State officials appear to be paving the way for the relocation of PSC Metals Inc., an eyesore on the east bank of the Cumberland River for decades and occupant of what is arguably Nashville’s most coveted piece of real estate.
Tucked away in a still-pending state Senate bill to change Tennessee’s tax code is an amendment that — if passed — would authorize Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr to “allow a relocation expense credit to any scrap metal processing facility relocating from a central business district or an area adjacent to the central business district and separated only by a waterway.”
The clause, which would work as enabling legislation, describes without naming the 60-acre site for PSC, a processor of scrap metal that recycles more than 250,000 pounds of unwanted material a year — items like old cars, refrigerators and dryers. The PSC site is perhaps most notable for its unsightly piles of twisted metal, warehouses and machinery that have long marred Nashville’s skyline.
The amendment goes on to say that the state would cover the company’s relocation expenses. The law would cap how much the company could be reimbursed for moving its employees.
The bill cleared the Senate’s Finance, Ways and Means Committee during a marathon session Thursday night, but it still requires approval from the state House and Senate.
Contacted by The City Paper, Farr declined to confirm whether the amendment is a direct reference to the PSC site.
“We don’t talk about discussions with individual taxpayers,” he said.
Farr said a relocation expense credit incentive has been part of the state’s “suite of incentives” for the last six years.
“It’s been very successful,” Farr said. “It’s been a good tool to have in our economic-development tool-kit. This [amendment] provides some discretion to allow that tool to be used, were a scrap-metal recycling facility to consider relocating from a central business district.”
For a city undergoing a revitalization of its downtown, most recognize that PSC at its current location is out of place. The scrap-metal yard is positioned directly across the street from LP Field; a short walk from the commercial activity of downtown; and a stone’s throw from a soon-to-be-built water play-park, the first piece of a $30 million revitalization of the long-neglected banks of the Cumberland.
Given its desirable location, knowledgeable real estate sources have valued the land to be worth $15-to-$30 per square foot, which would mean the site’s total value is between $50 million and $100 million.
In recent months, state officials, including Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber, have reportedly met with Mayor Karl Dean and PSC officials to discuss the relocation of the facility.
In an interview with The City Paper last week, Dean acknowledged the PSC site is on his “radar.”
“Long-term, clearly, it has been an interest of mine and probably every mayor who has come before me,” Dean said of relocating the PSC site. “That is the entryway to our city. It is a great development possibility, both for the public sector and private sector for our city.”
Kisber could not be reached for comment before print deadline.
Dean certainly isn’t the first Nashville mayor to eye the property. But previous administrations have always run into sticking points: Whether it’s been PSC’s reluctance to move from a property that provides them ideal access to barges and the interstate; the unwillingness of a private developer to go public with a proposal; or the inability of Metro and state officials to come up with a financial package that could steer the company to a different part of the county.
In recent weeks, a new strategy of sorts appeared to surface, a procedural one that resulted from Nashville’s catastrophic flood last month. WTVF-Channel 5 first reported the story with the angle “Officials May Have Found Way to Move PSC Plant.”
During Nashville’s historic flood, PSC was left submerged under floodwater that reached upwards of 6 feet. According to a report filed by a Metro Codes inspector and accessible via the department’s website, the plant sustained damages categorized as “Level 4: 75 to 100 percent.”
All businesses treated alike
As required of all owners with structures that experienced sizable flood-related damages, PSC must apply for new building permits. The zoning guidelines, however, have changed in recent years for industrial uses in the downtown riverfront area after the adoption of new codes. Among other stipulations, new codes — regardless of whether PSC is classified as recycling, storage or warehouse — prohibit any outdoor storage and limit the gross floor area that can be utilized.
On the surface, in order to receive a new building permit, PSC would need to abide by these new standards, criteria that would undermine the company’s ability to carry out its service.
East Nashville Metro Councilman Mike Jameson, who has advocated for the redevelopment of the PSC site for years, called it a possible “silver lining” to an otherwise horrific event.
But state law says “A legal, non-conforming business for industrial use can remain virtually forever,” according to Metro Codes Director Terry Cobb. It allows property owners “to tear down, rebuild or expand,” even if a new set of local codes had been applied to the property.
“The state law actually prohibits us from acting in a manner to say, ‘OK, you had a flood, you had damage, so you can’t build back,’ ” Cobb said. “The state statute is specific to say that you have the right to build back. In fact, if you have some calamity that affected your business, you can build it back or you can expand it. If you wanted to, you could tear the whole thing down and rebuild it again brand-new.”
Contacted last week at the PSC corporate office in Cleveland, Ohio, Joe King, vice president and general counsel for the company, said the Nashville PSC site is in the process of returning to full operations.
As of Wednesday, King said the Nashville facility had started to buy and sell scrap — including debris left from the flood — and had engaged in some limited processing.
“Every business on the river has had water issues as a result of the flood,” King said. “PSC is no different than others, including LP Field. We are thankful, and we applaud the efforts of the folks that are restoring our facility.”
King did not immediately respond to subsequent requests for comment on the state bill.