Eight entities in addition to Omni Hotels expressed interest in building a new convention center headquarters hotel to anchor the new $585 million Music City Center, groups that include Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment.
In an email sent to Metro Council members on Thursday, Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling wrote that besides Omni, the “most lengthy discussions” regarding a convention center hotel were with Marriott Hotels and Phelps Portman, a joint partnership between Phelps Construction Company and Portman Holdings. The Metro Development and Housing Agency originally selected Marriott and Phelps Portman for the hotel project.
Riebeling said other groups that expressed interest over the past six months included Gaylord Entertainment; Memphis-based Belz Enterprises Inc.; Garfield Traub Development/Hines Development; Hosts Hotels and Resorts Inc.; Swerdling and Assoc., which represents unnamed interested parties; Ullico Inc.; and White Lodging.
Riebeling’s email came in response to a request from Councilwoman Emily Evans, who during a recent hotel information meeting asked for the names of the companies that contacted Metro about the convention center hotel.
The main criteria when reviewing the companies, Riebeling wrote, included being able to finish construction of the hotel near the February 2013 convention center opening; finalize a financial plan with no financing contingencies; deliver an upscale hotel with a distinct design; fulfill a commitment to local employment and create increased opportunities for small businesses, as well as minority- and women-owned businesses.
“Ultimately, the decision to move forward with Omni was based on the fact that it was the only entity prepared to immediately go forward and address all the issues discussed above with no financial contingencies and substantially mitigating any risk to the city,” Riebeling wrote.
It appears Marriott and Phelps Portman did not meet that criteria.
“At no time were these firms, either separately or together, ever able to demonstrate or definitively state they could move forward at this time with an agreement that was not subject to financing,” Riebeling wrote, referring to Marriott and Phelps Portman. “In fact, the only partially viable financing plan suggested by Phelps Portman included a structure relying on a federal tax credits program for which the hotel site was not eligible.”