Group looking to preserve Aretha Franklin’s Memphis home wants museum, gift shop

(WMC Action News 5)
Updated: Oct. 16, 2018 at 3:28 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The current owner of soul singer Aretha Franklin’s Memphis home is working to preserve the home.

Current owner Vera House wants to turn the house into a museum and souvenir shop.

House says Franklin visited the home in 1995 and encouraged her to hold on to the property.

Jeffrey Higgs is a developer working to preserve the home. He told Shelby County Environmental Court that he wants to see something Memphis can be proud of.

But Higgs said he’s not comfortable with the way the process has played out so far, having to reveal so much of the plans in public before they’re realized.

“As a developer you normally present your idea when it’s done and finished. You’re not having to report every 30 days, ‘Well, I’m doing this or about this,’” Higgs said.

He shared his concerns with environmental judge Patrick Dandridge, who explained why the process is the way it is.

“These type of cases work better when you know what kind of plan going forward, so we don’t have to continually come back with no progress being made,” Dandridge said.

Dandridge did, however, offer to meet with the parties in private at the next meeting.

While the final plans are still being worked out, Patricia Rogers, a community leader and friend of Vera House, shared details about one idea that calls for turning the house into a museum and gift shop.

“It’s becoming a big tourist attraction at that location right now,” Rogers said.

The homeowner’s new attorney requested more time to get caught up on everything. Others involved with preservation efforts were reluctant to provide a timeline, and said it’s important for everyone to be on the same page.

The site is already a tourist attraction with tour buses having added Aretha Franklin's birthplace as a stop.

In the end, the plan hopes to create an area that is a replica of what the home would’ve looked like in 1942 when Franklin was born, as well as include Franklin Memorabilia.

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