UPDATE -- Councilman Mike Jameson's letter to his colleagues supporting the Westin and related legislation follows the story as originally reported.
Councilwomen Ginger Hausser and Lynn Williams are making a last ditch effort to limit the height of the proposed Westin on Lower Broad with help from the head of a Metro government agency.
Hausser and Williams are trying to drum up support for limiting the 19-story Westin and condominium tower's height to 12 stories, the same height as the Hilton Downtown Nashville. They have drafted an amendment to the zoning change bill the development team of The Barber Group and Sage Hospitality needs to build 19 stories. Hausser and Williams have gotten help from Ann Roberts, executive director of the Metro Historic Commission. Roberts has urged "friends of preservation" through e-mails and postings on neighborhood listservs to urge their council members to support the amendment.
Tomorrow night, the Westin zoning change is up for third and final reading along with the historic overlay bill for Lower Broadway. Westin's rezoning change comes up first at the meeting. But a condition of the project moving forward is passage of the historic overlay bill. If Westin doesn't pass, it is possible that the overlay bill gets deferred indefinitely.
Opponents of the Westin as proposed are hoping to have people in their favor at the meeting. "We hope you'll come to the meeting and bring friends," Roberts wrote. "We will have stickers so that you can identify yourself as a support of Keeping it Low on Lower Broad! It's not too late!"
Councilman Mike Jameson will be sending out a letter to colleagues later this afternoon countering the amendment. It is going to discuss the economic impact of the Westin as well as other development South of Broadway that could mean $2 billion in capital investment. The letter is likely to say that keeping it low on Lower Broad may mean keeping it empty.
Jameson Letter to Council sent this afternoon
Re: Council Bills:
BL2006-1296 SP Zoning for Downtown Westin Hotel and Residential Development
BL2007-1336 Historic Preservation Zoning for Lower Broadway
BL2007-1369 Transfer of Development Rights
During the last four years, each of our Council Districts has been challenged by Nashville’s emergence as a burgeoning center of growth. I believe this Council has managed these challenges in ways that will benefit our city and its citizens for years to come. I have worked diligently to represent not only my district but also greater Nashville in my response to these challenges. In this vein, I am asking for your support for the three bills listed above.
With growth comes conflict that leaves none of us immune from heated neighborhood discussions while trying to strike the most appropriate balance between growth and preservation, between history and commerce.
Downtown Nashville comprises less than 15% of my 6th District area. However, the area from the river to 8th Avenue, between James Robertson Parkway and Peabody Street, which includes the Westin development, represents a neighborhood that is enjoying nearly two billion dollars of capital investments. This will add tens of millions to our property and sales tax coffers and hundreds of jobs to our downtown. Not a penny of this investment occurs without controversy, but none of it will contribute unless we, as Council members, work to reach consensus on the common ground that surely exists with regard to every project.
The proposed Westin Hotel Development and its relationship with the Historical properties on lower Broadway has been a high profile topic of discussion for over a year. No option has been ignored (far from it) and no opinion was overlooked in my effort to hear all sides and find this common ground. Everyone involved in this process has compromised until it hurt. I can assure you that the legislation before you represents the maximum input from all parties. The “process”, as painful as it is sometimes and as long as it sometimes takes, has resulted in a project that creates the maximum value for Nashville at the least “cost” in terms of impact.
We have heard the plea to “keep it low on lower Broad”. Passage of the Historical Overlay will accomplish just that for the first time in Nashville’s history. But the preservation of historic buildings that are vacant or seriously underutilized is a hollow achievement. More than half of the buildings currently facing Broadway have 2nd and 3rd floors that have been empty for more than 25 years. The complete rejuvenation of our historical zone will not occur without the simultaneous creation of a true live / work / eat / play environment. Without a complimentary, intelligent development strategy supported with investments by the private sector that attract both residents and visitors to our downtown, our achievement will more likely be remembered as “keeping lower Broad empty”.
Some have questioned whether the process could have been more inclusive, or whether information could have been more complete. To resolve these concerns, I have been engaged in ongoing efforts to review all applicable MDHA redevelopment district guidelines, plans and design principles. MDHA has confirmed for me in writing the integrity of their actions. The process for this development has been as inclusive and complete as any I have seen during my time on the Council. Perfect? I do not know, but complete in every way.
My goal from day one was to balance the acknowledged value of the economic and social contribution of the proposed project with sensitivity to Nashville’s history that we all cherish. I also strived to obtain significant concessions and contributions from the developers (including environmental design features and the financial support to secure the Historical Overlay). I feel like I have accomplished my goal.
The Westin SP Zoning, Historical Overlay and TDR have been all approved by the Planning Commission. Any change in the proposed size and density of the Westin proposal will effectively terminate the SP Zoning and endanger the passage of the other two Bills. Our choice is between a comprehensive downtown development plan supported by a $125 million private investment, or a flawed public policy that is long on good intentions and short on practicality. We need to select the first option.
On Tuesday, March 20th, I will move to approve these three Bills, and I ask for your consideration and support. In a very real sense, I believe that all of this legislation goes forward, or not, based on the current compromise that is before you.
I am confident of the community’s support for all three of these bills, and I am proud to represent a part of Nashville that all citizens feel attached to and care about deeply. I have exhausted every opportunity to explore options, and I am confident that my recommendation for approval of the SP Zoning, the Historical Overlay and the TDR will benefit the city of Nashville and each of us for years to come.