Friday, January 29, 2010

Streets to close as work starts on Nashville convention center

By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • January 29, 2010 Downtown Nashville will soon have a new look, but it's not what you think. Before the new convention center opens downtown, three years from now, construction of the $585 million center will cause a transformation of its own, affecting some people's daily routines and their driving, walking and cycling habits. Metro announced road and parking lot closures Thursday as it prepared to start work on the convention hall site south of Sommet Center and First Baptist Church next week. Though the city hasn't secured all of the property it needs yet, its contractor plans to start putting up concrete barriers and fences around what it owns. Workers also will start removing asbestos and other hazardous materials next week from the parcels Metro has acquired, said Gary Schalmo, project director and senior vice president of Bell/Clark, the contractor. Any parking lots now owned by the city will be closed starting Monday "Our goal is to construct this facility safely, efficiently and with the least amount of disruption to downtown traffic and businesses," Schalmo said in a news release from Mayor Karl Dean's office. The city plans to shut down part of Demonbreun Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues the week of Feb. 8 for utility relocation work. That work should last two to four weeks, then move to the stretch of Demonbreun between Sixth and Seventh avenues, Schalmo said. The mayor's office said workers will try to keep two-way traffic going throughout the utility work. If that's not possible, traffic detours will lead drivers through the construction site. By the end of February, if legal proceedings go Metro's way, the city will have all of the property it needs in hand. At that point, it will close several streets around the convention center site, which sits between Fifth and Eighth avenues and between Demonbreun Street and an extended Korean Veterans Boulevard, which is being designed. At a meeting with more than 100 downtown business owners and residents Thursday, project leaders pledged to keep the public informed. "We are committed to communicating with you," senior project manager Larry Atema said. "It won't be a perfect process."

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