Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Nashville approves land purchase for convention center
Metro will borrow $75 million to buy 16 acres downtown By Nicole Young • THE TENNESSEAN • June 3, 2009 A new convention center in downtown Nashville is one step closer to reality. The Metro Council voted 29-6 Tuesday on the third and final vote to borrow $75 million to buy 15.87 acres south of Broadway. The meeting was still in session at the deadline for this story, and the votes of individual council members could not be determined. Two council members abstained from the vote. Councilman Robert Duvall of District 33 was the only member to speak against approving the land purchase. "I do not see moving forward on this, but I expect it to pass tonight," Duvall said. "But I urge you all to look at this project as we go forward. Look inside your hearts and listen to your constituents. That's all I care about." During a public hearing earlier on Metro's proposed budget, Adam Nicholson, a Sylvan Park resident, tried to express his opposition to the convention center, but Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors interceded, explaining that the public hearing was on the budget only. Nicholson said it was a practical joke and backed down, but he later said he was adamant in his opposition of the proposal. "They haven't even decided if they are going to build the convention center yet, but they are buying the land anyway," Nicholson said. "To me, that makes little sense. I really think this money could be put to better use." Nicholson cited mass transit and a budget shortfall for General Hospital as places to spend money but added that he feels like there's no stopping the convention center. In previous meetings, council members have shown support for the convention center plan. In May, they voted 33-3 for the center before knowing how they would pay for construction. Dean's administration has said the city needs to start buying land now to get the convention center built by 2013, when three large meetings are already booked. The mayor doesn't plan to bring a construction financing plan to the council for another few months. The downtown convention center is expected to cost $595 million. Parking facilities would cost an additional $40 million. Metro plans to pay off the construction debt with a series of taxes and fees aimed at tourists. A convention center hotel could cost an additional $300 million. The mix of public and private financing for that building is being determined. The city has spent $9 million on pre-development activities such as architectural designs.
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