Selling Beale Street one option presented to planning committee

By Lori Brown - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - As the City of Memphis prepares to take ownership of Beale Street after a falling out with Performa Leasing Company, could the city actually sell the iconic street?

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton wanted to make clear that selling the street touted as the number one tourism destination in Tennessee each year was not his suggestion.

"We're not considering selling it," said Wharton.  "That's an error."

Wharton said someone submitted to him the idea of selling Beale Street, so he passed along the idea with a stack of other ideas to the newly formed Beale Street Strategic Planning Committee Friday.

"One of the working papers suggested a sell, others said outside management like we do with the Cook Convention Center and the Fairgrounds," said Wharton.  "Others said let the merchants pull together and manage it."

Wharton said he would be surprised if the committee decided to recommend selling Beale Street.

"It's one of our treasures, and cities generally hold onto their treasures," he said.  "It's a jewel."

"Cities cannot survive by cannibalizing themselves," Wharton continued.  "If private hands own it, we may look at it one day and have nothing but a string of karaoke bars."

President of the Beale Street Merchants' Association Ty Agee said he thinks Beale Street business owners should be allowed to buy their buildings, while the street itself remains in the city's hands.

"We pay our taxes, and we are good for the city," said Agee.  "I think we should have a little control over our own destiny."

Agee said his worst fear is an outside group being in control.

"I hope they don't shop us out to a group," said Agee.  "For instance, New York."

Wharton said he did not want the city running Beale Street.  He said that job is for industry experts.

The committee's recommendation is expected in three to four months.

Copyright 2010 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.