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VOL. 129 | NO. 115 | Friday, June 13, 2014

Graceland Hotel Passes Crucial Hurdle

By Amos Maki

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A new hotel near Graceland has passed a key regulatory hurdle.

Graceland tourists could have a new lodging option near the mansion. The Land Use Control Board on Thursday approved Elvis Presley Enterprises' proposal to build a 450-room hotel. 

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The Memphis-Shelby County Land Use Control Board approved a proposal from Elvis Presley Enterprises to build a 450-room hotel on the same side of Elvis Presley Boulevard as the historic Graceland mansion, one of the city’s top tourism sites.

The project faced no opposition at the Thursday, June 12, LUCB meeting, and City Council member Harold Collins said the hotel would provide much-needed economic investment in the community while complementing major upgrades to Elvis Presley Boulevard, the primary artery in Whitehaven.

“I want to rise and say this particular project will generate up to $70 million in the inner city,” Collins said. “Very seldom does the inner city get an opportunity where a private developer will invest that kind of money in the community.”

The 450-room hotel, which will include meeting spaces and a restaurant and bar, would be the biggest hotel in Memphis outside the Downtown area, including the Hilton in East Memphis and Hotel Memphis on Thousand Oaks Boulevard in Parkway Village. The hotel plan will still need approval from the council, but that appears to be a lock.

Collins said the hotel project comes as welcome news to most Whitehaven residents and stakeholders, who, for years, have yearned for investments on Elvis Presley Boulevard.

Collins – who was instrumental in securing the $43 million in local, state and federal funding for streetscape improvements on Elvis Presley Boulevard between Brooks Road and Shelby Drive – said the hotel would allow for more tourists to stay in Whitehaven and support businesses in the area.

The approval of the hotel plans happened after New York-based Authentic Brands Group LLC in November completed its purchase of a majority of Elvis Presley Enterprises from CORE Media Group, which had acquired a majority stake in Elvis Presley Enterprises from CKX Inc.

CKX had proposed a massive, $250 million investment in Graceland and the surrounding area, including hotels, a new visitor center and extensive exhibit upgrades. The company began aggressively acquiring properties around the mansion before the “Great Recession” tightened its grip on the global economy and many of the plans were put on hold.

The new hotel appears to be part of a broader effort by Authentic Brands to invest in Graceland. Authentic Brands officials have spoken in broad terms about Graceland upgrades but have revealed few details.

The first sign of new life in the development plan occurred in March, when Elvis Presley Enterprises filed a $670,000 permit application with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement to build a new “studio building” also on land north of the mansion.

The permit is for property at 3674 Elvis Presley Blvd., which had been a car lot in the past and was bought by EPE in 2006 in anticipation of the CKX expansion.

Reporter Bill Dries contributed to this story.

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