With a plan to lease space at the existing Nashville Convention Center to the Renaissance Hotel headed toward likely approval from the Metro Council, Mayor Karl Dean’s administration is getting out of a jam.
Less than five months after plans for a medical trade mart at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway fell through, Dean has struck a deal that would lease the old convention center’s ballroom and meeting space rent-free to the Renaissance, which is located next door. In exchange, Metro would be freed of a contractual obligation to operate a convention center at the site through 2017.
The council approved the proposal on second reading, without discussion, last week. A final vote will come next month.
The terms of the pending agreement grant the hotel rent-free use of the ballroom and meeting space for 30 years, beginning in 2014, and use of the pedestrian walkway and 180 spaces in the Metro-owned parking lot across the street for 99 years. The Renaissance would also agree to invest $20 million to renovate the hotel and $5 million to renovate the meeting space.
Additionally, the deal includes a 20-year room-block agreement under which the hotel would designate 315 rooms for the Music City Center for three years and 400 rooms after that.
“It’s kind of a win-win situation for everybody,” said Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling. “It’s a fair deal, it gets the city out of the obligation to operate a second convention center, and it helps maintain the long-term viability of the Renaissance, which is something we’re interested in and want to support.”
Uncertainty about the future of the site had been a source of consternation for some on the council, whose concerns about the viability of the $623 million Music City Center, set to open in May, were only compounded by the failure of the med mart. Ensuring that the old convention center space housed an “economic driver,” they said, must be a priority.
Under the new deal, Metro would get out from under the burden of operating two convention centers at once, and would be free to pursue other uses for the facility in the immediate future.
“We still have all the exhibit hall space, which, we’ll see,” said Riebeling. “There’s been lots of discussion, with lots of different people, on what we should do with it. We’re not in any hurry, and we’re going to do it right, and think of the right uses for it, and in the days to come we’ll figure that out. But it puts us in a position where we’re able to do that.”