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VOL. 129 | NO. 85 | Thursday, May 1, 2014

Graceland Files Notice for 450-Room Whitehaven Hotel

By Bill Dries

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Elvis Presley Enterprises has filed paperwork with the Land Use Control Board to move ahead with the first part of a long planned expansion of Graceland.

The filing with the LUCB Wednesday, April 30, is for construction of a 450-room hotel on the same side of Elvis Presley Boulevard as the mansion on a parcel of land EPE has owned since the mid 1990s.

The plans surfaced five months after Authentic Brands Group LLC completed its purchase of a majority of Elvis Presley Enterprises from CORE Media Group.

CORE Media was a rebranding of CKx Inc., the entertainment company that bought 85 percent of Elvis Presley Enterprises just before the national recession with plans to expand the area around Graceland into a resort setting with more hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues.

The ambitious $250 million plan pushed by CKx was a casualty of the economic downturn even though EPE bought up several apartment complexes on both sides of Elvis Presley Boulevard and cleared the land of the apartment units in anticipation of it.

Meanwhile CKx and later Core Media moved ahead with plans that included a Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil show based on Elvis Presley’s music as well as reissues and repackaging of Presley’s music and virtual concerts combining a live band with film images of Presley. CORE Media also pursued development of a digital image of Presley for use in the performances similar to a holographic image of rapper Tupac Shakur developed several years ago.

The 450-room hotel 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. And with the 450 rooms come meeting facilities and a restaurant and bar that are expected to have their own economic impact on the Whitehaven area.

Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel which is across Elvis Presley Boulevard from the site for the new hotel is a boutique hotel with 128 rooms built in the late 1980s and renovated at least once. It was built as a Wilson World hotel and was bought from Holiday Inns founder Kemmons Wilson and his CKW Limited Partnership by Elvis Presley Enterprises in 1998 a few years after EPE bought the land where the new hotel is to be built.

Word of the hotel just beyond the northern stone wall of Graceland comes as the streetscape itself is undergoing a $44 million upgrade from Brooks Road to Shelby Drive aimed at making the area more attractive for not only tourists but also commercial development.

The first sign of life in the development plan was 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 Boulevard which had been a car lot in the past and was bought by EPE in 2006 in anticipation of the CKx expansion.

Flintco Inc. was listed as the general contractor on the permit application.

Meanwhile, as Elvis Presley Enterprises formally announces the project Thursday, leaders of the holding company that owns Raleigh Springs Mall will be in town to voice their concerns about Memphis Mayor A C Wharton’s plans to turn the mall into a “town center.”

Executives with Raleigh Springs Mall LLC say they have been “working diligently” to renovate and revitalize the mall.

But in the press release announcing their Thursday press conference at the mall site, they say the administration’s town center plan “would exclude the owners from the process.”

Wharton’s plan is to demolish parts of the mall and locate city government services on the site including moving the Old Allen police precinct, the citywide police traffic precinct and a public library to the mall property.

Raleigh Springs Mall is one of three town centers Wharton has proposed including one at the Southbrook Mall in Whitehaven which has drawn opposition from the nonprofit group that owns that mall and instead wants $1.5 million in city funding for roof and heating and air conditioning repairs. The administration has said the city funding couldn’t be used because it would be public funding for a private use.

The third town center site is the Soulsville Town Center in South Memphis.

All three plans are built on the concept of moving city government offices to the sites and using them as a catalyst for private development.

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