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VOL. 130 | NO. 12 | Monday, January 19, 2015

Council Takes Up Beale’s Next Act

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members are likely to have some questions Tuesday, Jan. 20, about the still tentative settlement of the last part of the court fight for control of Beale Street.

The tentative terms of the settlement between the city of Memphis and the Beale Street Development Corp. leaked last week and include a share of revenues from the operation of the entertainment district for the BSDC that would otherwise go to the city, which owns the property between Second and Fourth streets.

Memphis City Council members take up the creation of a Beale Street Tourism Development Authority Tuesday, Jan. 20, and are also expected to have some questions about the tentative settlement between the city and the Beale Street Development Corp.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The backdrop for those questions is the council’s vote Tuesday on the creation of a Beale Street Tourism Development Authority proposed by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.

The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols.

The development authority would take over the landlord and leasehold provisions that have been part of the job of the BSDC since the late 1970s.

And the nine-member board of the authority would select a private firm to manage the district on a day-to-day basis with the authority overseeing the long-term direction of the street. The management firm would be paid out of revenue from the district.

It was the Beale Street Development Corp. that formally selected what came to be known as Performa Entertainment to both manage and develop the district starting in the late 1970s through the 1983 reopening of the revamped district up to 2014.

That’s when the city and Performa settled their legal differences with a settlement that saw the exit of Performa and its founder John Elkington.

Elkington and Performa did more than manage the street. Elkington guided the district through a rough start and beyond as the development corporation stayed bogged down in political infighting and a rejected Shelby County Chancery Court claim that it was owed $6 million by Performa.

For a period, the BSDC was in a contested dormancy when Mayor Willie Herenton stopped appointing members to its board. Nevertheless, it continued to use the Old Daisy theater, formally known as the Historic Daisy Theater on Beale Street, as its headquarters and made money from renting the theater for parties and other events.

The tentative settlement terms between the city and the BSDC would return the theater to its intended role at the outset of Beale’s renovation as a cultural interpretive center. And the terms would bar the development corporation from leasing or renting it out unless that is approved by either the city or the management firm.

Tourism development authorities are allowed by a recent state law that also permits such authorities to issue revenue bonds. It’s unlikely the authority would be able to or choose to do that because of the scarcity of enough revenue on an annual basis from fees and other sources to cover the debt service on millions of dollars in bonds each year.

The council will be down to 12 of 13 members Tuesday, but plans to fill the vacancy created by the move of Lee Harris to the state Senate at the end of Tuesday’s council session.

The vacancy in the District 7 seat has drawn six contenders who applied by last Thursday’s deadline under council procedures.

Among the contenders are former City Council members Barbara Swearengen Ware and Berlin Boyd.

Ware resigned from the council in 2011 after she was indicted on an official misconduct charge by the Shelby County grand jury and was later granted judicial diversion without pleading guilty. Before the indictment she was automatically suspended from the council when the allegations surfaced that she had tags for her own cars and the cars of several other people renewed without getting the auto inspections that were then required of Memphis vehicle owners. Ware’s name came up in an investigation of corruption in the county clerk’s office.

Boyd was appointed to fill the vacancy created by Ware’s resignation and did not seek a full four-year term in the seat in the 2011 city elections. This time around, Boyd has said he will seek the seat on the October ballot.

The other contenders for the appointment are attorney David Pool, who ran for General Sessions Court judge last year, Shelby County Democratic Party chairman Bryan Carson, Charles Leslie and Audrey P. Jones.

Meeting the deadlines and qualifications to apply for the vacancy does not guarantee that all six of the contenders will be nominated. Nominations depend on individual council members.

In zoning and development items on Tuesday’s agenda, the council considers 200 units of townhomes and apartments as part of the King’s Pointe Planned Development at Riverdale Road and Kings Crown Drive.

Also on the council’s agenda is a special use permit for an apartment community at Shelby Drive and Kirby Parkway.

And the council votes on a special use permit for a car lot at 1201 Winchester Road, east of Elvis Presley Boulevard.

PROPERTY SALES 51 426 3,824
MORTGAGES 27 229 2,508
BUILDING PERMITS 178 829 8,785
BANKRUPTCIES 35 152 2,056