VOL. 130 | NO. 91 | Monday, May 11, 2015
Beale Street Board to Tackle District Plans, Future
By Bill Dries
(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)
Jeff Sanford has spent much of the past five years consulting on redevelopment projects in other cities.
But Sanford – who stepped down from his post as president of the Center City Commission, now the Downtown Memphis Commission, in 2010 – hasn’t found another entertainment district comparable to Memphis’ most famous street.
“Beale Street really is unique,” Sanford said. “I haven’t found one yet that is as unique and sp ecial as Beale Street and therefore requiring a different managerial approach.”
Recently, Sanford has been working for the newly formed Beale Street Development Authority as part of the DMC’s interim management agreement with the city. He is advising the group on the selection of a management firm for Beale Street.
And that authority charged with guiding future development of the Beale Street entertainment district is starting with a review of all of the district’s titles and leases and a map of the properties and lots.
“There are many different persons, groups and organizations that have some interest in what goes on Beale,” said Casey Shannon, an attorney who, along with Sanford, is advising the Beale Street Tourism Development Authority. “We have to know exactly what there is, what the restrictions are and what the opportunities are.”
The first meeting of the 13-member authority Thursday, May 7, at the offices of the Downtown Memphis Commission, drew eight of the members.
The group elected Community Capital LLC president Archie Willis as its chairman and attorney Caren B. Nichol as vice chairman with Comcast executive Jamal Whitlow selected as secretary and AutoZone attorney Ross Boswell as treasurer.
The review of who owns what and under what conditions was prompted by the first questions the group explored after choosing its officers.
The authority has control of the district between its formal borders of Fourth Street to the east and Second Street to the west – except Handy Park, which is controlled by the city division of Housing and Community Development. The park has two tenants and a sponsorship contract that is overseen by the district manager.
Since January 2014 that manager has been the DMC on an interim basis with assistance from various city divisions. The authority is the successor to the DMC but with a longer-term outlook for Beale Street development.
A. Schwab, the only business with roots dating back to Beale Street’s 19th century origins, is privately owned but it receives the same city services other tenants do.
The historic Daisy Theater – known as the Old Daisy – is part of the property under the jurisdiction of the authority, Shannon said. But special conditions require it to be an educational and cultural facility operated by a nonprofit foundation.
That’s under the terms of the 1982 long-term lease between the city of Memphis and the nonprofit Beale Street Development Corp. as well as the 2013 court settlement between the city, the BSDC and Performa Entertainment, the company led by John Elkington that developed and managed the district from its redevelopment in the early 1980s through 2013.
The review of who owns what, who leases what and under what terms is considered essential to finding a firm to manage the district on a day-to-day basis.
But before the authority is ready to issue a management request for qualifications or request for proposals, there are the legal terms under which the city will sublease the property, which it ultimately owns, to the authority.
DMC president Paul Morris, who has overseen the day-to-day affairs of the district post-Performa and who is a member of the authority, is proposing a “fee simple transfer” similar to the set-up used by the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority.
The Memphis City Council would likely approve such an arrangement by ordinance; subsequently, the authority wouldn’t require council approval for every action it takes. Morris said city government still will have control of the authority’s decisions but the fee simple transfer would give the authority more flexibility in working with a district manager.
Sanford is reaching out to potential firms for “unofficial” conversations about Beale Street as well as talking individually with authority members.
“I’m not out there making deals. I’m just trying to determine the depth of potential interest when you enter into the RFQ/RFP process,” Sanford told the authority members. “It’s really too early to tell who will actually respond once you issue an RFQ or RFP.”
Willis asked if there is any interest at present. “At this point, we’re calling people,” Morris said. “People aren’t calling us.”