Memphis journalist John Branston reports that although changes may be coming to Beale Street, the rumoured Mega-Convention Centre is unlikely. A couple of things have fired up the rumour mill. John Elkington, head of the leasing company for Beale Street since 1982, has made it clear he is ready to walk away from his long-term lease if the terms are right. A mediation hearing for the Beale Street Development Corporation is scheduled to take place in a few weeks to determine who owes what to whom.
However it is said that the chances of Memphis getting a new convention center are very slim. The city has tapped out its main source of funding, the so-called bed tax on hotels that is helping to pay off bonds for FedExForum and the existing and recently expanded Cook Convention Center. Anything left over will go to the Bass Pro Pyramid if that project moves forward. The developers of the Mid-South Fairgrounds and Graceland and Elvis Presley Boulevard are also relying on Tourism Development Zone tax rebates. Not only is the mythical tourism-and-convention jackpot stretched thin, it is also shrinking. In a meeting with seven members of the Memphis City Council earlier this summer, Beale Street merchants said their business was off 10 to 15 percent.
From the vantage point of a tourist, Beale Street delivers a variety of live music. While FedExForum and AutoZone Park are dark more nights than not and Peabody Place is emptying out, Beale Street is open every night and cleaned up every morning. It has safety and image issues, but what bar-hopping area doesn't?
However a change is coming. As one operator said this week, "I just hope it's not worse." (News, Source;EIN/Memphisflyer)