Council delays Graceland development plan, first reading of 3.0 plan

By Updated: March 19, 2019 9:15 PM CT | Published: March 19, 2019 7:24 PM CT

Memphis City Council members delayed a vote Tuesday on an agreement between the city and Graceland for an expansion of the Graceland campus as well as a manufacturing facility elsewhere in Whitehaven.

The agreement does not include the 6,200-seat arena Graceland wants to build on its campus. That matter is pending before the state court of appeals.

The council delayed a vote until the first council meeting in April after several Whitehaven residents wanted to know more about how the future project might affect the surrounding neighborhoods.

“Nothing against Graceland but Graceland has a lot against us,” said former city council member Edmund Ford Sr. Other homeowners in the Bluebird Estates area said they want to see Graceland expand but also want to know how Graceland's growth will affect their neighborhoods and homes.

The agreement would set the stage for Elvis Presley Enterprises to go to the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) board to seek a larger draw on the tax increment finance – or TIF – zone financing than the 50 percent it currently draws.

That was to happen Wednesday but the agenda for the meeting now calls for a public hearing but no vote specifically on the changes to the TIF.

BILL DRIESCity and Graceland break standoff over Whitehaven expansion minus arena

The draw on incremental property tax revenue on the Graceland campus would go up to 65 percent if approved by the EDGE board.

The agreement approved by the council specifies that with a detailed plan for the use of the increased draw the city will back the proposal.

The city previously refused to back the application, saying Graceland’s plan for the use of the money wasn’t specific enough.

The delay Tuesday was one of two for the administration. The council also delayed the first of three votes on the Memphis 3.0 land use and development plan for the next 20 years.

The delay came after a group of several dozen residents from the Firestone area of North Memphis told council members they knew nothing of the plan and expressed opposition to what they said are "gentrification efforts.”

BILL DRIESCouncil to vote on Graceland development plan

City chief operating officer Doug McGowen said the delay in both cases is not a problem.

“We've been waiting 38 years for a comprehensive plan,” he said of the Memphis 3.0 delay. "So two weeks is not to much to ask.”

The TIF changes for Graceland are one of three parts of an agreement that include approval of the TDZ by the state building commission and submission to planning officials of the specific site plans for the expansion which will go to the council for approval in the future.

“We realize that nothing they do with the TDZ impacts the concerns the neighbors have,” McGowen said. “Now we can address those concerns before it gets down to the last vote before the council.”

The council approved the $18 million Poplar Arts Lofts development on Poplar Avenue at Tucker Street. The six-story development with 111 residential units and retail was changed five times after criticism from neighbors.

By the council vote, neighbor Robert Gordon was the only opponent who argued the development was not appropriate for the area across Poplar from the entrance to Overton Park.

“Developers are set to murder Midtown,” he told the council. Gordon said he wasn't against the increased density the development would bring.

“My main concern is that we not kill the golden goose,” he said of Midtown's character.

FedEx will test its same-day delivery bot on the streets of Memphis this summer, company executives told the council Tuesday during an executive session demonstration of the delivery bot.

WAYNE RISHERFedEx aims to disrupt growing local delivery market with SameDay Bot

The city has been working with FedEx since the first of the year on the terms of the trial.

Memphis will be the largest of several cities testing the autonomous delivery bots able to carry up to 100 pounds.

No hardware or street improvements will be necessary for the trials.

“They want to test it in the urban environment as it exists today,” McGowen said. “We have different kind of connectivity, different kinds of streets, different kinds of infrastructure all over the city.”

After the demonstration in the council committee room was completed, council member Berlin Boyd reminded council members that he works for FedEx Logistics. He added, "I did not design or engineer this bot.”

The remark was a reference to Boyd disclosing this month that he has worked at FedEx since August, although he didn't disclose the employment on his annual financial disclosure required by the state and due at the end of January.

Boyd's disclosure comes a month after he played a prominent role in FedEx's decision to move the headquarters of the logistics division Downtown. Boyd has said he did nothing wrong since the council will not vote on the incentives FedEx will seek for the relocation from East Memphis.


Graceland Memphis City Council Memphis Light Gas And Water Division Memphis 3.0 Berlin Boyd
Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.

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