New year to ring in changes on Beale Street - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

New year to ring in changes on Beale Street

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The commission will initially oversee the street at Mayor A C Wharton's request. The commission will initially oversee the street at Mayor A C Wharton's request.
The Downtown Memphis Commission will start managing Beale as soon as 2014 begins. The Downtown Memphis Commission will start managing Beale as soon as 2014 begins.

(WMC-TV) - Big things are on tap along Memphis' most famous street. The new year will bring big new changes to Beale Street.

New managers plan to make the short-term transition as seamless as possible. People who visit Beale Street to eat, drink, or enjoy music probably will not even notice when someone else takes charge.

The Downtown Memphis Commission will start managing Beale as soon as 2014 begins.

"Well, it'll be a change in management, but hopefully you won't see a lot of changes," said Paul Morris with the Downtown Memphis Commission.

The commission will initially oversee the street at Mayor A C Wharton's request.

"We're trying to hold the fort and keep the street running the way it is while the city figures out what to do long term," said Morris.

John Elkington, who became developer and manager of Beale Street, is leaving after more than 30 years.

A federal court settlement cedes control from Elkington's company, Performa Entertainment, to the city.

"John Elkington was doing a good job so far as I was concerned, because the street was full of people," said Beale Street business owner Jerome Burt.

Burt is uncertain about the changes, but he hopes the best for himself and the city of Memphis.

Morris believes one of the city's biggest assets is secure, and plans to retain many existing operations personnel. Although, that does not mean there will not be a few road blocks.

"This is a 24-hour operation that requires a lot of attention and management, and it's going to be a big challenge to transition from Performa to the city," said Morris.

Beale Street Merchants Association President Ty Agee says the Bluff City will hit a turning point with the official end of the Beale Street lawsuit Wednesday.

"With them being able to resolve everything, we can move forward. We can get to marketing the street," he said. "We don't get any state dollars; we don't get any city dollars. I think maybe some money will free up that way and a maybe they can market us."

He points out the entertainment district is the safest in the city and the goal there would be to improve upon what Memphis police are already doing.

Beale was recently voted "most iconic American street" in USA Today. Part of Morris's short-term plan is try and market it again to Memphians not just tourists.

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. 

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