Willis Leaving Beale Authority, Lease Transfer Vote Moves to December

By Bill Dries

Developer Archie Willis is leaving as chairman of the Beale Street Tourism Development Authority.

Willis announced his resignation from the panel Thursday, Nov. 12, at the end of the authority’s monthly meeting, its seventh since it was created in April.

He cited his work on other business and civic projects. Those commitments include being a partner in the Central Station redevelopment, the South City project and president of Community Capital.

“I’ve got a lot going on,” Willis told the other authority board members. “Hopefully I’ve at least helped move the ball down the field.”

Willis’s resignation is effective at the end of the year by which time the authority should have an approved lease deal and property transfer with the city of Memphis for the Beale Street entertainment district.

Willis has been instrumental in establishing the framework for a move to have the transfer done by the end of the calendar year. The transfer puts the appointed authority in control of the district in behalf of the city of Memphis.

The authority had hoped to vote on the master lease at Thursday’s meeting and take the proposal to the Memphis City Council for review in Nov. 17 council committee sessions with a council vote on Dec. 1.

But council member Wanda Halbert, who chairs the council’s economic development committee, requested a delay in the presentation to the Dec. 1 committee sessions with a Dec. 15 vote by the council.

The Dec. 15 council session is the last of the year and the final meeting in the four-year term of office of the current council.

The authority wants to have that current council vote on the lease rather than starting over again in explaining the provisions to the new council that takes office in January.

Halbert sought the later date for the committee review citing her committee’s agenda of other matters on Nov. 17, according to Casey Shannon, the attorney for the Beale authority.

Shannon said the tentative lease terms are still being reviewed by council attorney Allan Wade with no signs of any substantive disagreements.

The authority is scheduled to vote on the lease agreement at its Dec. 10 meeting.

The authority put out a request for proposal seeking a day-to-day management firm for the district on Nov. 2.

Since then, Jeff Sanford, a consultant to the group, said six property management firms in town and outside Memphis have expressed interest.

Sanford was quick to add none have formally applied at this point.

“They simply requested additional information,” he said. “Don’t read too much into that.”

The deadline for applying in response to the RFP is Dec. 18. The authority hopes to have a manager hired early in the new year as close to the start date of the lease agreement and property transfer with the city as possible.