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The city and Graceland have reached an agreement that allows Graceland to move ahead with its expansion plan minus an arena.
The agreement, announced during City Council committee sessions Tuesday, still requires Graceland to secure various approvals for different parts of the plan. The council is
scheduled to vote on the agreement in two weeks.
The terms include a Tourism Development Zone supplement as well as a hiring preference for Whitehaven residents and a living wage for those who work in the planned
Council member Patrice Robinson, who brokered the talks between the administration and Graceland, said they were difficult and still don't resolve legal questions about a
"This has been one of the most difficult negotiations I have ever participated in in my life," Robinson said. "We thought we were in a particular place and all of a sudden, within five
minutes of the document being moved, we would get another one saying this needs to be changed. I believe it could have been a lot more constructive."
Robinson and city chief operating officer Doug McGowen said the plan unveiled Tuesday is an agreement on what kinds of development are appropriate for presentation to the
council for incentives with some guideposts on how to move through the process.
The agreement is built around five expansion projects the administration of Mayor Jim Strickland recommended Graceland pursue without resolving the dispute over the arena,
which Graceland officials then pitched to the city council this past December.
At the time, the city said Graceland wasn't specific enough about what specific projects the incentives it sought would be used for.
The five projects covered in the agreement are:
80,000 square feet of soundstages
RV Park relocated and expanded
30 guest cabins and related amenities
Retail and exhibit spaces expanded
Hangars for the display of Elvis Presley’s two jets
A sixth element of the plan is a manufacturing and distribution plant somewhere in Whitehaven but off the Graceland campus to make goods to be sold in some of the retail spaces
Graceland intends to hire 1,000 full-time employees at its manufacturing and distribution facilities in Whitehaven off the Graceland campus. The new entity affiliated with Elvis
Presley Enterprises is to be called Newco for now, according to the agreement.
Graceland Holdings managing partner Joel Weinshanker owns the company that makes Chia Pets and The Clapper.
Those and other products would also be sold in the Made In Memphis retail area that is part of the Graceland campus expansion.
The city agrees to support Graceland-Newco’s application to the EDGE board for a PILOT – or payment in lieu of taxes as well as Opportunity Zone funding and New Market tax
And Newco agrees to give a “hiring preference for persons residing in Whitehaven and second to hiring persons who reside in other parts of Shelby County.” The agreement also
calls for those workers to be paid a living wage and for Newco to make annual reports to the city on its hiring.
Newco has until Dec. 31, 2019 to fully commit in writing to build the manufacturing and distribution facility for the first 350 jobs. Newco has a Dec. 31, 2023 deadline to have the
plant built and operating.
The agreement is no guarantee Graceland will get the incentives it is seeking for its expansion. And the specific plans for the development must still be drawn up and approved by
the various regulatory bodies.
Another amendment is a Whitehaven reinvestment fund for the larger area around Graceland with some percentage of Graceland revenue that comes to $750,000 over the next
The 6,200-seat arena Graceland wants to build in Whitehaven is at the center of a dispute between Graceland on one side and the city and the Memphis Grizzlies on the other.
For all of those elements, Graceland had been seeking to increase its draw of 50 percent of the revenue from a tax increment financing – or TIF – zone to 65 percent. The TIF is
incremental revenue from the city and county property taxes generated within the zone.
Graceland is also seeking to have the expansion plan included in the existing TDZ – tourism development zone – that covers Graceland and its construction of the Guest House at
Graceland resort-hotel and Elvis Presley's Memphis -- the entertainment complex across Elvis Presley Boulevard from the mansion.
The TDZ involves incremental sales tax revenue.
The Grizzlies, who operate and maintain FedExForum for the city and county, as well as the administration of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland maintain the arena would violate a non-
compete clause in the FedExForum contract between the Grizzlies and the city and county.
The clause forbids local government financing of any indoor arena with more than 5,000 fixed seats.
Graceland is pursuing a court ruling in the matter. It contends Graceland could use its own money for the arena if it could get an increased draw on the TIF revenues for the other
parts of the plan.
Strickland has said that would amount to local government funding for an arena indirectly. He has also said he is not opposed to the manufacturing and other parts of the plan that
do not involve an arena.
A federal court civil lawsuit filed by Graceland last year alleging retaliation by the city and seeking damages went to mediation earlier this year. Graceland Monday dropped its
move to subpoena Strickland and city chief operating officer Doug McGowen to be deposed in the matter.
Originating Source: Elvis Express Radio / Press Release
|GRACELAND PLANS EXPANSIONS CREATING 1000 NEW JOBS