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VOL. 130 | NO. 241 | Friday, December 11, 2015

Beale Board Approves Lease With City

By Bill Dries

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The Beale Street Tourism Development Authority has approved a 25-year lease agreement with the city with five renewal options of 15 years each beyond that. But there are signs of discord between the city and an old Beale Street entity that was supposed to stand down in the transition.

The lease puts the appointed board of the authority in control of the district.

The authority board voted Thursday, Dec. 10, at its monthly meeting. The vote sets the stage for a vote by the Memphis City Council at the council’s Dec. 15 meeting.

A council committee recommended the contract in a Dec. 1 committee session.

The authority’s request for proposal to hire a day to day manager for the entertainment districts runs through the end of the business day Dec. 18. The authority will then look over the applications from real estate management firms and try to hire a firm sometime early in 2016.

In the interim, there could be a short term memorandum of understanding between the authority and the Downtown Memphis Commission for the DMC to continue running the street as a manager. The DMC has been overseeing operations of the district through a similar agreement with the city of Memphis directly since 2014.

Meanwhile, former DMC President Paul Morris, who serves on the Beale Authority, said the city has stopped making payments of $6,000 a month to the Beale Street Development Corporation in what looks to be a reopening of the BSDC’s long history of litigation with the city.

Morris emphasized that no one has gone back to court. But he said the city stopped the payments after “someone claiming to represent” the nonprofit organization that once held the lease with the city for the district refuted the legal settlement of the long standing three-way lawsuit among the BSDC, the city of Memphis and Performa Entertainment.

Performa had a sublease with the BSDC to run and develop the district.

With the settlement between the city and Performa a done deal at the end of 2013, Performa exited as manager and developer of Beale Street. A year later, the BSDC gave up its agreement with the city to lease the property on Beale Street in another settlement. That paved the way for the tourism development authority.

The BSDC, under terms of the legal settlement, was to become an organization that would focus on promoting the culture and history of Beale Street and run its headquarters building, the Historic Daisy theater as an interpretive center.

The settlement specifically forbids the BSDC from renting the theater out for banquets and similar events, rentals that are still advertised outside the building that in now referred to on theater signage as the Randle Catron Interpretive Center.

Catron was the late and sometimes disputed executive director of the BSDC at the time of the 2014 settlement.

Morris said the city also stopped payments to the BSDC directly because the organization was not fulfilling its role under the settlement.

The payments have been held in reserve by Morris in his role as manager of the district. That would continue under the tourism development authority unless or until the city instructs it to do something different.

The authority Thursday also elected Memphis Grizzlies president of business operations Jason Wexler as its new chairman for 2016.

Wexler succeeds Archie Willis whose resignation from the authority becomes effective at the end of this month.

Wexler will serve to the end of June as chairman. The authority also voted Thursday to align its fiscal year with city government’s fiscal year. That means the authority’s fiscal year ends June 30.

PROPERTY SALES 116 288 17,672
MORTGAGES 143 337 20,372
BUILDING PERMITS 139 488 36,434
BANKRUPTCIES 43 158 11,322