(WMC-TV) – Changes are coming to America's most iconic street. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton plans to appoint a board to operate business on Beale Street.
City of Memphis took over operations on Beale Street this year. Taxpayers own the street, but someone is needed to permanently run day-to-day operations, like cleaning and collecting money from those who lease space.
"Every time I have family and friends come to town, the first place I take them to is here on Beale Street," said Milton Key.
Mayor Wharton hopes to keep it that way. His plan is to create a new Beale Street operating board to include at least one member each from Memphis City Council, Memphis Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Downtown Memphis Commission, Beale Street Merchants Association, and a Memphis citizen.
"The key is to bring together the expertise that can run it like a business operation, yet keep it in the public domain," said Wharton.
While citizens look forward to the new board, some merchants on the street fear the board will be handpicked to give preferential treatment to certain Beale venues.
"The council, which is proper, will grill and cross examine these folks to make sure we don't have a clique so somebody dominates the street and excludes others. That's not going to happen," explained Wharton.
The mayor says it is important to have proper financial controls.
"For the first time in how many years, we actually turned a profit. It would have been much more, but there were sole startup expenses, insurance, and things," said the city mayor.
The city will profit by more than $120,000 this year, even as it is required to pay the former operator of Beale, Elkington Real Estate, 5 percent of all leasing commissions.
Mayor Wharton says Handy Park, in the heart of Beale, will have more hands in which events take place there.
"We did not want to preordain and have one group say, 'This is what's going to be there,' he said. "We want that to be open so when the professional management team comes in, they'll be able to look at it and say this is the highest and best use."
The council will mull over the mayor's plan and his nominees and make a decision in the coming weeks.
To see the Beale Street operations plan, click here: http://ftpcontent4.worldnow.com/wmctv/DMC%20Operations%20Plan%20for%20Beale%202014%20(2).pdf
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