Medical Mart development spiked

Developers fail to secure needed leases; 'Long-term vision met head-on by shorter-term realities'

Market Center Management Co. announced today it has cancelled plans to retrofit the existing Nashville Convention Center to accommodate a medical trade mart.

The move to cancel comes almost three years after the Dallas-based company first announced its intentions to undertake the massive project, which included plans to build more than a dozen stories of exhibit, meeting and office space. A number of companies and organizations had signed on since then — Lipscomb University and large industry group Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society among them — but persistent questions about the pace of deal signings had dogged the project's public image.

Officials from the development team had said earlier this year that they were closing in on their landmark number but said today they did not secure a sufficient number of leases to proceed. In an email to local officials and backers of the project, Market Center President and CEO Bill Winsor said his group could not commit to the firm timeline Metro leaders were asking for. They had commitments for 400,000 square feet of space, well short of the 600,000 they needed to try to secure financing.

"I have been in the trade center business for more than three decades, and I was never more enthusiastic about a trade center concept," Winsor wrote. "The idea was bold, the location was advantageous, the design was compelling, and our team worked diligently to make it a reality."

In a formal public statement issued this morning, Winsor added that "Ending a development venture with such clear benefits for the health care industry has been a difficult decision but ultimately we were unable to meet our internal leasing targets. As we said from the outset, we would only proceed if we secured a critical mass of signed, long-term leases from industry leaders that would allow us to confidently take the project into the marketplace for financing.

"We were always met with enthusiasm by companies and organizations, and we were joined by partners with the foresight to support the durable benefits of a single home for health care commerce, education and innovation. Unfortunately, long-term vision was met head-on by the shorter-term realities of the sluggish U.S. economy, health care policy uncertainty and the immediate pressures on quarterly revenues that created barriers for many global companies."

Mayor Karl Dean said he understood that the sluggish economic recovery threw sand in the gears of the med mart, but said he expects the corner of Fifth and Broadway to be repurposed in due time.

"The convention space remains a desirable piece of property located in a vibrant area of our downtown," Dean said. "It is a great asset generating a lot of interest, and the city will put it to good use."

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