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Peabody Hotel Group Proposing $135 million, 500-room
 Peabody Hotel in Nashville; Would Seek up to
 $40 million in Public Assistance
By David Flaum, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

May 21, 2004 - The Peabody ducks may waddle up the road to Nashville.

Owners of the Peabody Hotel Group have proposed a $135 million, 500-room Peabody hotel and six-story parking garage on part of a 10-acre parcel on the Cumberland River that the city of Nashville wants redeveloped.

The plan, including 50,000 square feet of meeting space, will compete with several other proposals, including a convention center complex and a mixed residential and commercial development, but it would fit in with the proposed Nashville Sounds baseball stadium.

"We've been looking at Nashville the last two or three years," said Martin Belz, chairman of Peabody Hotel Group. "The economy for hotels has been off, but it has improved recently."

Downtown Nashville is an attractive place for The Peabody because of new projects, including the Country Music Hall of Fame, Rolling Mill Hill mixed-used project, apartment and housing developments and the proposed ballpark.

The hotel hasn't been designed yet, but it will have The Peabody's trademark ducks in the lobby, as do its hotels in Memphis, Little Rock and Orlando.

The complex would probably take three years from the time it wins city approval to complete and would need $32 million to $40 million in public assistance even if it got the land for little or nothing.

Nearby hotels have seen improving business in recent months, so the location could be a good one for The Peabody, said Chuck Pinkowski, president of Pinkowski & Co., a Memphis-based consultant to the hospitality industry.

"A 500-room Peabody is going to be somewhat removed from the (current) convention center," he said.

It would probably be the third choice, in terms of distance from the center, for conventiongoers, Pinkowski said.

The ballpark, if it is built, "is not going to generate as much room night demand as an adjacent convention center," he said.

The Peabody plan would leave room for the ballpark next door. But the projects are independent of each other, said Belz and Glenn Yaeger, general manager of the Nashville Sounds, who play in the same division of the Pacific Coast League as the Memphis Redbirds.

The Sounds proposed a $38.5 million, 11,000-seat stadium on the land, which is known as the Nashville Thermal Transfer Property.

The ballpark would be part of an $800 million commercial and residential development. First Tennessee Bank of Memphis has bought naming rights to the stadium.

"Given the financial constraints, it's important to find private development alongside the ballpark to help finance the stadium," Yaeger said.

The Peabody proposal includes a plan to divert city room tax revenues -- an estimated $32 million over 10 years -- to support the bond issue for stadium construction.

A plan for a new $250 million convention center, which is being backed by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Greater Nashville Hotel & Lodging Association, will compete with the Peabody and ballpark plans, along with other proposals.

Representatives of those groups did not return phone calls on Thursday.

The picture will become clearer todayfri when the 19-member task force set up to evaluate uses for the property meets for the first time to look at proposals and determine which ones include enough information to be considered, said Jack Wood, head of the group.

Wood is chairman emeritus of Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon, an engineering, architecture and planning firm.

He expects four or five plans to pass that test, including The Peabody and baseball stadium. Then the task force will have 60 days to make a recommendation to the Metro Council.

-----To see more of The Commercial Appeal, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to

(c) 2004, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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