VOL. 130 | NO. 178 | Monday, September 14, 2015
Beale Authority Moves Toward Management Firm
By Bill Dries
The Beale Street Tourism Development Authority plans to hire a day-to-day real estate management firm by the end of the year.
The authority voted Thursday, Sept. 10, to move toward the hire. The next step is a request for proposal that the board is expected to vote on at its Oct. 15 meeting.
The RFP would spell out specific duties and expectations for companies applying for the job and the request will likely detail the unique features of managing the entertainment district.
“The devil is in the details, always,” said authority board member Ross Boswell.
Jeff Sanford, a consultant to the authority, said the job description in the request should stress that it is no ordinary property management job.
“The management of an entertainment district is quite different from the management of a strip mall in the suburbs,” he said. “This is hopefully written in a way that describes the special circumstances of this assignment. We’ll just have to be careful to express that. … It’s a 24-hour job.”
Authority member Paul Morris, who as president of the Downtown Memphis Commission has been the interim day-to-day manager of Beale Street since January 2014, said the manager should be able to do routine maintenance but also act as a back office and employer of the staff that keeps the district up and running.
“While it’s definitely no strip mall, having some of that basic property management experience with a firm to then go and hire the existing staff and back that staff up and play that role is one of the most important duties,” he said.
The authority, meanwhile, continues talks with the city of Memphis over a master lease agreement. The city of Memphis took direct control of the district in January 2014 with the exit of Performa Entertainment, the development and management firm that oversaw Beale Street with the district’s reopening in 1983.
A lease proposal – to be voted on by the authority and by the Memphis City Council – would put the authority in control of the district on a long-term basis. The board would oversee Beale Street’s long-term plans while a management firm would carry out those plans.
Performa oversaw both day-to-day management of the district and its future direction in its sublease from the nonprofit Beale Street Development Corp., which held the master lease with the city. The BSDC exclusively becomes a heritage and cultural organization under the new arrangement with no leasehold.
The development authority wants to hire the management firm by the end of the year to coincide with Morris vacating his DMC post to work in the family business, Jack Morris Auto Glass. It also wants council approval of the master lease before the current council leaves office at the end of the year.
But the authority, on the advice of city council member Edmund Ford, previously agreed not to push for a council vote until the Oct. 8 Memphis elections are decided.
Morris and Sanford, who is drafting a version of the RFP for consideration and a vote by the authority next month, have each said the lack of a long-term development plan and a body to make leases around such a plan is causing hesitation among potential new operators.
Authority chairman Archie Willis said the RFP should allow 45 days for applications and probably another 30 days for the authority to evaluate them and make its decision.