Overlooked in the hoopla of last week’s announcement that Metro has selected Omni to develop and operate a headquarters hotel for the Music City Center was a similar announcement, made in June of last year, that the city and Phelps Portman Nashville LLC planned to develop a 1,000-room, $300 million hotel.
The national-name joint venture, which also featured local players Earl Swensson and R.C. Mathews, was soon after paired up with Marriott International to build what would have been only the fourth Marriott Marquis property in the United States.
In the end, Phelps Portman was unable to secure the land south of the Country Music Hall of Fame on which Omni will build. In addition, the city and the hotel development team never struck an incentives deal. When Omni and Tower Investments (owner of the prime SoBro property) recently announced a transaction was imminent, Metro began discussions with Omni, thus apparently ending any hopes of the city landing a Marquis.
Stephanie Hampton, senior director of corporate communications at Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott International, e-mailed NashvillePost.com the following statement:
“Working with [Phelps/Portman], we gained strong interest from leading hotel industry investors. Throughout the planning process, we remained confident of our ability to deliver a hotel – on the city’s timeline – that would have maximized performance of Nashville’s new convention center. We are naturally disappointed Nashville chose to pursue a financing plan other than the model envisioned by the city when we began our work.”
Asked to expand on the “financing plan” comment and if Marriott might be interested in developing or operating a secondary hotel near the MCC, Hampton declined further comment.
Roger Zampell of Atlanta-based Portman could not be reached for comment.
Marriott was in the picture at the Music City Center as the result of a process started in 2008 with the hiring of consulting firm Charles P. Johnson & Associates. Metro paid that company $427,000 to, among other things, conduct a feasibility study, establish bidding outlines and processes for developers and hotel brands, assess the Renaissance Nashville hotel and conduct a financial analysis with Goldman Sachs.
In the process, a citizen committee recommended in early 2009 that the Metro Development and Housing Agency – which at the time oversaw the effort – opt for either Phelps Portman or Houston-based developer Hines.
That Metro apparently will work with neither raises the question: Were the consultant’s efforts and fees and the committee’s recommendations all for naught?
“That’s not necessarily so,” said Marty Dickens, a member of the committee and chairman of the Convention Center Authority. “The process itself was well constructed. It never wavered from the fact we were looking for a public-private partnership, with private financing.”