Plans to connect Omni, convention center up in the air

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 9:28pm

There may not be a sky bridge to connect the proposed Omni convention center headquarters hotel with Nashville’s new Music City Center.

Architects designing the $287 million Omni Hotel — slated for the intersection of Fifth Avenue South and Korean Veterans Boulevard — have presented preliminary conceptual designs of a sky bridge that would cross Fifth Avenue South, connecting the fourth floor of 260-foot tall hotel with the new convention center.

But Omni and Metro officials still haven’t decided if schematically the sky bridge is in the project’s best interests or if logistically one is actually needed. There’s also the question of which party — Omni or Metro — would pay for the projected $5 million- $15-million sky bridge or how the cost would be divvied up.

Without the sky bridge, the hotel would not be physically connected with the center it’s supposed to anchor.

“It really gets down to cost and whether it’s really necessary,” said Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling. “I go back and forth on it.”

Metro’s nine-member Convention Center Authority last week signed off on an intergovernmental agreement establishing a public-private financing package and site plan for the new hotel. The agreement still requires final approval from the Metro Council, which is set to vote on the matter on Oct. 19.

During a special information session held Tuesday, At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard questioned the wisdom of not providing a connector between the hotel and the convention center. He said the absence of a connector could become an issue when conventioneers — perhaps as many as 1,000 at any given time — try to cross Fifth Avenue from one venue to the other.

“I personally think it is very critical,” Tygard said. “On an afternoon in a driving rainstorm, if I’m a conventioneer, I don’t want to cross back and forth.”

Mike Garcia, Omni’s senior vice president of development, said a recently constructed Omni Hotel that anchors the convention center in Fort Worth, Texas also lacks a connector between the two structures. “It hasn’t been a huge issue there,” he said.

Garcia added that the project managers are keeping the sky bridge an option. He said if over the next “year and a half” Omni and Metro decide the sky bridge is needed then both facilities would still be able to accommodate one.

Charles Starks, executive director of the existing convention center, said Music City Center will be situated “somewhere in the 160-foot range” from Omni’s entranceway on Korean Veterans Boulevard. He said most convention planners are accustomed to booking events at centers that lack a physical connection with a hotel.

“Would we take it [the sky bridge]?” Starks said. “Yeah, I’d probably take it in a hurry, but I don’t think at the end of the day for planners, who are our customers, it really matters.”

Meanwhile, it’s still unclear whether the northern section of the proposed hotel would be connected to the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Omni and hall of fame officials are in the process of negotiating a deal to connect the Omni with the hall’s planned expansion, but an agreement hasn’t been finalized.

Riebeling said Omni and the hall have until Nov. 15 to strike a deal.

Omni architects have produced two preliminary design plans — one plan factors in the connection with the hall, the other doesn’t.

11 Comments on this post:

By: shinestx on 10/13/10 at 5:42

In their eagerness to land any hotel operator, the Dean administration obviously failed to lay down specific requirements: skybridge; connection to the Hall; invoices to confirm that the Omni company is in fact spending the money they claim on this squat, little warehouse hotel. The rendering shows a cheap-looking, uninspired building that no one is happy with. It's already looking like buyer's remorse on the part of Metro.

By: JohnGalt on 10/13/10 at 7:55

Titan and producer defense comments coming, two, three...

By: bruingeek on 10/13/10 at 8:32

At $93,750 per linear foot of bridge...does anyone else think that sounds just a wee bit pricey?

By: Trumpetman on 10/13/10 at 9:01

I think they should do the connector. I mean, why does Nashville always have to get the half done stuff?? Or why do we have to turn down every thing, just like the signator tower? That would have been a beautiful building, people clomplained that it wouldn't fit in with everything else, then the FDA had to get in to it and say it may be in a flight path... What gives, can we have anything done all the way like other major cities???

By: producer2 on 10/13/10 at 9:02

What is it I need to defend? speculation and innuendo coming in three...two... one

By: producer2 on 10/13/10 at 10:06

Not until the naysayers quit being so negative and living in the dark ages. Let's not move forward is their motto....

By: JeffF on 10/13/10 at 11:30

Yes we should all be living in 1996 or 1997- the peak years of the meetings/convention industry before technology started the slow death process. Nothing like meeting planners accusing us of being naysayers while they spur on their own dead horse.

By: PillowTalk4 on 10/13/10 at 12:49

I've travelled to well over 25 different convention centers over the years and quite frankly, I can't think of any in which a connector made a difference to convention goers. As a matter of fact very few convention centers have hotels that are directly attached to them. The convention center in DC is bigger than the one being built in Nashville and there are no hotels within one block of the center. It doesn't seem to be an issue. Yes there are plans to build a hotel nearby, but for whatever reason that still hasn't happened and the convention center has been open for 5-6 years now. There have several big conventions there annually and don't seem to have an issue drawing new groups every year. If it snows you walk to the convention center. If it rains you walk to the convention center. Guess what, if it's a nice day out, you walk to the convention center. If planners of an event are concerned about a connecting walkway, then they aren't concerned about the more important issues of their event. Don't waste money on a connecting bridge. Trust me convention goers who attend conferences and big events in downtown areas really don't care. They just want their hotel to be within a reasonable walking distance or short cab ride to the site.

As for the design, I've not seen it. 260 feet doesn't seem like much, so I hope that if it is an 800 room hotel it's not just another simple box thrown into the area. The design of the convention center should dictate something more exotic and architecturally inviting. It should be an iconic structure to the area. I truly hope the hotel will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-25 stories are taller. The taller the building the more ground space you have for greenspace.

By: yucchhii on 10/13/10 at 1:21

What they NEED TO DO is to ABORT THE "WHOLE KIT AND KABOODLE" That means...YES, the new convention center and the omni hotel!!! Start focusing on the "IMEADIATE" problem of "HOMELESSNESS". Time to STOP being so DAM GREEDY and start GIVING A DAM ABOUT THE HOMELESS!!! To those who don't give a dam, "THAT'S WHY THE WORLD "IS" THE WAY IT IS, BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE YOU "DON'T" GIVE A DAM!" Then you want to BITCH about the way the world is...well, guess what? I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT!!! Talk to the walls of the convention center!!!

By: producer2 on 10/13/10 at 3:12

The reason you do not see a new hotel near the DC center is the fact that they all want the City to pay for it...UPFRONT... Unlike what we were able to do here in Nashville. I don't know about you but when a billionaire says I will spend my own money to do something, he must be pretty confident of the results. I also agree that a skybridge is not an important factor.

By: Kosh III on 10/14/10 at 9:21

If a skybridge is not a detriment, it may still be an extra edge in selling the venue to the event planners.
Or perhaps just a simple portico or canopy across the street to provide some shelter from rain, snow, sleet etc.