Mayor Karl Dean’s public-private financing plan to fund a new $287 million convention center headquarters hotel advanced Monday night, breezing through two Metro Council committees after little discussion.
The intergovernmental agreement between Metro and Omni Hotels, which cleared the council’s Budget and Finance Committee and the Convention, Tourism and Public Entertainment Facilities Committee by unanimous votes, is now set to go before the entire council Tuesday for final approval.
Given Omni’s willingness to invest private capital on the front-end of the project, council members have had generally positives things to say about the plan. Barring any unexpected last hurdles, the resolution appears on course to enjoy a sizeable majority of council votes.
“I think it’s pretty clear that we need a hotel to maximize the convention center, and going forward it’s a positive thing for this community,” Budget and Finance Committee chair Megan Barry said. “It’s no surprise that people are voting ‘yes.’ It makes our ability to attract and retain business here for future conventions a lot easier.”
Council members took advantage of a special information session last week to ask any last-minute questions about the Metro-Omni agreement. Some asked about local and minority participation in constructing the new hotel, while some questioned the wisdom of building a convention center headquarters hotel that may not be physically connected to the center.
The lone question Monday night came from Councilwoman Emily Evans, who asked whether the proposed 800-room Omni Hotel is sufficient in size to meet convention projections forecasted by HVS Consulting, an outside consulting firm that supplied the city with a feasibility study prior to the council’s approval of the $585 million Music City Center in January. The feasibility study looked at the convention center’s viability with a 750-room hotel, but a 1,000-room hotel had been discussed.
“I would say a 1,000-room [hotel] was where we were shooting for,” said Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, but added that the 800-room hotel would be sufficient.
Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling said the city feels comfortable that an 800-room hotel would meet the needs of the new center.
The new 260-foot tall Omni hotel, which would sit on Fifth Avenue across the street from Music City Center, is expected to open by June 2013, a few months after the opening of the convention center. The hotel could be physically connected with the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum’s planned expansion, though parties still haven’t reached an agreement for that to happen.
Under the financing plan to be considered by the council, Metro would pay Omni $25 million in tax increment financing in 2011, and another $103 million over 20 years from revenue generated by the hotel through tourist-targeted taxes. Omni would cover the rest of the costs.