Proposed Omni plan contradicts SoBro guidelines

Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 8:00pm

A recently released schematic drawing shows the south face of the proposed Omni Hotel at the site of the new downtown convention center contradicting city guidelines — at least in spirit — with what appears to be a large motor court dominating the street level of the side of the hotel on Korean Veterans Boulevard.

Based on the drawing, dated Oct. 7 and completed by design firm HKS (which Omni often enlists for architectural work), about two-thirds of that side of the hotel is designed to accommodate motorists.

“The designs are preliminary and still very much a work in progress,” said Caryn Kboudi, Omni spokeswoman.

Kboudi said she didn’t know whether HKS is familiarizing itself with the design guidelines. An HKS representative declined to comment.

During the past few years, architectural firm EOA, the Nashville Civic Design Center, the Metro Development and Housing Agency and the Metro Planning Department have conducted studies recommending (and, in some cases, requiring) that buildings
addressing Korean Veterans Boulevard be constructed up to the sidewalk, with minimal curb cuts to diminish pedestrians interacting with motorists.

Joe Cain, MDHA development director, said the agency has yet to receive specific plans from Omni. But he said the lack of communication is not worrisome given the preliminary nature of the effort.

“We look forward to meeting with [Omni] and making sure they understand what the city wants,” Cain said.

Cain said the size of the Omni Hotel — 800 rooms, about 260 feet tall and fronting KVB and Fourth and Fifth avenues — would present design challenges.

“There will be a parking structure somewhere [within the building], so all these things have to fit together,” he said. “Obviously, cars have to be able to get to the hotel.”

Omni and HKS are scheduled to present the next set of designs in mid-November.

Janel Lacy, spokeswoman for Mayor Karl Dean, said her office is in “regular communication” with Omni but was uncertain about specific discussions regarding how the hotel will address KVB. 

Filed under: City News

6 Comments on this post:

By: shinestx on 11/8/10 at 6:42

Metro and the Mayor made a huge mistake by not requiring a few basic things of Omni in return for the Headquarters Hotel designation and all the tax breaks they are to receive. Instead, they acted like a desperate woman who could not get another date.

Here's what they should have told Omni:
1. Building must be at least 40 stories tall and 500' pass a design review of architects selected by the mayor. This did not happen, and the early drawings look absolutely horrible and not in the least dramatic. They make no statement of a bold direction for Nashville.
2. Building must have its main entrance on Korean War Vets Blvd. This would have precluded the mistake that this article addresses.
3. Building must be attached to, and provide access to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Omni is actually balking at this because it will cost them a (relatively) little bit of cash.

Maybe not for the tax breaks that Metro so quickly granted Omni, but the mayor's office can revoke the HQ designation and association with the Convention Center unless the above requirements are met. Let's hope even Omni redesigns the eyesore that we caught a glimpse of in earlier drawings.

By: producer2 on 11/8/10 at 7:57

I appreciate your passion on this subject but I think you are missing a couple of facts in your response.
First the RFP for the hotels specified that they must have at least 800 rooms. The Omni will meet that goal. I am not sure that Metro should be in the business of telling any entity how to design their facility to accommodate those rooms.
Second, the Omni design does have the main entrance on KVB, which is the problem. The main entrance needs to include a motor court so those arriving at the hotel can pull in to register. There will also be several entrances on the 5th street side for access to the MCC.
Third, a tentative deal has been reached between Omni and the CMHOF to connect. It is not the hotel's responsibility to pay for the addition made to the Hall of Fame. that will be on the Hall. As of now the Hall has not come to the table with a plan, the Omni has been responsive but can only wait so long before they need to move ahead and start building to meet deadlines.

By: shinestx on 11/8/10 at 8:19

My "passion" comes from the fact that this hotel will take a chunk of taxes (which I will pay) and will stand at the gateway to my city. I want something that does not look like a pre-fab concrete warehouse as the building shown last month looks. This motor court controversy only is the latest of many (and more to come) design shortcomings. It's really funny that MDHA has spent so much time and money on making Korea War Blvd a beautiful, pedestrian friendly entrance to downtown. While many wait with bated breath, we have not heard any sound defense of the early drawings of the proposed design.

I predicted a response from you Producer in defense of this project. It's one of the reasons why I posted. With all due, you sound like a cheerleader who is "all in" for this project without regard to aesthetics and/or design standards.

And you inadvertently prove my point: Omni will do anything/everything that it can get away with, in the absence of requirements. They will, after all, receive more than $100m in tax breaks. You even point out that Metro requires at least 800 rooms. So then, why not the additional requirements? Obviously, there wasn't the forethought from Metro government as to what kind of building would sit at this gateway to our downtown. It is becoming apparent that details were overlooked in the rush to get a deal. Moreover, it looks like Mayor Dean failed to take advantage of Omni CEO Rowling's ego (he obviously wants to build a competing hotel in Gaylord's front yard). There could have been many requirements attached (in addition to the 800 rooms). Instead, this blocky, warehouse building with no step-backs and a ridiculous driveway with a canopy (that's what it is) on what was hoped to be a grand boulevard is just more evidence that Metro was desperate to get a deal. No doubt, there is buyer's remorse here... going all the way back to the fact that Metro had an opportunity to buy the property five years ago (lack of foresight again) for $5m (which Towere sold for almost 4 times more!!). Geez, shall I go on?

By: shinestx on 11/8/10 at 8:28

Producer, where to you make the leap that I argue for Omni to build the CMHOF addition (I said "provide access")? Also, you challenge my post as being unreasonable (or too much to ask for... or something not clear to me) for Metro to have additional requirements. In the same post, you point out that the entrance on Korea War Blvd. is the "problem". Well, duh! MDHA (which I am given to understand is coordinating this project with the MCC) should amend their agreement with Omni before it is too late. Other cities have done similar agreements w.r.t. their convention hotel requirements.

By: shinestx on 11/8/10 at 8:34

Sorry, but the lawyer in me is coming out... I keep thinking of ways that your defense of Omni and, I think, Metro is flawed. I'll allow that it's not your thinking, so much as your approach that is what's flawed here. However, I believe you are incorrect with your statement about Omni making its main entrance on Korea War Blvd. I am not certain, but I recall an article that said the main entrance will be on Fifth Ave., across from the MCC. If that is the case, then shame on MDHA/Mayor Dean, and Metro Council. That's a big boner. Pardon the pun... I know, a different mayor.

By: producer2 on 11/8/10 at 10:09

wow, couldn't get all of you anger out in one post eh?I am not defending anyone just merely pointing out the issues you are incorrectly alluding to.