Nashville: The 20th Century in Photographs

I just caught the first hour of “Nashville: The 20th Century in Photographs” on NPT and cannot wait to see the next few hours! It was strange to learn that Nashville was the center of banking for the South and was even known as the Wall Street of the South until the Great Depression…read the full Nashville article here

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Nashville Baseball Stadium Con’t

It appears that the old Nashville thermal plant site is no longer going to be a potential site for a downtown Nashville baseball stadium. The site is going to be sold to the highest bidder and that certainly is not going to be the Nashville Sounds or their development partner. It appears more likely to be sold to a group backed by Tower Investments headquartered in Northern California. I would imagine that Tower would plan to use the acreage to build a mixed use residential, retail, and commercial center as that is their standard formula. Don’t get me wrong, Tower will build an exceptional riverfront development, but no baseball stadium and that is disappointing.

So what is the next best location in downtown? The clear answer is in the Market District just north of the Capital. The best potential site in the Market District is between Second and Fourth Avenues and between Stockyard and Jackson Street. This site is within walking distance from the downtown core, 2 blocks from the Cumberland River, 3 blocks from the Farmer’s Market, and only 5 blocks from Historic Germantown:

downtown Nashville baseball stadium

The Market District is currently undergoing a transformation from a light industrial and warehousing district into a mix-use residential, retail, and commercial district. It is defined by the area between Eighth Avenue North and the Cumberland River and between Jefferson Street down to James Robertson Parkway. Located within this area is the Nashville Farmer’s Market, the Bicentennial Capitol Mall, the famous Stockyard Restaurant, and the future home of the Museum of African American Music Art & Culture. Residential developments include the Riverfront Condos, District Lofts, and Harrison Square.
What could the Market District look like with a baseball stadium? If I had my way, it would look a little like Wrigleyville in Chicago (on a smaller scale, of course). Can’t you image sitting in the upper decks watching the Sounds play with the Nashville skyline just above the outfield wall?

nashville baseball stadium views

The baseball stadium should be built with home plate at the corner of Second Avenue and Jackson Street or at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Jackson Street in order to maximize the view for the fans. Third Avenue should cease to go through the site and all traffic should be routed counter-clockwise around the stadium in a one-way roundabout format. Jackson, Stockyard, and Harrison Streets will all need to be widened in order to accommodate the heavier traffic flow. Parking can be handled by the existing parking at Bicentennial Mall and the government surface lot.

It is our firm belief that construction of an urban baseball stadium will allow the Market District, Germantown, and Salemtown to full revitalize within 5 years of completion. The Nashville real estate market will boom in this area and commercial construction will soon follow making this a true Wrigley-like area. If the city gets smart, they will contact the Civic Design Center, the Downtown Partnership, and Metro Planning Department to initiate a master plan for the Market District to insure the creation of green space and urban landscape.

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Proposed Nashville Convention Center Con’t

After posting my first few comments and observations about the proposed Nashville convention center I received quite a few calls. In fact, several of my more conservative friends called me and bashed my comments about the need for a new convention center. My first reaction was astonishment, but my second reaction was to research the potential effects of the convention center even further. Here is what I found out: I found that I may have underestimated our need for a convention center in Downtown Nashville. In fact, we might should consider building a center that could attract over 90% of all convention sizes instead of the 70% the plans currently service.

Modeling the effects of urban convention centers in other cities, it stands to reason that Nashville can compete with the 5 largest convention cities in the United States: Chicago, New Orleans, Orlando, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. If you look at these 5 cities, each has something very unique to offer except for Atlanta. Chicago has lake front, New Orleans has the French Quarter, Orlando has Disney, and Las Vegas has casinos. Nashville has music and a lot of it. I think we can all agree that all of these cities receive an exceptional number of tourists and that a downtown convention center will only help our under performing tourism market.

So what about the locations of convention centers in other cities? Well, I called quite a few residents and business leaders in the 40 largest cities and most would give their left arms in order to build a convention center right in the middle of their downtown. Let’s think about the opportunity Nashville currently has that almost no other city in the United States does. We can put a brand new, first-class convention center smack in the middle of downtown AND connect it to the Country Music Hall of Fame AND the downtown arena that hosts the NHL and many large concerts/event? How is there any question as to whether or not to build?!? Even if the construction where to cost taxpayers a small fortune (which it will not), we should still build it in order to revitalize and build our downtown into a vibrant and safe place for residents. Can’t you imagine thousands of tourists strolling the streets of downtown throwing tons of out of state cash into our economy? It’s like Christmas all year round!

proposed location for the Nashville convention center
Now imagine what a downtown convention center would mean for the Nashville real estate market. Current values for condos, lofts, and homes would absolutely skyrocket as more and more retail and store space was built. There would be no limit to the heights of the downtown Nashville commercial real estate market. National retailers like Nordstroms and Saks 5th Ave would be beating down the doors of the old convention center to grab that prime space. New restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, doctor offices, we would have it all. We would also have a much better shot at convincing our elected leaders that we should build the baseball stadium in the Market District.

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The New Nashville Convention Center

The Nashville convention center just celebrated its 20th birthday and with that it is time to look towards the future and the plans for the new downtown convention center. Before we do that I want to tell you a few things that you may not know about the current convention center. The convention center opened its doors on January 31st, 1987, but that was 10 years after the Nashville Hotel/Motel Association requested the Tourism Commission to recommend building the darn thing to the Metropolitan Council. A three year study ensued which did not yield any direct results until a Chattanooga developer offered to build a hotel in conjunction with the convention center. Two years later a plan was finally approved and a year after that construction began.

Since it’s prolonged beginning, the convention center has truly helped refined downtown Nashville, more than you might realize. In fact, in the last 10 years alone, the convention center has contributed more than $910 million dollars to the downtown economy and served more than 3.5 million people. How about them apples?!? Did you also know that you never paid a dime to have it here? That’s right, In May 2006, the original 20-year construction bonds were paid in full from the hotel tax collections that allowed construction to begin. The citizens of Nashville never had to contribute a penny to the operation or debt service for the facility.

BUT, what else don’t you know? Did you know that our convention center is currently ranked 115th in the nation or that we have lost an estimated 240 conventions since 1999 due to our size limitations? What could that lost business have meant for our city? Well, I’ll tell you:

1) The new convention center will create an estimated 36,000 jobs
2) It will produce $10 million each year for Metro Schools
3) It will generate $65 million in new state and local tax revenues per year
4) It will generate $700 million in direct visitor spending per year
5) There will be no sales or property tax increase to pay for construction

So what does that tell us about the future of our current convention center?

It says to me that it’s time to build a bigger and better facility that will perform as well or better than our last convention center and the economic studies have come to the same conclusion. In February 2006, the Music City Center Coalition unanimously recommended construction of a 1.2 million square foot state-of-the-art facility with 375,000 square feet of exhibition space and two ballrooms. It will position Nashville to attract more than 70% of the meetings market. Estimated land acquisition and construction cost was $455 million, with a return on investment of $700 million per year. However, the longer we wait to built it, the more it will cost and you know that eventually we will have to build it.

But wait, what kind of facility do we really want? This is the question that we all need to consider at this point. The convention center will be built, it’s just a matter of how big and what else comes with the package. Here are my suggestions: We need retail, retail, and more retail for our current and future downtown residents. We need a proper grocery store, drug store, and other essential city services in order to truly become inhabitants of downtown and to be able to ditch our cars for weeks at a time. We need more downtown Nashville commercial real estate! Why wouldn’t the developers make the convention center larger, the space is there in Sobro, and add on several street front retail spaces to sell or lease to national, regional, and local retailers? There will be plenty of residents in the downtown core by 2010 and in-turn, plenty of demand for commercial space.

So my next question is…why stop there? Why can’t we master plan the entire several block radius into a more pedestrian friendly outdoor centric space that includes a few parks, fountains, reflecting pools and other points of interest. Why can’t we redesign the traffic flow to allow for perimeter parking like the national parks in Washington DC? The answer is we can. We can if the Civic Design Center, the Downtown Partnership, and the Music City Center Coalition get together with the Metro Planning department and put some ink on paper. Now is the time to redefine the Sobro and Riverfront areas. Now is the time to plan for a downtown Nashville baseball stadium. Now is the time for Nashville to ask its citizens for their input. Now is the time for Nashville.

And finally, everyone listens to my rant and then asks, “So what happens to the old convention center? Do you want it sitting there empty? Won’t this be a huge waste of money and time?” These are my favorite questions and I usually ask this question back: If you were a big developer, like a national guy, and you saw an entire city block come available in the downtown core of the 26th largest city in the United States, would you be interested? The answer is always “yes”. It does not matter what they build (office building, condo tower, indoor mall), the fact remains, they will build.

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Nashville Baseball Stadium Proposal

The following is just an excerpt from my page dedicated to bringing a baseball stadium/music venue to Nashville’s riverfront park. Please post comments and suggestions below!

“The total site is approximately 16 acres of prime riverfront land and it needs to be used in such a manner that all Nashville citizens can enjoy the space (which has been fenced off for a decade). My proposal is very simple in theory and design, but very versatile in use: Modify the original 11,000 seat baseball stadium design in order to allow for a movable stage to roll out into the middle of the baseball diamond for concerts, add a 500 space parking structure to the Shelby Street side of the stadium, and construct a series of smaller parks connecting the stadium to the traditional riverfront area. If our Government’s true objective is to rejuvenate and revitalize the entire riverfront area, this is the most effective use of this space, period.

Specifically, the stadium should be built in the ‘old world’ tradition. All brick facades should grace its entrances and spacious concourses should usher in the fans while the experience inside should rival Fenway Park. Build a 3 story parking structure on the Shelby bridge side using the same brick architecture. The structure should stretch the entire length of the right field line and house a minimum of 500 parking spaces. Luxury suites, the press box, restaurants, bars, and lounge areas should be built atop the parking structure and provide easy access to both parking and the stadium. This extended structure will also house the movable performance stage with electronics and allow for exceptionally fast set up. The stadium should also offer baseball fans what they expect: home runs that splash in the Cumberland River, world-class amenities, and, most importantly, the signature guitar shaped video score board.

A series of small parks, a central fountain, walking trails, and picnic areas will connect the baseball stadium to the riverfront and offer Nashvillians a place to meet for lunch or to play on the weekend. Special attention should be paid to ensure that these parks are not high maintenance, are safe, and are as versatile as the stadium itself.”

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