Graceland Set For Redesign

Tom Bailey Jr. from the Commercial Appeal wrote an article on the upcoming plans for Graceland. The man who controls Graceland says he's returning to Memphis next month to re-map the future of the tourist mecca. CKX Inc. has said they will spend $250 million improving 100 acres surrounding Graceland.

In the second or third week of January, Robert Sillerman said last week, "We are having an all-hands meeting in Memphis.''
One of his companies, CKX Inc., bought controlling interest of Elvis Presley Enterprises for $100 million in 2004.
Several years have now passed since CKX acquired 100 acres surrounding Graceland and first talked of a $250 million redevelopment of the entire area.
The work would include demolition of the old visitors center and Heartbreak Hotel and replacing them with larger, better facilities and hotels with convention space and improved public spaces.
Sillerman describes next month's event as a two-day design charrette, or intensive planning session.
Participants will include members of a master planning firm, architectural firm, design firm, "feasibility people," audio-visual experts and a project manager, he said in phone interview.
"We're taking a look at in what phases that should be developed," Sillerman said. "What needs to be developed first and how best we achieve maximization that pays homage to what is there.
"But also provide a whole new perspective on where we are going."
Although CKX and Elvis Presley Enterprises are counting on city, county and state support for items like improvements to Elvis Presley Boulevard, the planning session at Graceland will be private.
"The meeting with government officials, such as they are, will take place individually," Sillerman said.
Within 90 to 120 days after the planning session, "we'll have a very specific idea of what it is we'd like to do," he said.
"We have continued to pursue ahead on the exploration side and the development side rather aggressively," he said. "We've actually engaged additional consultants."
The City of Memphis continues to be involved but is waiting on CKX, said Robert Lipscomb, who heads the city's Division of Housing and Community Development.
Asked what happens next, Lipscomb replied, "Them coming back with something more definitive."
Sillerman agreed, saying city officials "cannot respond to our request now any more positively than they have.
"But they need now to get specifics. They need to know exactly what the economic impact will be. How many hundreds or thousands of jobs will be created and what's the project's impact on all of the things that contribute to what makes this so attractive as a development."
The government's role will be "to do something with Elvis Presley Boulevard," Lipscomb said. That would include widening and making the street more visually appealing, especially between Graceland and the I-55 exit.
Both Sillerman and Lipscomb cited the difficult economy, with Sillerman adding that banks aren't lending money "the way they were."
Still, said Lipscomb, the project is hardly mothballed. "A deal like this takes time. It's a huge investment on the private part and a huge investment on the city's part."
Recent financial setbacks to some of Sillerman's ventures aren't affecting progress with the Graceland project, Sillerman said.
He made a fortune buying and selling entertainment and media companies (He owns the "American Idol" franchise), but he's recently experienced some well-publicized losses in real estate.
The Wall Street Journal published a story earlier this month about the failure of his new Caribbean resort, Temenos, in Anguilla, British West Indies.
Sillerman told the Journal he didn't expect to get back the $180 million he lost on Temenos, which is half-built and closed.
And he candidly told the Journal, "I think that I exhibited an element of hubris" because resort development "was not my area of expertise by any stretch of the imagination."
The Journal also reported that a Sillerman company purchased 18 acres on the Las Vegas Strip for a new casino-hotel, but the project never started and its $475 million mortgage is in default.
Those setbacks are "completely unrelated" to the Graceland project, Sillerman told The Commercial Appeal.
Graceland, he said, "is an extension of what we already know works.
"Heartbreak Hotel, despite the fact it was built as anything but a luxury hotel, maintains the highest occupancy of any hotel in the state of Tennessee," he said.
"What we're talking about is an extension of something that has proven to be successful that will be undertaken by the type of experts who can fulfill the vision."
While the Caribbean resort is not comparable to the Memphis enterprise, Sillerman said the lesson he takes from Temenos "is to make sure I'm surrounded by people or experts in their particular area.
"That's why the design charrette will be populated by literally the top people in each of their fields within the United States."
Sillerman still plans "additional stuff" related to Elvis in Las Vegas, although nothing as grand as a casino-hotel complex.
"I continue to believe the world in general and Las Vegas in particular is under Elvis. So we're going to take advantage of that."
But Graceland will not take a backseat to any Vegas enterprise, he said, adding, "Our No. 1 priority is Memphis."
-- Tom Bailey Jr.:
Source: Commercial Appeal / Updated: Dec 27, 2009
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Reactions

wheatie (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 10, 2010report abuse
Okay, I have what is probably a stupid question but here goes. If "they" are so determined to preserve the legacy of Elvis and all that goes into that part of history,why are they also so set on selling and or redirecting his possessions, even so much of the stuff out there is not true to one degree or another. Why don't they try to preserve some of which is Elvis? It seems to me that money going into their pocket comes first and his heritage and past comes last. Yes he does belong to the world,so why can't we all try to keep "his world" as it was and not be so set on keeping up with the times, so to speak. I'm sure that the area needs a lot of cleaning and sprusing up,because it has been many years since I was there and can only imagine how things have gotten. I am glad that when I was there I had the foresight to visit as many of the places that he and his family lived in both Memphis and Tupelo as so very many are gone,mainly do to the age and danger of some places,and places being turned into other things. Just saying,lets keep his memory alive as he was and all the good and bad.Being poor is a curse to us all and Iam sure that a lot of people started out the same way his family did. What does this have to do with the topic, nothing really,but I just see the all mighty dollar butting its ugly head in,in to many places. Don't get me wrong I AM ALL FOR PRESERVING AND KEEPING THE SURROUNDING AREA NICE BUT LEAST WE FORGET, HE WORKED HARD FOR WHAT HE HAD AND WHAT HE GAVE HIS FAMILY. I really doubt if he had any idea that his life would become such a commodity after his passing.
MarkJ (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 4, 2010report abuse
Glenntcb, where did you hear that about Sillerman or CKX being interested in buying the music rights? If true it would be a milestone in the Elvis legacy as it would allow for better projects to be released. Eventually I think Sillerman's ultimate goal is to own the music as well. He's already stated that he wants it and he's got the power and money to make it happen.

For those criticizing Sillerman you need to grow up and learn to stop being hypocrits. Colonel Parker was doing much worse. Sillerman is coming in with a long term plan to re-introduce Elvis to a new and younger generation. Why on earth would you bash the man for that? It boggles my mind at the negativity thrown at this man like he's taking something from you personally. NEWSFLASH: Elvis doesn't belong to you!! He blongs to the entire world, young and old, black and white or other. Just as The Beatles or Michael Jackson does. Elvis fans are no exception.

Sillerman isn't trying or planning to turn Graceland-The Mansion into a thrill park or kiddie land. If some would just stop and realize that what he wants is much better and bigger facilities to showcase Elvis' legacy in a fashionable way that brings Elvis and Graceland to modern day 21st century technological advanced levels. Not some roller coaster or ferris wheel decked out in rhinestones. Why is this so freaking hard to comprehend for some of you?

For the record, the "Disney" comparisons have been drastically blown out of porportion. Disney is much, much more than a popular amusement park. It's basically a resort built around multiple themed attractions and parks as well as a production company for film and television, themed shows, hi-tech creativity and other things. That's what Sillerman wants for the redevelopment while maintaining Graceland's historic value.
glenntcb (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 4, 2010report abuse
Is it true that Mr Sillerman's CKX Inc. has interest to acquire the complete Elvis Songs Catalogue
from BMG (as Sony reported heavy losses/no profits on the U.S. stock Exchange...wanting to cut costs & expenses...)???
corey3rd (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 2, 2010report abuse
far as making Elvis cool to a new generation, Disney's Lilo and Stich did a good job of connecting with kids a few years before Silverman bought it. Also The '50s boxset went a long way to re-establishing Elvis as a serious artist and not just a halloween costume. How much wider does he want Elvis Presley Blvd? They brought a plane down it. The neighborhood needs change. although the wholesale changes to make it like Disney won't work. A convention center space is needed so they can have bigger events without having to deal with renting outside space. after he had 2 real estate battles go up in a nearly half a billion dollar bonfire, he better have a clear vision of what he can do instead of tearing down stuff and then just walking away from it.
honeybum (profilecontact) wrote on Dec 31, 2009report abuse
Here the thing. I agree The area should be cleared up. But if they update the area, it stops being Elvis' place. Just an 0pinion from a person who was there when
theoldscudder (profilecontact) wrote on Dec 29, 2009report abuse
That last comment was in jest (obviously).
theoldscudder (profilecontact) wrote on Dec 29, 2009report abuse
One last thought. The FBI should profile those people that buy Elvis tins, statues, sunglasses & the rest of the junk associated with the King. These people are scary!
theoldscudder (profilecontact) wrote on Dec 29, 2009report abuse
Steve V. I love the King, like the Beatles. But, I'll go you one better & say at this point in time The Beatles are considered more hip & are held in higher esteem by the general public. That's a shame. It's due to the mismanagement & lost opportunities (past & present). How often does a quality Elvis come out as compared to such crap as tins, garbage cans , wallpaper etc.
Steve V (profilecontact) wrote on Dec 28, 2009report abuse
Brian - The Beatles broke up in 1970 in case you haven't heard. That's longer than Elvis is gone. I'd say they've stayed pretty popular.
Brian Quinn (profilecontact) wrote on Dec 28, 2009report abuse
Bob Sillerman and Simon Fuller are the best things to ever happen to the Elvis Legacy. Such entrepreneurs with vision are needed to keep Elvis as the World's No.1 Entertainer. Artistically, Elvis is far ahead of such artists as The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Madonna etc. These artists were extremely limited in their musical genres whereas Elvis could, and did, sing in virtually every musical genre available to him. He could also act well when given a chance, which is more than can be said for the aforementioned entertainers. Elvis has been dead now for almost 32 years and is still popular throughout the world. I doubt if The Beatles or Michael Jackson will have the same amount of success when they have been gone for even half that time. The future for Elvis is Remixes, Duets and films/shows and quite rightly so in my opinion. If other deceased artists do not follow Elvis then their legacies will also suffer.
Viva (profilecontact) wrote on Dec 28, 2009report abuse
The Disneyfication of Elvis continues. I fail to see how simulated duets with the likes of such plastic people such as Celine Dion can be considered a success for Sillerman, the rest of the world still regard The Beatles, and now that loon Jacko, as artistically superior to The King so while most people seem to think that Sillerman and the "Elvis on a tin can" method is a worthy way to reflect and publicise the life and career of the worlds greatest entertainer, I'm afraid I'm hugely offended by it: It cheapens everything he did and stood for.
elvis_aotc (profilecontact) wrote on Dec 28, 2009report abuse
If only they put a little of that money in the film doc. Elvis ON TOUR. Could be a nice multy disc edition. On the internet is a lot of footage Elvis On Tour that is officially not released and it is really great. Just put all the complete shows on it and all the of stage footage, and do the same with the film doc. Elvis That's the way it is. I also think it is to much to ask to release the 1977 Elvis in concert footage even if it is on a special label like Follow that Dream. I know that this matarial must be barried because of the bad health, but you can see footage on the internet as well so it is out there anyway, but than in verry poor quality. Just releas it on a special label for only fans and release whatever there is. Ok, let me dream...
Ruthie (profilecontact) wrote on Dec 28, 2009report abuse
Mark J I think you are right on the mark. And the people I talked to from EPE more or less indicated your predictions. My only comment is that no one should be too complacent with these ideas. To this day I don't think they have a clue as far as what fans would like. I hope I am wrong & that I will be delightfully surprised.
MarkJ (profilecontact) wrote on Dec 27, 2009report abuse
Before Sillerman, the image of Elvis in young America was not very good. Since his takeover and projects like Viva Elvis, it's a different story. He's gotten big time stars of today to appear on Elvsi-related shows, gotten Elvis Week on American Idol, gets Elvis in major commercials, and now plans to make Graceland the ultimate fan expereince as it should already be by bringing it up to modern day standards with new facilities and 21st century technology.

Graceland still doesn't have a true lifestory telling museum and it's been in business since 82. That's really sad and shows that they never took interest in the man until Sillerman came along with his billion dollar empire.

As for the area. Graceland itself is a gorgeous house. But it stops there. Walk out back and you see people's backyards in his and near his gravesite. Outside the gates is very unattractive and their setup is very outdate and 20th century-looking. This is soon-to-be 2010 but the area loks 1980-something. Everyone of the major historical locations in the US are upgrading with new technologies and attractions and bringing in new interest to their landmarks. Graceland is stuck in idle mode, lost in the 50's.

Sillerman's plan for Graceland will bring it back to life, bring new found interest into the name Elvis Presley and double its tourism and international popularity for generations to come. And by doing that will keep Elvis alive well after we're all dead and gone.

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