Weekly Obsession: Hello, West End Summit. Goodbye, Lake Palmer

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 5:18pm

With last week’s announcement that hospital giant HCA would relocate the headquarters of two of its entities to the West End/Broadway split, we must say goodbye to a Nashville institution.

Lake Palmer: We bid you adieu.

When lawsuits and a sluggish economy combined to stop work on Alex Palmer’s ambitious West End Summit property, all that remained was a giant construction excavation hole, some 80 feet deep.

After it was blasted into existence more than six years ago, rainwater and runoff found a home at Nashville’s lowest point — as water will do — and filled that rectangular chasm along one of the city’s major thoroughfares. At times, it was filled nearly to capacity, with some estimates putting the water depth near 60 feet.

And so That Big Hole On West End became Lake Palmer, the name of the developer appended snarlingly as neighbors eyed it warily, concerned that the standing water would attract mosquitoes and other ugly, creepin, blastit wonners.

Not to mention that, well, it was a giant hole filled with water and had no lifeguards on duty.

This is not to say Lake Palmer did not serve noble purposes now and again. Recently, the lot’s been used as convenient locked storage for Metro’s fleet of heavy equipment.

And in the days after the 2010 flood, faced with water restrictions and with Memorial Day weekend looming, commercial swimming pools and water parks pumped water from the fake lake to fill their needs, ensuring opening day would come without delay.

Lake Palmer also served as a convenient way to distract out-of-town guests.

“Now, how do you say it? De-MON-bree-one? Dem-on-broon? Demon-bruin?” they’d ask.

“Hey, look at that hole! Neat, huh?” would come the natives’ reply.

But soon, all of that will just be memory. Our urban lake will be drained dry in the coming weeks, and early next year, construction will begin on two gleaming towers, which will serve as headquarters for HCA entities Parallon and the Sarah Cannon Research Institute.

Roughly 900,000 square feet of office space in two 20-story towers will replace the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water. Eventually, 2,000 buzzing white-collar workers will occupy the space frequented now by mosquitoes and front-loaders.

It’s the largest single jobs announcement in Nashville since Dell said it was going to the airport area.

Parallon will relocate 750 jobs to Nashville from Williamson County, with plans to add approximately 800 to its workforce by 2017. SCRI will consolidate 200 Nashville-area employees into one office, with plans to double in size by 2017.

HCA and Palmer’s company have a memorandum of understanding for a 15-year lease beginning in 2015. Parallon is expected to occupy about 350,000 square feet in one tower and SCRI about 150,000 square feet in the other. Another 300,000 square feet of new Class A office space will be available either to attract other new companies or for expansion by the HCA entities.

Though HCA’s CEO, Richard Bracken, said his company “never wanted to go anywhere else,” both Metro and the state announced boffo incentive packages.

Metro is giving a 15-year property tax abatement capped at $3 million annually, a $1 million urban development grant and an economic development grant of $500 per employee for seven years. Gov. Bill Haslam said state incentives could total another $7.5 million.

And at the announcement, Alex Palmer sat quietly, no smile cracking his face even as his forlorn project found a purpose, no grimace even as the mayor joked about pumping water from the ground.

It is success delayed for Palmer, but success nonetheless. No, there won’t be a luxury hotel or condos on his site.

But at long last, there will be something.

2 Comments on this post:

By: Badbob on 10/4/12 at 4:03

They will get $29,500 per employee over 15 years. And, of course, small businesses will be expected to make up the difference. The real creators of jobs (small businesses) end up paying for everything, while the fat cats suck us dry.

Thanks Metro for nothing.

By: JeffF on 10/4/12 at 8:08

Mom-and-pop really aint a thang in the macro and micro economic sense


New data says -- not in general. Businesses with between $10,000 and $10 million of revenue account for just 17 percent of business income, according to a recent Treasury Department report.

The report cites that one reason why the smallest businesses aren't hiring is they don’t have employees. Most small businesses are one-person operations. Only 23 percent have employees. And since small businesses tend to have fewer economies of scale to take advantage of than bigger companies, they're often less productive. So, bigger companies tend to hire more workers to fill their wider production needs.