Elvis Presley once sang "There's No Place Like Home," and if developers are able to continue with proposed improvements to Graceland, that home and the surrounding area will get major improvements for residents and tourists.
James McLaren, a partner at Adams and Reese which represents Elvis Presley Enterprises, said the Graceland Economic Impact Plan will modernize the experience for Elvis fans visiting the home, improving the property as well as the nearby tourist shopping center.
An economic impact plan outlines construction and design plans, how they will be funded, and what benefit they'll bring to the city and county.
One of the biggest planned improvements is construction of the Guest House at Graceland, a 450-room hotel with two restaurants and a 500-seat theater. It's expected to open in the fall of 2015.
- Artist rendering of the Guest House hotel
In addition to the hotel, retail and dining experiences on the property will be refreshed and modernized. A new focus on entertainment outside of the home itself may be "experiential or archive — other entertainment-type venues," McLaren said, as the plan aims to appeal to not only current Elvis fans but a younger demographic as well.
One new development is a 200-seat theater presentation dubbed the Graceland Archives Studio, which focuses on Elvis archives that may be used as an educational tool. Others include a new entryway, a "discovery center" (a high-tech way to experience Elvis in concert), and new options for dining and retail.
The three-phase plan, which will cost between $121 and $132 million, focuses on the development of Graceland's 120-acre property. But the improvements will offer 500 jobs, which is expected to further economic development in Whitehaven.
"There have been lots of people in the neighborhood who are very supportive of this project," said McLaren. "What I think, and what Elvis Presley Enterprises thinks will happen, is that the redevelopment that they're doing of the Graceland campus will be catalytic in redeveloping Whitehaven, particularly along Elvis Presley Boulevard."
The Graceland Economic Impact Plan comes alongside the city and county's own planned improvements to beautify the area over the next five years.
"The city and county are putting $4.3 million into Elvis Presley Boulevard, between Brooks Road and Shelby Drive," McLaren said. "Between those two projects, there's going to be such a large investment in the Whitehaven neighborhood, it can't have but a catalytic impact.
"We have more than 600,000 visitors a year," McLaren added. "They don't just go to Graceland. They go to other things in the city. So improving [attendance] at Graceland means that you improve the whole economic environment in the city of Memphis."
The plan would be funded in a few ways, including a "site-specific TIF," or tax increment financing. That allows Elvis Presley Enterprises to pay off the debt quicker instead of paying the entirety of the new property tax, which after construction is completed, will be approximately $2.8 million. Currently, the company pays $689,000 in property taxes, which would continue after development until either 20 years or the debt is paid off.
Other sources of funding will come from Elvis Presley Enterprises as well as Tourism Development Zone sales tax and tourism surcharge funding tools.
Planners believe the impact of the new Graceland developments would provide more than $50 million in tax revenue over the next 15 years, including $5 million allotted to education in the area and $1 billion in economic impact for the city.