Wednesday, December 18, 2013

North Gulch gets HCA. West End now has Karl's Bad Cavern

Not too long ago the Hope Gardens neighborhood association went ballistic when Mayor Karl Dean's Music City Center project sent the Greyhound bus terminal packing to an old car dealership in the North Gulch (south of Hope Gardens). In the beginning it was not clear whether the move would be permanent (it eventually turned out not to be) so zealots came out of the woodwork criticizing CM Erica Gilmore for failing to raise more of a stink over the Mayor's plan. One of these critics, who would go on to be a "co-founder" of Friends of Sulphur Dell confided to me in 2010 that he was among of group of people looking for a challenger to run against Ms. Gilmore in 2011 (she won re-election easily).

These same people seemed very quiet to me when in 2011 the North Gulch area was considered as a potential minor league ballpark site, along with Sulphur Dell and the East Bank. Hope Gardens went all in on Sulphur Dell, even though it was not apparent that the North Gulch was any less advantageous, any less walkable for them. In retrospect, I believe it was because the Mayor had already signaled his plans for baseball to return to the Dell, although I see that it is now for much less than historical reasons.

Jump to today where we learn, on the heels of approval of Sulphur Dell as the ballpark site, the latest plan that the North Gulch is going to be used to save the HCA, whose West End Summit plan for two towers and a hotel seemed to have sunk below the surface of the water gathering once again at the bottom of a Midtown crater. The timing of these announcements is looking domino-like: the Sulphur Dell news itself came on the heels of the Mayor's announcement that the Riverfront would be used for something other than a ballpark. This seems to have "grand design" written all over it. However, I wonder how the folk in Hope Gardens are feeling about the new North Gulch plan. I assume that they are relieved that it is not the Greyhound bus terminal they once worried about being stuck with.

Karl's Bad Cavern (formerly the West End Summit site)
And then, there is Midtown. Back in 2012, Karl Dean embraced the West End Summit as if it were his own child:

Slated at an astounding $900,000 million, the project is one of the largest commercial developments in the area's history and is expected to double its current workforce of 1000 within five years, making it also one of the largest economic development projects in the area.

"HCA could have gone out of state for these headquarters but instead chose to grow jobs here in Nashville," said Mayor Karl Dean at an interview. "This project speaks volumes about the vitality of our West End corridor, the talent of our workforce and the vibrancy of our city."

The Mayor's Office issued a statement yesterday that said nothing of what he now thinks of the "vitality of the West End corridor", and it frankly sounds like a relieved, "Whew!"

"We appreciate that HCA is committed to keeping this $200 million investment, the 2,000 jobs and these two headquarters in Davidson County .... HCA has been a great partner throughout this process, and we look forward to working with them as they move forward."

But you can bet that the move of this troubled project to the Gulch (not to mention building an amphitheater for Martha Ingram on the Riverfront) likely had a lot to do with the ballpark ending up at Sulphur Dell. Even with a cavern still sitting on West End, our Mayor is an acknowledged real estate maximizer.

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