Nashville's mightiest real estate battle in years is nearing its courtroom climax with attorneys for Tower Investments and the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency filing motions ahead of a Jan. 31 court date in a trial to settle the value of Tower's property, now the key parcel in the already-under-construction Music City Center project.
Tower contends the roughly $60 per square foot offer – essentially what the company paid for the large parking lot behind Bridgestone Arena in 2007 – falls far short of the fair market value in today's downtown real estate environment.
Lawyers for MDHA filed 25 motions in limine, ranging from the mundane – one motion asks for exclusion of the so-called Golden Rule: Tower's attorneys cannot ask the jury to put themselves in Tower's shoes – to the potentially critical.
Among the more serious motions to be considered by Judge Barbara Haynes at a 9 a.m. Monday motion hearing is a request to exclude Tower's appraisal experts – essentially limiting the property giant's witness list to Tower principals. MDHA also is asking to exclude any reference to appraisals for which it contracted that showed a higher value than the roughly $60 per square foot ultimately offered to Tower.
In response, Tower's attorneys filed 10 responses to the more critical motions. The landowners' legal team argues, for example, that the amount of debt secured by Tower against the property is relevant to a value determination – a premise rejected by MDHA counsel.
Tower plans to contend an MDHA expert's assertion that the highest and best use of the property is as a parking lot – part of the justification used by the Authority to keep the price at the 2007 level – by calling experts, including James Gunn, chairman of Vista Commercial Mortgage, and famed economist Arthur Laffer. MDHA objects to the inclusion of Gunn and Laffer.
MDHA also is asking Haynes to exclude any testimony related to the parcel's "performance" during the May 2010 flood. The property remained dry, unlike many neighboring pieces of land.