With a solid economic base and steady job growth, the “Athens of the South” is experiencing renewed real estate activity, some insiders disclose.
“With the new Music City Center convention facility as well as a world-class riverfront redevelopment underway, and successful urban redevelopment projects such as the Gulch and the up-and-coming Rolling Mill Hill neighborhood, our urban core is transforming into the city that many of us used to have to travel to experience,” says Hunter Gee, a member of the Metro Nashville Planning Commission and principal of the locally based Smith Gee Studio architecture firm.
Projects such as the Gulch, a 70-acre (28-ha) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ND Silver–certified redevelopment with Market Street Enterprises as the master developer, are noticeable additions in Music City. “There are enormous opportunities to be leveraged in our urban core,” says Gee. “The Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency [MDHA], along with the Mathews Company is making significant strides with Rolling Mill Hill, an urban redevelopment undertaking. The Mathews Company is developing the historic Trolley Barns into a mixed-use development, and the MDHA is constructing Nance Place, a for-rent workforce housing development, and recently announced Nashville’s first artist loft venture at Rolling Mill Hill—Ryman Lofts.” Smith Gee Studio is designing Ryman Lofts.
In the first quarter of this year, the Mathews Company hopes to break ground on the 90,000-square-foot (8,361-sq-m) Trolley Barns, says Bert Mathews, president of the firm and past chairman of ULI Nashville, adding that the project is already 65 percent preleased. The development—near the banks of the Cumberland River and within view of downtown Nashville—is one example of the planned real estate developments in the area. “The city is recovering well,” he explains. “Job growth is finally coming back. We are blessed with a great economic foundation. Health care is a huge business, with Nashville’s HCA as well as 350 other health care companies headquartered here. We also have a real strength in higher education, with Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State universities.”
Ed Owens, chairman of ULI Nashville and director of waterfront development for the MDHA, notes that the city’s new convention center—scheduled for completion in early 2013—represents a $600 million investment that will drive continued economic development in the downtown area.
The city also is investing heavily in the redevelopment of its downtown riverfront. Implementation of a long-range, $60 million riverfront development program is underway with the initial construction of a 6.5-acre (2.6-ha) riverside park and the associated renovation and adaptive use of the historic Nashville Bridge Company building. “There is tremendous community support for redevelopment of our downtown waterfront,” says Owens. “Our current focus is to establish the public realm along the river’s edge with high-quality park facilities and open spaces to serve as the catalyst for future public/private partnerships and major private sector reinvestment.”
Nashville’s urban core is experiencing a revival, points out Mark Deutschmann, owner/broker at the locally based marketing and sales company Village Real Estate Services—a partner with Core Development Services focusing on adaptive use of core structures and in various infill projects in the city.
Deutschmann notes that Nashville has many new mixed-use projects that are helping Tennessee’s capital become a 24-hour metropolis. “The Gulch is a new neighborhood in what was once vacant land near the downtown train station,” he says. “The Gulch is now experiencing a surge in mixed-use development, with housing, restaurants, and a new downtown grocery store. The mayor has even budgeted for a greenways connector, which will enhance bike and foot traffic from the area to our river and the downtown.”
Adds Deutschmann: “Nashville has started development of our riverfront, and I believe this is going to be a major enhancement for all constituents, from residents, to office workers, to the conventioneers who will use our new Music City Convention Center and to all of the visitors who come to experience Nashville.”