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VOL. 130 | NO. 133 | Friday, July 10, 2015

Beale Group Plans for Lease Agreement Instead of District Ownership

By Bill Dries

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The Beale Street Tourism Development Authority is dropping the idea for now of a fee simple ownership of the entertainment district.

Members of the authority board, which met Thursday, July 9, will instead pursue the leasehold agreement with the city of Memphis, as contemplated in the city ordinance that created the authority as the new long-term planning group for the district.

The board voted last month to explore the fee simple arrangement.

Authority chairman Archie Willis said the fee simple ownership change would take too long to work out in the political process and that the authority needs to begin its work on the district quicker.

“We have enough to do,” he said.

The sense of urgency is to capitalize on potential development opportunities that depend on the authority having long-term control of some kind to show stability.

Attorney Marty Regan, who is advising the authority, said a quicker move to a lease agreement would allow the authority to “test the market” sooner for investment.

“Let’s get down to business and make it work,” he urged.

Willis said the authority may try to pursue the fee simple arrangement favored by authority members at some point in the future if the lease proves to be a discouragement to further development.

Attorneys for the authority and the city, including the City Council, will discuss terms of the lease. The goal is for the authority to vote on a draft lease at its August meeting; if approved there, it would go to the council for deliberations and a single vote.

A fee simple proposal would have been a new city ordinance requiring three council votes, or “readings,” across three separate meetings – a six-week undertaking at best.

With a lease in place, the authority would begin the process of formally setting up shop for control of Beale Street in advance of a longer process of hiring a management firm to run the street on a day-to-day basis.

Authority members talked about a target date for the body to assume control of the district under terms of the lease.

Beale Street Merchants Director Ty Agee asked if Oct. 1 was a reasonable assumption.

Willis said given the negotiations and political considerations that date was a “worthy goal” but Nov. 1 is “probably a better target date.”

The agreement would be what authority members termed “a bridge to management.”

Beyond that, Willis also set the stage for developing a longer-term agenda for development of the district and the direction the authority would give to a management firm.

That includes an expansion of the Beale Street district beyong its current formal borders, which run from Second Street to Fourth Street.

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