A multi-year makeover of an approximately 3-mile stretch of Elvis Presley Boulevard in Whitehaven is slated to begin soon, city officials announced Thursday.
The $40 million project will impact the stretch of road from Brooks to Shelby Drive, where Elvis Presley Enterprises’ Graceland attractions sit. The road will be repaved, widened, and made more “aesthetically pleasing,” Robert Knecht, director of the city’s Public Works said. “Overall, the enhancements will make the street more usable and more walkable."
Construction will “start any day now,” and wrap up in 2022, Knecht said. When work is completed, it will be a “brand-new street,” he said.
The corridor will get bike lanes, sidewalks, LED lighting, and other amenities that Knecht said will be up to the residents in the community to decide upon. Knecht said this is the first time a community has been really engaged throughout the entire process.
The director adds this will also be one of the few projects in the city to use full LED lighting.
Construction will take place in three phases to minimize the impact on traffic, officials said. Funding for the endeavor comes largely from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which is providing 80 percent of the funds. The remaining 20 percent comes from a local match.
The project has been in the works for a while, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said.
Strickland said the Memphis City Council approved the project in 2012, when he sat on the council. When Strickland took office in 2016, he said he realized “the process had not gone very far.”
“We dug in and dealt with a lot of red tape,” Strickland said. “We negotiated deals with the property owners and put the contract out for bid last fall. And here we are today, ready to launch a much-needed and much-deserved work to bring new life to Elvis Presley Boulevard.
"These improvements are going to make great enhancements to this street, not only functionally, but also in appearance.”
Kevin Kern, vice president of public relations for Memphis Tourism, said “it’s an exciting day” for the Whitehaven community, as well as the tourism industry.
“We’re sitting here in one of the three visitors centers that welcome visitors from all over the world to Memphis,” Kern said. “This one sits here in a vital part of our city. This is a major artery, a welcome mat.
"Much like an airport, Elvis Presley is a handshake to the 11.8 million visitors who came to Memphis last year, who deposited $3.5 billion in economy and $98 in local sales taxes.”