Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Copy of executive memo asking CMs to defer Hickory Hollow lease bill, but to keep privatization power dry

Take note of the first full paragraph on page 2 of today's memo from Rich Riebeling; even as the Mayor backs away from Hickory Hollow lease for the flea market, he still intends to convert the Fairgrounds to real estate to be sold off to private interests:

To:           Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors
                 Members of the Metropolitan Council
From:      Richard M. Riebeling/JKDirector of Finance
Date:       December 1,2010
Subject:  Fairgrounds

     Over the past several weeks, numerous questions have been asked concerning our plans to enter into lease/purchase agreements for property at the Hickory Hollow Mall. Therefore, we have made the decision to ask the sponsors of BL20 I 0-792 to defer that legislation until January. Further, it is our intent to delete from the ordinance the lease for the Dillard's property that was to house the flea market and expo center. In addition, we have requested additional information from the Department of Health on its future space requirements that we will share with you before moving that lease forward.

      It remains our intent over the next several weeks to iron out minor changes and move forward on our plans to convert the former JCPenney's building into a facility to provide much needed city services for Southeastern Davidson County with a new regional community center, larger and improved Public Library and a home for the Metro Archives. That community represents the fastest growing area of our city and currently lacks critical public services. This concept previously was approved by the Metro Council as part of the capital spending plan, and we hope to soon move forward to finalize issues relating to the lease/purchase with the mall owners so planning, and then construction, can commence. Another important step in the revitalization ofthis area will be the location ofa Nashville State campus.

      A number of legitimate questions and concerns have been raised about the mall's suitability as a new venue for the Expo events and Flea Market. It makes sense at this juncture to take a time out and, just like we did with the convention center hotel, do more homework to see ifwe can find a better deal for the City.

     Over the course of the next several months, we will examine all options including alternative sites as well as public/private management ofthese events. Regardless, it is essential that any financial adjustments be made to ensure these activities are self-sufficient and do not

Memo to Vice Mayor and Metro Council
December 1, 2010
Page 2

require any subsidy from the general government. Further, vendors and customers of the Flea Market and Expo can plan on remaining at the Fairgrounds throughout 2011 as this study proceeds.

      During this process, we need to remember the importance of transitioning the Fairgrounds into a site that will enable our City's tax base to grow while creating good-paying jobs. Members of the Council have publicly and vocally spoken of the need for quality infill development across our City. We agree and see the Fairgrounds as a key site in helping us reach our economic development potential.

      Finally, plans to relocate the Tennessee State Fair and permanently end operation of the racetrack remain in place. We are moving forward with plans to develop the flood plain area of the property as a public park along with restoration of Brown's Creek that runs, in part, through the area used by the track. We intend to continue our discussions with the Tennessee State Fair Association and are open to allowing it to use the Fairgrounds for a 2011 fair, but only under terms in which it is fully responsible for the event-while it intensifies its efforts to find a more suitable permanent location.

     Clearly, the racetrack has not been successful since the principal races moved to Wilson County several years ago. Several vendors have tried and have not been able to operate a successful racing series at the track. More important than the financial considerations, however, is our responsibility to the neighborhood around the Fairgrounds. In neighborhood meeting after neighborhood meeting, it is abundantly clear that ending racing is the single most important impediment to the revitalization of the community.

     We will continue to support Nashville neighborhoods and will work to improve the quality oflife for Nashvillians. The people who live around the Fairgrounds deserve a place they can enjoy and be proud of, and Antioch residents deserve access to basic services.

Copy: Mayor Karl Dean
          Jon Cooper

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