Plans for a luxury $250 million Omni hotel that would anchor the new Music City Center were delivered to the Metro Council at a special information session Thursday night.
With a timeline now established, the council is set to digest the specifics of Mayor Karl Dean’s public-private financing plan before voting on an intergovernmental agreement between Metro and Omni Hotels & Resorts in October. Because the council isn’t being asked to sign off on a publicly owned or operated hotel, reviews so far seem positive.
“This is a great project,” said At-large Councilman Jerry Maynard.
Omni officials spent a little more than 30 minutes giving the rundown on the Omni brand as a hotel chain, using words like “authenticity” and “unique” to describe what Nashvillians can expect from the new 800-room hotel that would be built directly south of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“From an experience standpoint and a design standpoint, we really focus on integrating our hotels into the community, and really trying to have local flavor and local color to be authentic as possible,” Omni President Mike Deitemeyer said. “Our focus is all about individual customer interactions.”
Authenticity in Nashville would likely incorporate a heavy dose of music, with talks still ongoing about physically attaching the new hotel with the planned expansion of the nearby hall of fame. Omni officials also say the hotel would feature restaurants, bars and other street-activity. Final hotel designs are expected by Sept. 30.
“It’s very important for you all to have the feeling that this hotel is part of Nashville,” Mike Garcia, Omni’s chief financial officer, told council members. “We want to feel a part of Nashville as well.”
Reviewing how the Metro-Omni relationship began, Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling said talks with hotel companies picked up following the council’s 29-9 vote in January to approve financing for the $585 million convention center.
“It sort of sent the message out to the hotel community that this project was real,” Riebeling said. “We started to see a number of inquiries.”
In the end, what sold the administration was Omni’s willingness to step up and cover $250 million in construction and development costs up front.
“As we whittled the potential players down, it was clear that only Omni was willing to essentially take all financial contingencies off the table,” Riebeling said.
At the request of Councilwoman Emily Evans, Riebeling said he would hand the council a list of all hotel companies that Metro negotiated with before Omni was chosen.
While the mayor’s hotel plan would benefit from private investment on the front end, there’s also a significant public component as well.
Over the course of 20 years, Omni would collect $103 million in tourism tax revenues generated by the new hotel. Omni would also receive a 62.5 percent property tax reduction and take in $25 million through tax-increment financing.