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VOL. 130 | NO. 159 | Monday, August 17, 2015

Beale Board Looks at 3-Month Window to Set Up Shop

By Bill Dries

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The Beale Street Tourism Development Authority is looking at a narrow three-month window to get its lease agreement with City Hall signed and, in effect, begin its work for the city and hire some kind of day-to-day manager for the entertainment district.

The Beale Street Tourism Development Authority hopes to have a specific lease with the city and be moving toward a day-to-day manager for the district after the October elections but before the end of the year.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The window begins after the Memphis elections are decided, specifically the Memphis City Council races – but before the current city council leaves office at the end of the year.

That’s when the authority hopes to have a draft lease agreement for the council to consider and vote on. That would be followed by the authority pursuing one of several options outlined at the authority’s Thursday, Aug. 13, meeting for day-to-day management of the district between Second and Fourth Streets.

City council member Edmund Ford Jr. advised others on the authority that the council won’t want to wade into the details of a lease before the elections run their course. And authority members said Thursday they want to get approval of the agreement from the council members who set the terms for the authority in the first place rather than try to explain it to a new council.

At least six of the 13 council seats will change hands in the 2015 Memphis elections. That’s how many incumbents on the body are not seeking re-election on the Oct. 8 ballot.

The winners in the city elections take office on Jan. 1.

Other factors in the drive to get the authority up and running with some kind of management agreement to follow closely are the ability to have a longer term direction for prospective tenants as the authority works on expanding the district beyond its current borders.

And Downtown Memphis Commission president Paul Morris is leaving his DMC post sometime in the fall. The DMC has been managing the district for the city for the last year and a half in the interim period between the exit of Beale’s original developer John Elkington and the authority taking over.

Morris indicated Thursday he could stay on at the Beale post after he exits the DMC. But it would require a new agreement between the DMC and the authority.

Ford and authority chairman Archie Willis advised taking a draft lease agreement to the council no later than the council’s Nov. 17 committee sessions for discussion. A council vote on the resolution would follow at the Dec. 1 or Dec. 15 council sessions, leaving room for a possible delay and more committee discussion if needed.

The authority could have a draft agreement ready to vote on at its next meeting Sept. 10.

Attorney and authority member Ross Boswell outlined four options for hiring a day-to-day manager that the authority members agree will most likely be a “bridge” to hiring a permanent manager of some sort.

The goal is immediate – to get a manager in place so the authority can focus on the long-term planning that is its purpose by the city ordinance outlining its duties.

The Beale Street Tourism Development Authority is considering four options that likely will be a “bridge” to hiring a permanent manager.

The first option is to leave in place daily direct management by the Downtown Memphis Commission.

The second option is to have the DMC’s new president, who is still to be selected, hire a manager. That option assumes that the new DMC president will not want to take on personally running Beale Street as Morris has for the last year and a half.

Jeff Sanford, a consultant to the authority who headed the DMC, said either of the first two options are “not an ideal assignment for the DMC.”

The third option is a professional property manager on a fee basis paid from revenues made in the district. That is what the city ordinance creating the authority contemplates the authority doing.

Authority member Jason Wexler said the agreement should include giving the authority the discretion to terminate the contract at any time.

Authority member Nathaniel Jones said the group should “aim high” in selecting a management firm and suggested Live Nation, the live entertainment giant that last month being doing shows from its circuit of musical performers at the reopened and renovated New Daisy.

Beale Street Merchants Association director Ty Agee, also on the authority, said merchants are looking for familiarity in the transition. He suggested the Memphis Grizzlies organization at nearby FedExForum.

Wexler, who is president of business operations for the Grizzlies and FedExForum said the organization likely wouldn’t take on such a job.

“Our core business is basketball,” he said. “We’re not geared up or equipped to run an entertainment district. We are a partner in the neighborhood.”

The fourth option would be for the authority to directly operate the street on a daily basis as it also tends to the long-term vision and probably expansion.

Casey Shannon, attorney to the authority, warned that the fourth option would require “creating an entire back office” to take in personnel and payroll as well as other areas that are “very, very high hurdles to clear.”

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 51 328 20,960
MORTGAGES 58 387 24,132
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 6 54 3,101
BUILDING PERMITS 170 842 43,435
BANKRUPTCIES 50 288 13,468
BUSINESS LICENSES 34 90 6,712
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 16 110 7,899
MARRIAGE LICENSES 32 91 4,734