DMC to Oversee Interim Management of Beale

By Bill Dries

Beale Street developer John Elkington will mark his departure from the development and management of the entertainment district this week, ahead of what looks to be a formal exit at the end of the month.

Beale Update Letter

And Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. has told Memphis City Council members that starting New Year’s Day, he wants the Downtown Memphis Commission to oversee the street on an interim basis with help from a team of city division directors, as he and the council work on “a more permanent management and development model for the street.”

A bankruptcy court approval of the long-awaited and long-delayed settlement of Elkington’s Performa Entertainment case is expected to become official at the end of the year. The 2010 bankruptcy filing was part of Elkington’s exit plan from the district negotiated with the city.

“We will be coordinating and leading the city’s efforts, but we will call on city division directors for support and help,” said Paul Morris, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission. “I’ll report to the mayor. It’s not like the DMC is the ultimate authority over there. It’s the city. … The revenue for the street will pay all the expenses. We are not intending for any money from the city to be required to do anything.”

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. wants the Downtown Memphis Commission to oversee Beale Street on an interim basis.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

Earlier this year, Wharton had talked of a team of division directors overseeing the street in the transition. Elkington and some City Council members have also said permanent oversight by a body structured like the Downtown Memphis Commission is a possibility beyond the interim period of management.

Neither Morris nor Wharton put a specific timeframe on how long the interim period might last.

“We want it to be as short as possible, while giving the city elected leaders sufficient time to settle on a longer-term solution,” Morris said. “I think it’s in the best interest of everyone for it to be a shorter time rather than a longer time.”

Elkington became developer and manager of the district in the late 1970s, as renovations began on what was then considered urban renewal property. He has been the developer of the district since before its opening in October 1983.

That means there is another transition underway to the interim period, with Morris getting a crash course in the day-to-day life and needs of the district.

“Beale Street should not be taken for granted. It’s going to require a lot of effort and resources. It’s not a small project,” Morris said. “There’s just a host of things that have to happen to keep that street well-operated. The events that go on, on Beale Street – those are productions, and somebody has to coordinate them. Things just don’t happen spontaneously.”