Elvis Presley Boulevard project closer to starting, but likely not this summer

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The long-awaited Elvis Presley Boulevard Improvements Project in Whitehaven is now a step closer to reality.

The city says it's in final negotiations to buy property before starting the first phase of construction.

However, WREG has learned at least one roadblock means the timeline has been pushed back yet again.

A pothole-filled bumpy ride is what you'll get driving along much of Elvis Presley Boulevard.

However, the major thoroughfare is set to get a $35 million makeover.

The Elvis Presley Boulevard Improvements Project includes new sidewalks, curbs and bike lanes, covering three miles from Brooks Road to Shelby Drive.

City of Memphis Public Works Director Robert Knecht says the city is much closer to construction, having bought some of the necessary land to get started.

"We're at 24 of the 26 needed right-of-way acquisitions are completed and the final two are wrapping up."

Once that's complete, Knecht says the city will file paperwork with the state.

Knecht added, "Once we have their concurrence, then we can bid the project and start construction."

Despite where the city is in the process, construction won't start immediately.

One of those 26 property owners Knecht referenced will be forced to relocate, and they get 90 days after the deal is signed to do so.

That will likely push construction that was supposed to start this summer into the fall or winter.

"We still, though, believe we're going to be under construction this year. I mean, that's our goal, we want to have the bids in and the contract awarded and the construction started this year," said Knecht.

It's progress lots of people have been waiting on.

Rev. Earle Fisher is the pastor at Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church and president of the newly formed Greater Whitehaven Economic Redevelopment Corporation. Its goal, Fisher says, is to ensure redevelopment benefits everyone in the area.

"We want to be an advocate for both the corporations and the community members in a way that provides a more equitable distribution of that wealth and those funds," explained Fisher, who said the vast majority of redevelopment dollars never made it to the grassroots, or what he calls the "living room" level.

GWERC'S predecessor board was involved with the road improvement project, along with a much larger plan promoting mixed-used development surrounding the airport.

Fisher said, "Right now GWERC is trying to figure out what the aerotropolis plan was, is and ought to be, so Elvis Presley is actually the west parameter of our initiative."

Fisher says they've been hosting community forums to hear from people about their concerns, including the road improvement plan.

Knecht knows many residents are frustrated the road improvement plan still hasn't started.

"We just ask them to be patient, but trust that we want this project to move forward, we're excited about it, it's going to be a tremendous enhancement to Whitehaven."

Enhancements some say are long overdue.

The first phase of the project will cover the area that runs from Brooks to Winchester.

The city says it should have a better idea of the timeline once it acquires the property from those last two owners.