East Nashvillians have been buzzing with news of a planned mixed-use development coming to their neighborhood, currently slated to feature a 24-hour vegetarian dinner, six-screen movie theater, a 10-lane rooftop bowling alley, eight rent-controlled artist lofts, retail space and, most notably, a tunnel connecting the 5 Points neighborhood to downtown.
Area residents first learned of the plans a few months ago when the above sign appeared at the empty lot next to Bongo East. The Scene recently spoke with the developer, Atlanta real estate mogul Gustav Messerschmidt, who confirms that despite the current downturn in commercial real estate, plans are moving forward. Messerschmidt says that Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the consortium behind Boston's massive Big Dig project, has signed on to oversee the tunnel, which makes up the bulk of the projects proposed $130 million price tag.
Well, the project may be a joke, but the sign is real. And it's the work of Bob Bernstein, who owns Bongo East. Bernstein says he got the idea from an experience during his childhood in Chicago. While his family was constructing a new garage next to their house, his father found a similar hoax sign somewhere that included among its proposed amenities a tunnel to O'Hare, and they put it up in front of the construction site.
So Bernstein had his own sign fabricated for the aptly named Eastside Complex. (If the humor of the name is lost on you, you obviously haven't been cornered at a cocktail party by the East Nashville booster brigade.)
Apparently the contact email posted on the sign is operative, and Bernstein's received a few inquiries, among them an artist asking about the rent-controlled loft spaces, and a real estate agent wanting to recommend a contractor. Even Pith was momentarily taken in ... until we got to the "Underground Tunnel to Downtown."
Upon learning the sign was a hoax, one respondent defended his gullibility, saying, "That's a pretty nice sign for a joke."
To which Bernstein replied, "Well that's a pretty chintzy sign if the project was real." Touché.