Whether or not Nashville gets a new downtown convention center is still to be determined, but that’s of little consequence to property owners inside the proposed $635 million structure’s imprint.
Metro Council has already given the Metro Development and Housing Agency condemnation powers and $75 million to begin acquiring land for the yet-to-be-approved project.
According to MDHA, land acquisition could begin as soon as this week and kick into full gear later this month. But the accelerated timeline is of no comfort to one prominent property inside Music City Center’s proposed path.
Rocketown, the youth ministry center located at 401 Sixth Avenue S., is wondering about its future and waiting on MDHA to make a fair offer on its property. Founded in 1994 by Christian music superstar Michael W. Smith, Rocketown opened its current location in 2003.
The facility contains a concert hall, a skate park, coffee bar and office space. Essential to Rocketown’s ministry is its downtown location, according to skate park director Ben Cissell. The current prime downtown location allows easy access to the hundreds of teens who frequent Rocketown.
Although a new property with similar access and amenities has been selected, Rocketown can’t make a move until it receives a concrete offer from MDHA and as of last week that still hasn’t happened.
So far, MDHA has shared an appraisal, which Rocketown officials have deemed to be low. The ministry is seeking its own appraisals for the building, but has not retained an attorney yet.
“Our biggest concern is these kids and everybody’s families, everything we worked for,” Cissell said. “Rocketown is not a building. We want to stay in the same area. This is our neighborhood. We are not trying to make money at this at all.
“We just want to turn off the lights, turn them on the next day at our new building and not have any debt. All we want to do is replicate what we’re doing here.”
Rocketown representatives have met with Mayor Karl Dean, who told them it was his wish the ministry stay downtown. Dean also told Rocketown he hoped that a transition to a new facility would go as smoothly as possible.
The Rocketown property is not actually in the footprint of the proposed convention center, but it is in the path of the forthcoming extension for Korean Veterans Boulevard. The extension will act as a service road for Music City Center.
One source close to the situation said it was possibly MDHA could file a condemnation petition against the property and begin the “friendly condemnation” process, which would allow a court to determine fair value for land.
“They represent the government, we don’t get a say of whether or not they get this property. They have that right of eminent domain to take this property,” said Doug Sanders, a pastor at Otter Creek Church and a consultant for Rocketown during its transition. Sanders sat in on the meetings with Dean’s office.
MDHA has already acquired one property inside the footprint — the Asphalt Beach skate supply shop, which was purchased last year.
The $75 million appropriated by Council comes from tourism taxes and fees, which were created by state legislation and enacted by Council last year.