Dean on development: ‘If not the fairgrounds, where?’

Monday, December 13, 2010 at 5:22pm

Mayor Karl Dean on Monday reiterated he’s taking a “time out” to continue discussions on the future of Metro’s expo center and flea market, but gave every signal he intends to revisit plans to redevelop the 117-acre fairgrounds eventually — when is still unclear. 

Addressing the Rotary Club of Nashville at the Wildhorse Saloon, Dean didn’t depart from the case he’s been making for months, citing the need to expand the city’s tax base by accommodating corporations exploring relocation or expansion opportunities. The fairgrounds, positioned near downtown and close to Interstate 65 and major commercial corridors, could be ideal for a corporate campus, Dean has said.

“We cannot sit by idly with the status quo, where businesses select to move or locate outside of Davidson County, thereby not increasing our tax base,” Dean said. “We have to be serious about our tax base. We have to be serious about economic development.”

Continuing a new tendency, Dean again brought up the fierce debate from 18 months ago over the proposed $4 billion May Town Center, the controversial mega-development planned for the rural Bells Bend community, which ultimately stalled in the Metro Planning Commission.

“You had proponents saying that we needed to develop this space to compete with Cool Springs to grow our tax base,” Dean said. “You had opponents saying, ‘Yes, we need economic development, but not in a location that takes away green space, lacks necessary infrastructure and with neighbors that don’t want it.’

“To me, the fairgrounds addresses all of those concerns,” he said. “Obviously, not everyone agrees. But, if not the fairgrounds, where?”

During a question-and-answer session with Rotarians, Dean cited pending legislation co-sponsored by nine council members that would keep the expo center and Tennessee State Fair at Nolensville Pike for another year, but would demolish the racetrack to make way for a 40-acre park.

Recently, Dean pulled back from plans to relocate the fairground's expo center to Antioch's Hickory Hollow Mall. Such a move would have allowed for fairground's redevelopment.

Asked by a reporter when the “time out” may be over, Dean said, “I have no time frame.” 

Dean’s 30-minute speech Monday outlined many of the themes likely to be stressed over the upcoming months as he campaigns for re-election in August 2011. Introducing Dean to Rotarians, Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development Director Alexia Poe referenced the mayor’s leadership during May’s flood and during the ongoing economic downtown.

Given those two events, Dean called the past 12 months “a difficult year,” but one during which “our city has come through stronger than ever.”

Dean framed mayoral-led initiatives over the past year into the three categories he’s trumpeted since his days as a candidate in 2007: economic development, public safety and public education. It appears “hitting those three pitches” will once again become the catchphrase in the months ahead.

On the economic development front, Dean spent most of his time talking about the fairgrounds. He also mentioned his decision not to raise property taxes during a recession before listing off several companies Dean said the city, “using the tools that we have,” helped lure to Davidson County.

Turning to education, Dean highlighted Nashville State Community College, which is set to receive from the Tennessee Board of Regents $7 million, funds it would use to build a satellite campus in Antioch. Dean said Metro has committed $1 million in matching funds for the college’s expansion, which the council is set to weigh in on next week.

“A Nashville State campus in Antioch, along with the parks and library projects we’ve proposed for Hickory Hollow Mall, will be a huge shot in the arm to that part of Davidson County,” Dean said, pointing out that Antioch is the fasted growing part of Nashville.

Wrapping up the speech, Dean said he has maintained his commitment to public safety. He said while other cities across the country have cut police and fire programs, “We’ve done just the opposite.”

Dean said crime in Nashville is down for the sixth consecutive year. He said the homicide rate in Nashville has dropped significantly, from 75 homicides through December last year compared to 57 today.


19 Comments on this post:

By: JeffF on 12/13/10 at 5:03

I am stunned that a Mayor that has spent his entire term thus far finding ways to fund things that reduce the tax base, even closing existing businesses getting in the way or non-tax paying public endeavors, even knows what economic development even is.

Ask yourself this, Franklin/Brentwood/Cool Springs is the overwhelming recipient of real economic growth in this region. How much public money have those governments in Williamson County spent on the hospitality/meetings non-industries to get all that good growth? How much of that development in those same areas have been funneled through an OBE housing fiefdom in order to control the outcome?

Now ask yourselves this....why do we choose to not do what our successful neighbors are doing for development, transportation, planning, transportation, etc? Dean and his boys only do things if a city in another state has done it (no actual successful results necessary, urban, yours-is-bigger-than-mine envy is all it takes). Convention centers and rail lines are proof that we only do what other cities are doing.

Which city in Williamson County currently kicking out collective tails has ever sold a park amenity for economic development? Probably the same one that closed dozens of businesses to build a facility for a foundering industry famous for low wages, zero benefits, high under/unemployment, and tremendous overcapacity.

By: karlwithak on 12/13/10 at 5:03

Where else in Nashville ?

I drive down county hospital road every day, If the site is possible for Fair, why not development ?

The area could certainly use the money, and the easy access from Briley parkway makes it a no brainer.

Same goes for Clover Bottom property, What about Bellevue, Opry Mills area ?

By: WE231 on 12/13/10 at 7:42

But, if not the fairgrounds, where?”
Well, let's see....... you wanted to shove all Fairground activities to Hickory Hollow Mall area. Instead of trying to bring corporate America closer to already overcrowded downtown Nashville, where there is no place to park and no mass transit in place, why not revitalize Hickory Hollow by enticing corporations to THIS area. When the outlet mall on 96 hwy in Rutherford County went bust, Verizon took over the entire mall.
There is plenty of room here and you did say you wanted what was best for ALL Nashville. What this area needs is JOBS, not free cheese.

By: karlwithak on 12/13/10 at 7:43

Be sure and notice who was Chairman of the Fair Board when the issues began....

By: MAmom on 12/13/10 at 8:59

A few other possibile sites: by the airport, off Lebanon Road or Dickerson Road or Murfreesboro Road. All close to Interstates. Neighborhoods would mostly welcome investment in their areas that development would bring.

But if redevelopment happens somewhere else, the city would have no big gain-on-sale-of-property.
Remember: Metro Council meeting next Tuesday, Dec. 21, at 6p.

By: fair_minded on 12/13/10 at 8:59

Here's some *real* ideas about where mr. mayor!

Since you don't seem to have a clue about anything, here's a minister who obviously understands more about finances and community development than you, riebling, or anyone in that so-called "office of economic opportunity" of yours-- at least based on the hare-brained schemes you folks have come up with.

He, at least, has managed to come up with several better ideas in just a few hours, while your administration has come up with "zero" in three years of effort. (less than zero if you count the hickory hollow mall fiasco, which you yourself had to finally admit was "not financially viable").

check it out!

By: xhexx on 12/14/10 at 8:25

Dean only cares about making sure the honky tonks downtown stay busy. He doesn't give a crap about the rest of Nashville.

By: girliegirl on 12/14/10 at 8:31

Oh please develop it....the tiny percentage of County residents that use it is just too small to justify leaving it be.

By: on 12/14/10 at 8:41

Decades ago, the Nolensville Road was a reasonable place for a state fair. However, using up all that space a few miles from downtown does not seem to make sense.

There are other options both inside and outside Davidson County, preferably where land is plentiful and cheaper.

For endeavors that take up a great deal of acreage (or create noise or excess traffic detrimental to nearby residents) AND which occur on an intermittent basis rather than on a daily basis, taking up vauable urban space seems irrational. I don't know where it should be, but land that close to downtown could be used more efficiently.

By: girliegirl on 12/14/10 at 8:52

Bells Bend or North Nashville (no-man's land) would both be great spots for the Fair and all the other attractions included.

By: bfra on 12/14/10 at 9:41

By: girliegirl on 12/14/10 at 8:52
Bells Bend or North Nashville (no-man's land) would both be great spots for the Fair and all the other attractions included.

So would the Fairgrounds, where the racetrack, grandstand, livestock barns, Women's bldg, etc. are already in place.

By: TarunSurti on 12/14/10 at 9:58

Great proposal, however, lacks the three "A"s; Accessibility, Affordability, and Adjoining neighborhood. This site does not even come close to the Cool Spring sites, which offers all three "A"s.
If Nashville planners had invested little intelligence before rushing into building the new convention center, they would have found that this site would have been a much cheaper and better site for the convention center that would have allowed the new commercial development rather easier.
Mayor claims that it is only two miles away from downtown and is owned by the city. The ridicules amount of monies the city had to invest to purchase the land for the downtown convention center would have been sufficient to build an entire new convention center as well as a mono-rail system that would have connected the down town with this new development.
It is late for the convention center so we must focus on other options. First, provide accessibility by connecting downtown and this site by minimum of four lane road and provide direct access to I-40, I-65 and I-24 by building proper over pass and tunnels.
Second, provide affordability by keeping the cost of the site where it makes sense for the company to relocate and don't sell out the land where it prices can reach as high as $300 per square feet (Omni site was sold for that).
Third, revitalize the neighborhood by focusing on commercial as well as residential site that attracts corporate relocations.
I would suggest a development that includes a golf park and mixed residential and commercial development. May be we can add new Baseball park or a Soccer stadium for Nashville’s METROS within the development.

By: gdiafante on 12/14/10 at 12:25

Obviously not, bfra. People are fed up with the dump (fairgrounds for you) and are flocking to Williamson or Wilson County for a quality fair.

By: Kosh III on 12/14/10 at 1:41

Downtown and Metro Center both have amply office space, why not bribe the companies to come there instead of destroying a successful area? I thought Dean was all about downtowndowntowndowntown?
How about the PSC junkyard? Now THAT is a true eyesore.

Fix up the facilities at the Fairgrounds for the various expo events.

A golf park? Don't we already have too many golf courses which of course only cater to a teeny-tiny number of people. Did'nt Metro Parks lose money on golf courses? Doesn't the state lose money on golf courses?
Instead of more playgrounds for the jaded rich, turn a few golf courses into "corporate campuses" and make money instead of losing it.

By: localboy on 12/14/10 at 2:29

girliegirl's got a good idea - Bells Bend - motivated seller out there whom evidently nobody cares for and whose development ideas keep getting shot down - what if May had been the one to originally propose moving the Fairgrounds,.would we still be having this argument?

By: GUARDIAN on 12/14/10 at 4:21

GUARDIAN-Comrade Dean should just shut up.

By: CrimesDown on 12/14/10 at 4:51

I know of a great place for development, Shelby Golf Course. If I'm not mistaken, it's at least as many acres as the fairgrounds, probably more. It's in an area that could really use some "help". I would miss playing golf there, but at least there are dozens of other places nearby, where I can play. It would be next to a park that is already there. Looks like a good place to me. If I'm not mistaken, Nashville really does own the land. They wouldn't have to "act" like they can do anything with it, they really could.

By: CrimesDown on 12/14/10 at 5:42

Sounds Like Souix Falls is proud of their fairgrounds. Hey Karl, why don't you go home and screw up their fairgrounds?

"William H. Lyon Fair Grounds"

On June 3, 1938, Mrs. Winona A. Lyon deeded to Minnehaha County 49.57 acres of land on the west side of the Sioux River, south of Highway 38, near West Sioux Falls for use as a fairground, subject to rigid "exceptions, reservations, restrictions and limitations". Under the terms of the gift, the grounds must be designated as the "William H. Lyon Fair Grounds" and shall be maintained, managed and controlled by the county Commissioners and their successors in office, for use of the public as a County Fair Grounds, wherein generally specified displays of farm produce, livestock and crafts could be exhibited, and 4-H Clubs and Home Extension work could be demonstrated. Provision is also made for the entertainment of the public with amusements of various kinds.

The terms of the gift also stated that, "In the event of the failure of the grantee to hold such fairs or exhibitions for five consecutive years, then, in that event, the said premises and title shall immediately revert to the grantor or next of kin to the grantor, with the right of immediate possession.

On February 17, 1940, a deed, supplementary to that of June 3, 1938, was made to "explain and amplify the intention of the grantor", covering the same deed for the former date. In case of fire, flood, tornado or State or National emergency, the five-year stipulation would be waived.

On July 17, 1942, additional land was donated by Mrs. Lyon under the same general terms, plus other conditions as follows: "Providing a highway shall be constructed and maintained extending west of Kiwanis avenue, bridging the Sioux River and entering said fairgrounds as near 3rd Street as possible, and that said highway be designated as Lyon Boulevard, and shall be 100 feet in width throughout its full length", the bridge to be of "ornamental and artistic design" and the same width as the roadway.

Entrance to the fairgrounds was to be made on the east line of county Auditor's Tract One (1) of the Northeast quarter (N. E. 1/4) of Section Thirteen (13), Wayne Township.

According to stipulations of the deed, at a point of entrance from the highway to the fairgrounds a suitable gateway was to be constructed and maintained, and thereto affixed a bronze plaque as a memorial to the late W.H. Lyon. A like entrance was also to be constructed and maintained at the south line of the Northeast one-half (N. E. 1/2) of the Southeast quarter (S. E. 1/4) of Section thirteen (13), Wayne Township. Provision is also made for a highway and bridal path from highway 16 to the south entrance of the grounds.

It was also provided that work on the highway, bridge and gateway "shall be commenced as soon as necessary labor and material can be obtained, and shall be completed in three years (from August 1, 1942), except in case of flood, fire, tornado, epidemic, State or National emergency."

The first fairs held on this fairground were in 1938-39. Some buildings, including the first section of the amphitheater, were built by WPA labor and material.

In 1940, the Sioux Empire Fair Association, Inc., was organized and took over the grounds on a lease from the county. The fair of that year was conducted on a much larger scale and included additional features such as horse racing, outdoor pageants, comedies and plays.

By: pswindle on 12/15/10 at 9:45

Dean have you traveled over Davidson County? There are many places to build your dream, but it doesn't have the reserves (money) that you want from the fairgrounds. Have you traveled to Old County Hopsital Road? There is plenty of building land.