MDN: Graceland West Up Next as Guest House Tops Out
“As construction crews working on the 450-room Guest House at Graceland resort hotel marked the topping out of that Whitehaven project this week, work is about to begin on the other side of Elvis Presley Boulevard on the Graceland West project.
Graceland West is a new visitors center and complex across the street from Graceland itself that will include additional museums, restaurants and entertainment areas. Elvis Presley Enterprises pulled a building permit for Graceland West in late February.
EPE President and CEO Jack Soden said the coming construction won’t interfere with tours that leave from the existing plaza.
“Graceland West is really all basically going to be built behind the current visitor complex, to the west,” Soden said. “It will uniquely allow us to operate as is right up to the day we cut the ribbon and welcome people to the new complex.”
Then the existing plaza will be demolished.
“And we look forward to turning that into more trees and grass,” Soden said of the area. “We want to get bigger and we want to grow and we want the campus to be a wonderful thing for the future. But we want to figure out how to do it along the way, replacing old asphalt with young grass and trees.”
Soden and those who designed and will run the resort marked the progress so far with a topping out ceremony Thursday, March 3, that included a 350-pound gold beam with Elvis Presley’s signature emblazoned on it and the traditional evergreen tree.
Like the plaza, the resort will have the same setback from Elvis Presley Boulevard as the mansion.
While those are the plans for the property owned by Elvis Presley Enterprises – 20 acres in all – Soden also hopes it influences surrounding development in the larger area.
The idea is to return some of the rural and residential feel to what was a country highway outside the city limits when Presley bought Graceland in the 1950s. Commercial development followed rapidly in the 1970s, making Graceland and some of the churches the only properties that were set back from the highway.
Graceland has wanted a hotel close to the mansion for most of the 30 years the mansion has been open for tours. But Soden said economic conditions over those decades as well as questions about whether the hotel should follow or lead development outside of Graceland’s footprint were barriers.
“Altogether we’ve wished for a renaissance for Elvis Presley Boulevard and it was chicken or egg to get the kind of catalytic investment,” he said. “And we’ve finally got it. This thing is big enough, it’s going to be impactful enough I think to really make a difference on the boulevard and in turn on the surrounding neighborhoods. Hopefully it’s a rising tide that makes everybody happy.”
At 450 rooms, the resort will be the third largest hotel in the city when it opens in October.
And Graceland is expected to have some influence it hasn’t had before on what goes around the hotel.
Weaver said the Guest House design borrows elements from a mansion that is a “time capsule” – preserved as it was in the 1970s just before Presley’s death in 1977.
But he said the accommodations will be modern to include amenities for digital technology set in the style of the 1970s.
The lobby will feature an enormous mirrored ceiling.
The suites on the top floor will also include media rooms with one suite having a big screen television above the bed, just like Presley had at Graceland.
“He was all into technology,” Weaver said of the research his firm did as part of creating the design of the Guest House.”