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.