Metro Council approves a $ 1.2 billion Oracle deal on the East Nashville riverside

0
78
Oracle Campus Rendering

Metro Council members unanimously voted Tuesday evening to approve technology giant Oracle Corp.’s development plan. in East Nashville. This was the final hurdle to a historic $ 1.2 billion investment on Music City’s industrial riverside.

According to company spokesman Jim Murphy, Oracle can begin work on a more detailed draft of its 65-acre riverside campus on Tuesday evening. Construction could start as early as June.

The development, dubbed “transformative” and “once in a lifetime” by some supporters, marks the largest economic development deal ever made in Tennessee. The proposed investment will transform the cityscape along the east bank of the Cumberland River into the city’s largest business hub.

“This is the largest private investment and job creation deal in our history – all with no cost to our budget and no new debt,” Mayor John Cooper said in a statement shortly after the council’s vote.

The deal could bring a record number of jobs to Nashville. The company hopes to create 8,500 new jobs in Nashville by the end of 2031, with an average annual wage of $ 110,000. The project is expected to create nearly 11,500 part-time jobs and 10,000 temporary positions during construction.

A view of Dickerson Pike Monday April 19, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.  Software giant Oracle is pursuing a $ 1.2 billion investment in 65 acres on the east bank of the Cumberland River.  The new development could bring significant development along Dickerson Road.

In approving the contract, Metro’s government also announced its intention to use half of the annual property tax revenue from the site for affordable housing, in addition to the funds already allocated for this purpose in the budget. However, the actual use of the funds remains at the discretion of the Council.

The language proposed by At-Large Council member Zulfat Suara was incorporated into the development plan during a Budget and Finance Committee meeting on Monday and approved by the council on Tuesday.

Under the agreement, Oracle will receive a 25-year 50% discount on property tax in return for its $ 175 million upfront investment in public infrastructure near Germantown. This includes streets, parks, greenways, a footbridge from the Oracle campus to Germantown, and an expanded sewer system.

More:The board of directors approves the Oracle Oracle deal after long discussion and goes to the Metro Council

While the deal received overwhelming support from the council on Tuesday evening, many council members and local activists voiced concerns about Oracle’s proposed job creation, commitment to diversity, and measures to address affordable housing with a booming workforce.

Community advocacy group Stand Up Nashville asked 20 questions about the Oracle deal and received answers on Monday. The group questioned the way Metro’s government does business with the tech company and called for Oracle to take action to address the affordable housing crisis and recruit minority workers.

“Mostly, what we hear from our communities is that housing and economic inequality are paramount,” Odessa Kelly, co-founder of Stand Up Nashville, said in a statement Tuesday. “The answers to our questions tell us that while Oracle wants to be good in Nashville and this deal is better than the deals of the past, it wasn’t a community process and we can still improve the way our city works.”

Community concern:Unions Shout For Economic Development Deal: “Demand Oracle Accountability”

Executives embrace the deal and look forward to employment growth

Both local and state leaders have welcomed the development.

“Oracle’s $ 1.2 billion investment will create thousands of quality jobs and help our children thrive in the digital economy,” Cooper said Tuesday. “After a challenging year, this is helping usher in Nashville’s next decade of prosperity.”

Councilor Mary Carolyn Roberts said Tuesday the deal could lead other tech giants to land in Nashville as well.

“We are able to have a deal changer in Nashville,” she said.

Tennessee Commissioner for Economic and Community Development Bob Rolfe also urged councilors to approve the deal during a committee meeting on Monday.

“This is a once in a lifetime transformation,” said Rolfe.

Howard Schiller and Don Allen of Monroe Investment Partners welcomed the vote in a statement on Tuesday evening. The company formed River North, the 100+ acre mixed-use development district that would house the campus.

“My partner has been investing on the east bank of Nashville for over 20 years and I am delighted that his vision of the River North is becoming a reality,” Schiller said in a text message.

Monroe will continue to own a significant amount of real estate on the River North upon completion of the deal with Oracle.

“This is an exciting day for the state of TN and the city of Nashville,” said Allen. “We look forward to working with Oracle and the city and state as River North continues its transformation into a vibrant, mixed-use environment.”

Concerns about living, working and diversity

However, at Monday’s meeting, many council members feared that the development on a historical scale could be too big for Nashville to swallow.

Development and the associated workforce could increase the cost of living in Nashville and displace low-income families.

“You see a house in the market. Before you click on it, it’s gone,” said Suara on Monday. “They have students who can’t afford to pay for housing in the neighborhood they grew up in. They have people who are gentrified out of their homes.”

In response to Stand Up Nashville’s questions about affordable housing, the company referred to Suara’s amendment and Cooper’s proposed budget that would allocate $ 30 million local and federal funding to affordable housing initiatives.

Doug Kehring, executive vice president of corporate operations at Oracle, said Monday the company has no intention of exacerbating Nashville’s affordable housing problem.

“How we support housing can be through ownership, donations, other support mechanisms, but we are very focused on making sure there is enough (affordable) housing for employees,” he said. “We don’t want to come to Nashville to create a bigger problem. We want to come to Nashville to find a great solution.”

It is also unclear how many of the 8,500 proposed jobs are high-paying jobs and what the lowest hourly wage would be for most workers. Councilor Emily Benedict asked the question Monday but received no direct response from Oracle representatives.

“I couldn’t figure out what the lowest wage you pay your full-time and part-time employees in the last two weeks that I have asked several times?” She asked.

Oracle’s Jennifer Burke said Monday the company would like to “hire as much on-site as possible.” However, under Tennessee law, the Metro government does not have the power to set local hiring mandates or demand diversity of the workforce, the company said in its response to Stand Up Nashville Monday

Creation of jobs:What we know about the 8,500 jobs in Oracle’s Nashville Hub proposal

Several council members also called for specific action from Oracle in advocating for LGBTQ communities. The company is considering moving to Tennessee as lawmakers pass multiple bills for LGBTQ youth. Governor Bill Lee, a Conservative Republican, became the third governor to sign a measure this year preventing transgender students from engaging in sports under their gender identity.

Connected:“Why Do They Hate Us So Much?”: Frustration grows among transgender Tennesseans as the bills target youth advancement

Oracle and 94 companies signed a letter last month from the human rights campaign against national law against LGBTQ people. However, the company has not threatened to withdraw from the state because of the legislation.

Bob Mendes, a member of the At-Large Council, asked Oracle Monday what specific actions the company would take other than signing the letter. Previously, he defended the signing of letters on social media as an important step “even if no battle can be won today”.

“We get real criticism from well-meaning people that we only deal with nonsense theater and it doesn’t really mean anything,” he told Oracle representatives. “How do you fit together (what you said)? Are we just hypocrites?”

Business impact:Tennessee’s “run” on anti-LGBTQ legislation could lose Nashville millions of dollars

Kehring responded by arguing that the company has a success story of different cultures and values.

“You have the option of attracting companies that can help you in your endeavor, or you can get rid of those companies in your attempt to deal with the concern raised,” he said. “We will bring in our culture and values.”

Councilor Jonathan Hall on Tuesday called on the council to invest in workforce education and training to provide quality candidates for the job market created by Oracle. Councilor Colby Sledge warned his colleagues Tuesday night to continue addressing community concerns over the Oracle deal.

“We’ll have invited the horse,” he said. “In order for it to be useful to the people of Nashville, we must all work together to tame this horse. If we don’t, it will trample our people.”

Sandy Mazza contributed to this report.

Reach out to Yue Stella Yu at yyu@tennessean.com and on Twitter @bystellayu_tnsn.

Would you like to read more stories like this one? With a subscription to one of our Tennessee publications, you have unlimited access to the latest political news, podcasts such as Grand Divisions and newsletters, a personalized mobile experience, and the ability to view stories, photos and videos from across 261 USA Network’s websites on a daily basis.