Graceland Will Detail Expansion Plans During Community Meeting
Graceland will air expansion plans on April 26th during a community meeting for Whitehaven residents. The meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. at The Guest House at Graceland, 3600 Elvis Presley Blvd., comes against a backdrop of an unusual public dispute about Graceland’s growth ambitions.
Billed as a chance “to learn the facts directly from Graceland,” it will provide information about planned expansions of the entertainment complex as well as a Made in Memphis manufacturing initiative. Elvis Presley Enterprises, which owns the Elvis Presley home and an expanded Elvis-themed tourist attraction, Elvis Presley’s Memphis, has been at odds with city officials over the next phase of expansion.
An economic development board recently approved an expansion of Graceland’s public incentives to begin the next phase. However, the approval was conditioned on a guarantee there would be no conflict with noncompete provisions of the FedExForum lease to the Memphis Grizzlies. A key component of the incentives also must be approved by the City Council, County Commission and state.
Graceland proposes an 80,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 6,000-seat arena and a Whitehaven factory that would make tourist souvenirs, Americana crafts and other items. The factory is touted as potentially employing 1,000 people. A flier advertising the meeting says Graceland has already created hundreds of new jobs, and incentive-aided development generated more than $2.5 million in extra city and county taxes in 2017.
Graceland sued the city, county and the Grizzlies last year to challenge whether the noncompete clause would apply to Graceland’s planned arena. Citing multiple delays of its application for expanded incentives, Graceland went to court again earlier this year in an attempt to force a vote by the Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis and Shelby County.
The EDGE board in early April conditionally approved financing for the exhibit space and a boost in Graceland’s share of revenue from a Graceland-specific tax increment financing (TIF) district.
Changes in the TIF are also subject to city, county and state approval. The TIF reserves a portion of property tax increases within the Graceland campus to be spent on approved purposes within the campus.
The EDGE board said it would approve the two items contingent on a court guarantee the noncompete clause isn’t violated and that no public incentives go to the arena. The noncompete clause dates to the Grizzlies’ move to the FedExForum and was designed to protect the facility from competition from other city-funded venues such as the Pyramid and Mid-South Coliseum.
After the EDGE action April 5, lawyers for Graceland and EDGE withdrew all motions in the latest Chancery Court lawsuit. “They’re not on the court calendar until Elvis Presley Enterprises determines whether it will file a motion to amend its complaint,” EDGE’s lawyer Mark Betelgeuse told the board last week. “EDGE’s attorneys believe the issues raised in the (Graceland) complaint have been resolved and that the matter should be terminated by Elvis Presley Enterprises,” Betelgeuse said.
“EDGE’s attorneys have been informed by Elvis Presley Enterprises that they’re still considering the next step,” Betelgeuse said. “If the matter is not dismissed promptly, EDGE’s attorneys will put the motion back on, the motion to dismiss.”
SOURCE: Commercial Appeal