Mt. Juliet city commissioners reached very few agreements with the developers of Project Sam, a project to employ a predicted 1,200 people in what would be the largest building in Middle Tennessee, during a meeting this week.
"I'm not sure there was anything productive that came out of the meeting," Commissioner Ray Justice told the Democrat after Monday's workshop. "We discussed the sewer lines they are proposing to put in that a will open Golden Bear Gateway up for development. That's about it."
While sewer discussion for Golden Bear proved promising, it pales in comparison to the number of disagreements that surfaced.
Commissioner Jennifer Milele told the Democrat that, during the workshop, "I asked (Panattoni Development Co.), besides a delay in their tight timeline, what would be a deal breaker."
They gave her two answers, she said. The first was any attempt to redesign the building. Milele said this is because "their client has a vision that they want," which is the design that's already been presented to the commission.
Both the Planning Commission
See Sam/page A6
and City Commission have publicly expressed discomfort with the idea of the facade that Panattoni has proposed for the building. It's mostly windowless and constructed of insulated, corrugated steel panels, which Planning Commission Chairman Luke Winchester suggested might be an eyesore best broken up by windows. Mayor Ed Hagerty reinforced the same suggestion when the development plan reached the City Commission.
In both meetings, developers refrained from agreeing to or rejecting the suggestion. Between then and the workshop this week, they've had time to confer with their client, and now, they're willing to abandon the project if the city continues to push for windows or any other changes to the original design of the building, according to Milele.
The second deal breaker developers gave Milele was "things they cannot control being tied to occupancy." Developers don't want the predicted number of employees in the building to be used as a reason why they should be improving or developing anything beyond their building site if it involves variables for which they can't account.
Milele told the Democrat, for example, that developers don't want road improvements for East Division Street to be based on the predicted number of employees. Several such improvements were proposed by the commission on the basis that these employees are expected to significantly increase the amount of traffic on the two-lane road, among other concerns. Even so, she said developers would be willing to commit to funding general improvements.
Commissioner Art Giles, however, went as far as to ask specifically that Division be widened to five lanes from Golden Bear to Mt. Juliet Road, yet there is no indication developers are considering his request. Similarly, developers expressed an aversion to building anything on the basis of occupancy such as ramps at Interstate 40, sewer-related improvements and traffic lights according to Milele.
During the workshop, this was largely attributed to aspects of each issue being outside of what they can control due to the involvement of other entities like Tennessee Department of Transportation for interstate ramps or the location of a railroad in the case of sewer enhancements. As such, Panattoni expressed a willingness to commit to funding improvements in these areas but not developing those improvements themselves.
The city asked Panattoni to extend road improvements for East Division Street farther beyond Golden Bear Gateway as far east as Rutland Road. Commissioners also requested a streetlight at the intersection of Golden Bear and Athlete's Way. Panattoni agreed to take both requests under consideration.