The nine-member Convention Center Authority Thursday authorized $16.9 million to be allocated to the initial four-month phase of construction related to Music City Center, an incremental approach likely to include the first demolition of a building inside the project’s footprint by Monday.
Some structures that sit atop the project’s 16 SoBro acres have already been abated, according to project manager Larry Atema, with concrete fencing now lining much of the perimeter around the future 1.2 million-square-foot facility.
“Work officially has begun on Music City Center,” Atema said. “We’re sort of done talking and we’ve started working.”
Though the final price tag attached to Nashville’s new convention center is projected at $585 million, the authority’s chair Marty Dickens said construction financing and contracting would be authorized incrementally. Predevelopment work for Music City Center totaled approximately $25 million.
A joint construction team that consists of Nashville-based Bell & Associates and Clark Construction Group, headquartered in Bethesda, Md., is leading the massive three-year undertaking.
The authority’s vote on Thursday should take construction to May, with the $16.9 million paying for the convention center’s building permit, removing existing utilities from the site, demolishing buildings that stand in the project’s way and dismantling a tunnel that feeds into the truck-access area of the adjacent Sommet Center.
All initial steps are necessary for the eventual $20 million relocation of a Nashville Electric Service substation — which currently blocks the future entranceway of Music City Center — to a new location near Peabody Street where Rocketown is situated.
The convention center’s finance plan, approved by the Metro Council last month, calls for the sale of two separate series of bonds to be underwritten by Goldman Sachs, a Wall Street holding company that is to re-sell the bonds to investors. According to Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling, bond financing should begin to be closed by the end of March.
As for the combination of taxes and fees used to pay off those bonds, Charles Starks, executive director of the Nashville Convention Center, said projections — even with the sagging hotel market — are right on target, with the hotel-motel tax and other fees averaging more than $2 million in monthly funds that will start going directly to Music City Center by July 1.
“The real good news for us is that we’re right where we thought we would be,” Starks said. “It’s certainly not any different than what we anticipated it would be, and frankly, the last couple of months have been a little better than we thought they would be.”
The authority Thursday also officially signed off on a procurement policy to ensure contracting for work related to Music City Center has at least 20 percent participation from small business or those owned by women or minorities.
Though the policy doesn’t explicitly mandate that local businesses form Music City Center’s workforce, authority members vowed to ensure sufficient local participation to make the project Nashville’s “economic stimulus.”
Adding some structure to the Convention Center Authority moving forward, members established four separate committees that deal with: finance and auditing; diversity inclusion and procurement; marketing and operations; and construction and envelopment.