Wasting little time, officials overseeing construction of the 1.2 million-square-foot Music City Center plan to begin work south of Demonbreun Street over the next 30 days, paving the way for the eventual relocation of the existing Nashville Electric Service substation.
The nine-member Convention Center Authority and NES approved a memorandum of understanding Thursday, outlining the steps for the electric company to move its NES substation at 6th Avenue and Demonbreun — situated at the entrance of the future $585 million Music City Center — to a new site at the current home of Rocketown near Peabody Street. The relocation is expected to cost $20 million.
“It’s a critical piece to this thing,” authority member Leo Waters said. “Nothing else can happen until that happens, so it’s going to provide a lot of the timeline.”
In the meantime, the new convention center’s footprint will quickly become a construction zone. Over the next several weeks, officials plan to open a field office between Seventh and Eighth avenues, erect concrete barriers around the area and disconnect utilities at specified buildings before demolishing the structures, along with transmission poles that stand in the way of new substation.
Project leaders are also planning to relocate a water line along Demonbreun on Feb. 8, which could close part of the corridor for a short time.
“To use an analogy, [the construction process] is like a cruise ship,” said Larry Atema, the project manager, who works out of Metro’s finance office. “We’re starting to push away from the dock slowly, and then we’ll start moving through the channels, and as we get out to sea it picks up steam.”
All pre-construction work will occur at the 11 secured properties that stand in Music City Center’s imprint. Meanwhile, proceedings to acquire land owned by Tower Investments, the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum and Christie’s Cabaret via eminent domain laws continue. Metro must also secure a deal with Greyhound, which operates a hub at Eighth. That leaves four of the 15 parcels still up in the air.
A team that consists of Nashville-based Bell & Associates and Bethesda, Md.-based Clark Construction will carry out the work, with all contracting subject to a procurement policy devised to ensure participation from local minority- and women-owned businesses.
As for the new NES substation at Peabody Street, project leaders have vowed to enclose it with an attractive façade designed by Nashville architecture firm Moody-Nolan Inc. They hope to appease skeptics worried about aesthetics.
“The vision all along has been to have a completely enclosed substation,” said Paul Allen, vice president of operations at NES. “We don’t know what it’s going to look like now, it depends on what the architects come up with, but it won’t look like the [existing] substation. All the electrical stuff will be inside.”
Workers will also convert the aboveground transmission lines that currently feed the existing substation to underground locations at the new Peabody NES substation. That will be facilitated by a massive tunnel running under Sixth Avenue.
“The concept is, we’re going to have a lot of future development,” Allen said. “Those lines need to be underground, and this is the window of opportunity to do that.”
Construction on the new substation should begin by October, Allen said, with plans to open it by July 2011. Meanwhile, Music City Center is on pace to open by the spring of 2013.