Study this aerial photo for a minute. In the middle of the big wooded area is the Graceland Mansion and all the other buildings. You can see the swimming pool and the Meditation Garden on the left. Now look across the street. You can’t miss Elvis’ plane, the Lisa Marie, and the rest of the buildings of Graceland Plaza, home to the ticket office, shops and restaurants. At the far left end you can barely make out the blue Caddy in front of the Car Museum.
Here’s a couple of ground level shots of Graceland Plaza. Like me, you probably have good memories of time spent there on our pilgrimages to Memphis.
Well, soon memories will be all there is. EPE is going to tear the whole thing down. And wait ‘til you see what they want to build instead.
This article appeared on the Memphis Commercial Appeal website dated September 3, 2015. The key words in the headline are “files plans,” which means there may be a few snags before this becomes a reality. Here is what EPE is proposing.
They are seeking approval for a $30-35 million entertainment complex tentatively named Graceland West on 45 acres. According to the application to the Office of Planning & Development, the project will include “a car museum showcasing cars owned by Elvis, two restaurants, a soundstage, a retail component, and a museum highlighting and named Elvis the Entertainer.’’
Sounds pretty good, but where did this 45 acres come from?
Let’s study another map. At the bottom center we see the current Graceland Plaza. All that land behind it used to be the Craft Manor Apartments. Some years ago, EPE purchased the whole thing, and as you can see, all the buildings have been demolished. So, EPE can build their new Graceland West complex there without any interruption of the business at Graceland Plaza. Things will get a little messy when the existing buildings are demolished to make way for a park-like setting with trees, landscaping, etc.
This drawing takes a little time to understand, but you will see a curving entrance road come off Elvis Presley Boulevard and lead to a turn-around area for the busses that move people to-and-from the mansion. You can see this entrance road has a gate, but what is harder to see is that a six-foot-high ornamental metal fence surrounds the entire property. There will be trees planted along the bottom of it fronting Craft Rd, but the view along Elvis Presley Boulevard will be unobstructed.
Now, see the grey area in the center. That is sort-of an open pedestrian plaza with sidewalks, benches, fountains, etc. Right in the center is an irregular-shaped building that obviously will house the ticket office and plenty of other stuff.
Around the perimeter of the plaza area, you can see a sprawling E-shaped building. And I believe there is one more building northeast of the central one. It flanks the entrance from the large parking lot at the top.
Other tid-bits of information in the news release included:
They hope to have it completed by October 2016, the same as the new 450-room Guest House at Graceland.
Total acreage for all the various EPE properties now is 120 acres. It started out with just Graceland at 12 acres.
Landscaping in front includes willow oak, tulip poplar and maple trees.
Memphis and the state of Tennessee will make $43 million worth of improvements to Elvis Presley Boulevard over the next three to five years. I believe this includes much more than just the section in front of Graceland.
“Graceland West” is not expected to be the final name of the entertainment complex.
Heartbreak Hotel will be knocked down. In its place, more parking will be added.
A 35-foot-high lighted sign will be part of the project. (Sounds like Las Vegas, doesn’t it?)
At this meeting, nearby residents gathered to listen to the President and CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Jack Soden. He told them that Elvis’ memorabilia and displays will be moved across the street and showcased in a new 22,000 square-foot Elvis “career museum.”
“We’re going to move an awful lot of what’s presented in the trophy building and the racquetball building on the Graceland tour, which, if you think about it, we just kinda shoe-horned the entire story of Elvis-the-entertainer into what was a rec room and a racquetball court. We’re going to do all of that justice, the gold records, the jumpsuits, the guitars, the awards, all the things related to his amazing, iconic career.”
The new complex will include seven retail spaces totaling 30,047 square feet, at least two restaurants totaling 15,016 square feet, and an orientation/ticket building of 12,428 square feet.
A writer on elvisinfonet.com posed an interesting question: “What will become of the newly cleared spaces in the trophy and racquetball buildings? Will EPE seek to restore those rooms to appear exactly as they were when Elvis was alive, and then will visitors have to pay more to see both the mansion and the memorabilia?” You can be sure the answer to that question is Yes.
The Land Use Control Board gave its unanimous endorsement to the project on Thursday, October 8. Now all it takes is vote by the Memphis City Council to approve. Looks like Graceland West (or whatever the choose to call it) is going to happen.
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