The Nashville Convention Center will be the future home of Nashville’s massive medical trade center if Metro lawmakers give it the green light early next year.
The Nashville Medical Trade Center, which is being planned by Market Center Management Co. out of Dallas, will add 12 stories to the Convention Center and eventually comprise 2 million square feet of permanent and temporary showrooms for health care manufacturers, distributors and information technology companies, as well as educational space and conference facilities for medical trade shows.
Slated to cost $250 million, the project will add 1.5 million square feet to the Convention Center. At the unveiling of the plans this morning, officials said they expect the NMTC to attract between 100,000 and 150,000 visitors per year and generate 2,700 jobs. For renderings of the planned facility – which will among other things move the convention center's Fifth Avenue facade back 40 feet and try to achieve LEED Silver certification – click here.
The NMTC will house 600 to 1,000 health care companies in custom permanent show rooms in the 12-story addition. Health care providers from around the country and world can then come to one place to shop and compare items such as imaging and diagnostic equipment, medical furniture, lab equipment, health care information technology systems and more, directly from the manufacturers, seven days a week.
Plans for the NMTC — which will include up to 1,200 permanent show rooms, 118,000 square feet of flexible exhibit space and 30 meeting rooms — were first announced in May. Participating in this morning's announcement of its details were Market Center representatives, Gov. Phil Bredesen, Mayor Karl Dean, state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber and Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Jeff Balser.
Market Center Management President and CEO Bill Winsor said his group was looking for an adaptive re-use of an existing space. The Convention Center has "the right bones," he said, with the added benefit of the attached Renaissance Hotel to serve as the host hotel.
However, using the Convention Center location on Broadway is contingent upon the city’s decision to build the proposed $585 million Music City Center, the Convention Center’s replacement facility, on which Metro Council will vote in January. The council will also have to approve the new use for the existing Convention Center.
The joint owners of the NMTC — Dallas-based Crow Holdings, the ownership entity of Market Center Management, and CNL Lifestyle Properties, a real estate investment trust advised by CNL Financial Group — will make a cash investment in the project and work to secure the financing for the remainder of the costs.
On an afternoon conference call with reporters, Winsor said he thinks "receptivity to this (project) will be high," so they are not "overly concerned" about securing financing, even in today's tough economy. The group is evaluating financing options "as we speak," he said.
Dean explained that although the project will be privately financed, the trade center will likely get "normal incentives" such as tax increment financing or property tax abatements. These issues are "in the discussion stages."
Construction is expected to begin late next year for an opening in early 2013, around the time of the Music City Center’s launch, Winsor said. The project is being designed by Nashville's Gresham Smith and Partners. Construction will be managed by the Nashville office of Turner Construction and will seek to accommodate conventions already committed to Nashville.
Beyond the necessary Metro Council approvals, the exact timeline is also dependent upon the success of pre-leasing activities. Winsor said the pre-lease goal is in the “65 to 70 percent range.”
Market Center Senior Advisor David Osborn said the trade center has been in discussions with “dozens” of companies with an interest in participating, but they have not been able to offer lease terms in advance of securing the Convention Center location. He expects to return to those companies for pre-lease discussions later this week to secure commitments over the next several months.
Discussions have included talks with local, U.S.-based and even foreign health care companies. Winsor said he spoke with roughly 30 companies at the recent Medica health care trade fair in Düsseldorf, Germany who expressed some interest in the project.
As companies begin to commit to space, something of an economic development snowball effect could take hold. Dean noted that beyond the job creation, the project also will mean new income for hotels and restaurants and increased sales tax for the government.
Janet Miller, chief economic development and marketing officer for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, also said it may entice some of those 600 companies to build a greater, permanent presence in Nashville, or even attract additional companies to move to Nashville.
"There's no telling what the spinoff effect will be," Miller said.
"This could be the most transformative thing to happen to downtown Nashville from a business standpoint in the history of the city," she said.
For more of our coverage of the NMTC, check out these links: