plan.
The plan is an agreement between Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's administration and Graceland on most of the Whitehaven campus expansion Graceland wants – with the
notable exception of a 6,200-seat arena and a new wing for the Guest House at Graceland hotel-resort.
The announced plan, which council members discussed in committee two weeks ago, includes:
80,000 square feet of soundstages
RV Park relocated and expanded
30 guest cabins and related amenities
Retail and exhibit spaces expanded
Hangars for the display of Elvis Presley’s two jets
A sixth element of the plan is a manufacturing and distribution plant in Whitehaven but off the Graceland campus. The plant would make goods to be sold in some of the planned
Graceland intends to hire 1,000 full-time employees at the manufacturing and distribution facilities.
Graceland Holdings managing partner Joel Weinshanker owns the company that makes Chia Pets and The Clapper.
Those and other products would also be sold in the Made In Memphis retail area that is part of the Graceland campus expansion covered by the agreement.
“We want to move forward with what we can all agree to move forward with today,” said James McLaren, Graceland's attorney in the matter.
The agreement does not cover for now Graceland’s earlier request to increase its draw on property tax revenue from a tax increment finance, or TIF, zone Graceland currently
draws on at a rate of 50 percent. Graceland wants to increase the draw to 65 percent.
The city opposed that last year, citing a lack of specific information about exactly what the increase in the draw would be used for in the expansion.
“That’s really all we’re doing is saying if you submit a new TIF application within the time limits, you can do that and include these details with the details on the TDZ. Then we’ll
support that path forward,” city chief operating officer Doug McGowen said. “It’s an agreement on the path ahead for how you get all the development – excluding any discussion on
The arena controversy is pending before the Tennessee Court of Appeals, awaiting a ruling on whether city and county government funding for such an arena would violate the city
and county noncompete agreement with the Memphis Grizzlies to operate FedExForum.
Graceland has contended it would use its increase in TIF revenue to finance other parts of the plan and build the arena with its own money.
Strickland’s position has been that it still amounts to public money financing a competing arena.
Ultimately, Councilwoman Patrice Robinson mediated between Graceland and the administration. Her district includes part of Whitehaven, the part that has Graceland mansion but
not the part across Elvis Presley Boulevard that includes the Elvis Presley’s Memphis entertainment complex.
She termed the negotiations “tough,” with both sides changing their stances as the other side presented different terms in what sometimes amounted to counteroffers.
“I believe that the completed agreement should have happened at the right time, with the right people and the right body. But that’s not how this worked out,” Robinson said. “I’m a
stickler for process and this was outside the process for me. I had to be a big girl and pull this together.”
The result, she said, is “in the best interest of our whole community.”
The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main Street. Follow the meeting @bdriesdm for live coverage as well as updates from council committee sessions earlier in the
The committee agendas include a 2:30 p.m. discussion of the Graceland agreement and a 12:30 p.m. discussion about public art projects on which the council previously declared
Other matters the council will vote on Tuesday include the Poplar Arts Lofts project at Poplar Avenue and Tucker Street – 111 units of housing in six stories with retail on the
Developers of the lofts would demolish the 90-year-old buildings that front an entire block of Poplar between Tucker and Rembert and have been used by the soon-to-close
Memphis College of Art.
Some neighbors objected to the plans, citing the impact on surrounding property, including increased traffic, as well as the effect on rental rates in the area.
The discussion has included some changes to the original plan that have eased some of the concerns expressed.
Other planning and development items on the agenda Tuesday include a private school campus for grades K-12 by the South Central Conference Association of Seventh-day
Adventists in Uptown. The site is 2.94 acres bordered by North Clyde Avenue, South Chelsea, East Colby Street and West Sylvan Street where there is already a Seventh-day
Adventist Church. The plan is to start with a K-8 school building and add more grades with other buildings on the property, which is currently vacant.
The council also takes the first of three votes Tuesday on the Memphis 3.0 plan for development and land use guidelines over the next 20 years.
Originating Source: Daily Memphian
|COUNCIL TO VOTE ON GRACELAND DEVELOPMENT PLAN