The Metro Council gave unanimous final approval Tuesday night to a deal struck by Mayor Karl Dean’s administration that gets the city out of pickle, and allows Metro officials to pursue new uses for a valuable piece of downtown real estate.
The deal with the Renaissance Hotel, which is currently next door to the Nashville Convention Center, gives the hotel rent-free use of the existing convention center’s ballroom and meeting space. In exchange, Metro is free of a contractual obligation to operate a convention center there until 2017, a scenario that would have had the city managing two convention centers at once when the Music City Center opens in May.
After plans for a medical trade mart at the location — on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway — fell through in October, some on the council expressed concern about how the Med Mart’s failure, and uncertainty about future use of the space, would affect the ultimate success of the $585 million Music City Center. The deal approved by the council Tuesday would seem to mitigate that concern to some extent.
A 20-year room-block agreement is also included in the deal, under which the Renaissance would set aside 315 rooms for the Music City Center for three years and 400 rooms after that. In addition to rent-free use of the ballroom and meeting space, the hotel would be able to use the pedestrian walkway and 180 spaces in the Metro-owned parking lot across the street. The Renaissance has agreed to invest $20 million to renovate the hotel, and $5 million to renovate the meeting space.
“This gives the Renaissance the meeting space it needs to be a successful hotel, which is important for the Music City Center, and just for Nashville, downtown in general,” said Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling. “And it will save the city some money long-term because it relieves us of any commitment to operate a convention center there, and we didn’t really want to be in the business of running dual convention centers.”
With the obligation to operate a convention center at Fifth and Broadway removed, the city is free to pursue other uses for the rest of the old convention center space. Metro officials have not given any indication as to what they might envision inhabiting the freed-up space in the future, and Riebeling did not make any announcements Tuesday night.
“That’s one of the best pieces of real estate, I think, in Nashville,” he said. “I think we’re going to think creatively about the long-term use of that property. I don’t have a plan for it, there’s no sign-sealed-delivered secret deal or anything, but we’re going to go through deliberately and look at different options — people have different ideas — and see what the best use is.”
In other council action:
• The council gave unanimous approval to a proposal, sponsored by Councilman Phil Claiborne, allowing the creation of a countywide no-solicitation list. Metro Nashville residents will be able to register their addresses by completing a form on the Metro clerk’s website, thereby “[prohibiting] door-to-door commercial solicitation, other than the sale of books and other expressive works.”
• The council advanced on second reading a bill that would allow the keeping of chickens on community garden property on Gallatin Pike. The maximum number of domesticated hens allowed under the proposal would be six.