HORN LAKE, Miss. (AP) — As the faithful gather in Memphis for Monday evening's candlelight vigil and other Elvis Week events, work is about to heat up just to the south at Presley's former Circle G Ranch in Horn Lake.
Destin, Florida-based real estate developer Davage "Buddy" Runnels Jr., who bought the property at Goodman Road and Miss. 301 in 2014 for an undisclosed price, says the first visible steps are at hand toward creating what he hopes will be become a showcase destination for Elvis fans visiting Graceland.
"Within the next 120 days, there will be work people can see," Runnels said Friday. He said those initial steps include relocating the cottage where Elvis and Priscilla honeymooned in 1967 to another spot on the property and starting work on a stable reconstruction project.
The work, when it begins, will represent tangible evidence of a massive and ambitious plan that in time calls for a sprawling, musically-themed "leisure entertainment destination." Runnels, a Mississippi native who now owns Real Estate International Inc. in Destin, outlined the plans earlier this year to local business and civic leaders. His vision includes a $3.2 million first phase that he said in April he hoped to have complete within a year.
Included in long-range are restoration of the honeymoon cottage and stables, a restaurant, a "dynamic water display" with fountains on the property's 14-acre lake and construction of a memorial to children killed in the Holocaust.
Less visible, but equally important to the project moving forward, is infrastructure work by Horn Lake, also about to begin.
Spencer "Penny" Shields, Horn Lake's director of operations for public works, said the city is about to extend sewers beneath Goodman Road so the Circle G property can connect. Shields said the project will cost about $170,000, with the city covering 60 percent of the cost and the developer the remaining share.
Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer said Runnels' team hasn't presented a formal plan to the city for approval, but everything is "on track" as far as what was expected by this point.
"Everything is in motion," Latimer said. "I think the infrastructure work is the biggest holdup."
Grand redevelopment plans for the ranch were proposed previously but never materialized. Area business leaders and public officials are hopeful, however, that plans will become reality this time and help DeSoto County cash in on Graceland's and Tupelo's sizable tourist draw.
Elvis bought the ranch in the 1960s as a getaway that would still be near Graceland. After he and Priscilla married, they spent part of their honeymoon there, but the property has fallen into disrepair in the years since Elvis' death.