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VOL. 132 | NO. 45 | Friday, March 3, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Changes on EP Boulevard, March Madness at Rhodes and Cheffies

By Bill Dries

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I don’t think it worked out this way on purpose – but the $45 million, 200,000 square foot entertainment complex “Elvis Presley’s Memphis” opens the same day that episode two of “Sun Records” airs on CMT.

Apart from the Elvis aura this is another dramatic change on the Elvis Presley Boulevard streetscape. The first dramatic change was the opening of the Guest House at Graceland resort-hotel in October – the third largest hotel by room count in the city at 450 rooms.

And city leaders are watching this as closely as Graceland to see the ripple effect it has on new development that is outside the boundaries of what Graceland owns.

Since the mansion opened for public tours in the early 1980s, Graceland Plaza was an adaptation of an existing retail strip that included a Steak and Ale restaurant, professional offices including a dentist and a few shops late in Elvis’s life. The only Elvis-themed item in the shopping center at the time of his death in 1977 was the jukebox in the Hickory Log restaurant on the southern end closest to Craft Road.

The intervening years have seen a lot of modifications to the structure but you can still make out its basic bones. Not for long though. That will go with the complex opening up behind it with its very own soon to be famous gates. You will still catch the tour buses to go to the mansion there. But don’t be surprised if somewhere down the road, that key part of Graceland’s business moves to the same side of Elvis Presley Boulevard as rock and roll’s house on a hill.

One other note on this. With the opening in the complex of the world’s largest Elvis Presley museum, the trophy room in back of the mansion is back to being a racquetball court that it was during Elvis’s lifetime.

As for “Sun Records” it is probably time to concede that there is the truth of a story that is well known to anyone interested in popular music. And there is the fairy tale that occasionally intersects with the truth. The fairy tale feels pretty thin two episodes in.

The American Civil Liberties Union of West Tennessee has joined the first of the two lawsuits in Memphis Federal Court over the City Hall list. That happened Thursday as we got our first good look at the city’s response to the lawsuit. It is basically that the consent decree allegedly violated here by police surveillance of protesters doesn’t apply to these protesters. It only applies to those from 39 years ago.

Also there are some comments in our story from Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings that you will probably hear a lot as this goes forward. It goes like this: You, the public, wanted cops to wear body cameras and they do because you wanted them. Here’s what you will see in both of the lawsuits from the plaintiff’s side: Police surveillance in this wasn’t police body camera footage by the officers responding to protests. It went much further than that to following protest leaders around and trying to anticipate their movements and their next objectives.

The controversy is a major part of our conversation this week on Behind The Headlines with City Council chairman Berlin Boyd and council members Kemp Conrad and Worth Morgan. The show airs at 7 p.m. Friday on WKNO TV.

No censure of assistant District Attorney Stephen Jones in disciplinary proceedings over the Noura Jackson murder trial. The panel of three Memphis attorneys returned their findings Thursday with a similar proceeding getting underway later this month involving Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich, who as an assistant district attorney tried the case with Jones.

The new president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association is a Memphian. Dr. Altha Stewart has three decades of experience in the public sector and moved back to the city 12 years ago. She is currently at UTHSC and wants to use the national position to look at the use of technology in behavioral health care.

Cheffies Café to open a new location at Schilling Farms in Collierville.

An experienced Memphis homebuilder says there has been a local recovery but let’s not get carried away. James Reid of Reid Homes Inc. is one of the speakers at the March 8 Real Estate Review Seminar put on each year by Chandler Reports, the real estate information company that is part of The Daily News Publishing Co. Inc. It is a look at the latest real estate trends that includes realtors and mortgage bankers.

The cover story in our weekly, The Memphis News, is about a place you probably went as a child – Chucalissa in southwest Memphis. Chucalissa is one stop in the story that looks at that larger part of the city inhabited long before there was something on the bluff called Memphis. We look at some recent changes at T.O. Fuller State Park and a “resiliency” grant that will buyout as many as 30-40 homes on and near the Cypress Creek flood plain as part of a voluntary buyout that will probably take a while. Meanwhile, the resiliency effort is exploring some changes to the communities in the hills that is a marked contrast to the call for more density in other parts of our city.

The PDF of the new issue in its entirety is up now on this website. The hard copies hit the streets Friday morning and the cover story goes up online Friday afternoon.

Tigers over Tulane in the last home game of the season Thursday – 92 – 70.

In our Friday Sports Section:

Don Wade’s Press Box on Chandler Parsons, playa.

March Madness in Midtown for Rhodes College, which is going to the big dance for the first time in a quarter century thanks to the “line system.”

Since we are on the subject of March Madness, FedExForum will host the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball South Regional Championship March 24 and 26. This is the first time since 2014 that Memphis has hosted a part of March Madness.

David Climer on the rebuilding job still to be done for the Titans in the NFL draft.

Dave Link in Knoxville on what is the busiest time of the year for athletics at Big Orange.

The Addys – Memphis version of the Oscars for the advertising and marketing industry without Warren Beatty and distracted accountants – are in. And the winners advance to the national level.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in South Memphis Thursday evening to push for his gas tax bill after a busy week in the Capitol. After the townhall session at Greater Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, Haslam said he’s not ready to declare victory yet. But he does want his amended bill restored to its original form.

Our Nashville correspondent, Sam Stockard, recaps what was a good week in Nashville for Haslam’s IMPROVE Act.

Just before he made the drive from Nashville to Memphis Thursday, Haslam issued the writ for a special election for state House District 95. Here’s the calendar for all of that. The primary elections are April 27 and the general election is June 15. And qualifying petitions are available now with a March 16 filing deadline, politicos.

Chalkbeat on the rewrite of the state’s charter school law from the Haslam administration that is moving in House committees.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery says there are constitutional problems with the bill in the Legislature that bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected by ultrasound.

Someone at Amazon typed the wrong command to debug the e-commerce giant’s billing system and it caused a five-hour outage on some Amazon servers Tuesday.

Speculation at the Fed about a March rate hike.

AmEx expands benefits on its platinum card and ups the annual fee as a result.

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