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VOL. 132 | NO. 14 | Thursday, January 19, 2017

Council Discusses Disbanding Beale Street Authority

By Bill Dries

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Several Memphis City Council members talked Tuesday, Jan. 17, about undoing the Beale Street Tourism Development Authority and acting directly to hire a day-to-day manager for the entertainment district.

Memphis City Council members are not happy with the stalemate over hiring a management firm for Beale Street. Some talked Tuesday, Jan. 17, about abolishing the Beale Street Tourism Development Authority.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The Tuesday committee session was the first detailed look many of the seven council members present have had of the stalemate over picking a management firm.

After two rounds of requests for proposals – or RFPs – the authority ended talks last October with 21 Beale Street, the only applicant not ruled out at the end of the second round of the RFP process.

And at its last meeting of 2016, in December, the authority confirmed that the Downtown Memphis Commission will continue to manage the district as it has on an interim basis for the last three years.

The authority’s attorney said with a pending federal lawsuit that questions whether the authority holds the master lease with the city, there is no point in trying to find a manager for now.

But council members Martavius Jones and Jamita Swearengen raised the possibility that the council should abolish the authority and hire a manager. The council approved all of the current members of the authority who are nominated by the mayor. The authority was created in 2015.

Neither Jones nor Swearengen formally proposed a resolution Tuesday to abolish the authority. Swearengen said she will wait for another committee session on the situation before deciding her next course of action.

But she, Jones and council members Joe Brown and Patrice Robinson questioned why 21 Beale wasn’t awarded the contract.

“It is our responsibility,” Robinson said.

Brown said it amounted to “gross discrimination.”

“We run this show,” he said of the council. “They don’t want us in on nothing. It’s been like this for years.”

Authority attorney Casey Shannon said the authority didn’t have “full confidence” in the abilities and experience of 21 Beale to manage a district with several dozen tenants, each with a different lease.

21 Beale Chief Administrative Officer Dwain Kyles called the reasoning “ludicrous.”

“They don’t want to tell us the real reason,” he added.

The lawsuit brought by the head of the Beale Street Development Corp. was filed in August and is a separate matter from the search for a district manager.

Because of the lawsuit, Shannon and other attorneys advised the Downtown Memphis Commission not to appear before the council or members of the authority.

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