Nashville’s Warner Parks deserve to be treasured

(This article originally appeared in the Tennessean on June 8, 2016)

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In a city that’s quickly becoming more urbanized, Nashville is privileged to have one of the nation’s largest city parks— Percy Warner Park. The combined 3,100 acres of Percy Warner and its smaller and equally beautiful counterpart, Edwin Warner Park, compose America’s 19th largest park within a municipality.

The Warner Parks are one of Nashville’s greatest gems, granting residents access to luscious forests, hiking and cycling trails, picnic areas, scenic overlooks and much more.

In true Nashville style, the Warner Parks have only gotten bigger and better with time. In 2014, H.G. Hill Realty Company generously sold 250 acres of pristine old-growth forest, well below appraisal price, to Friends of Warner Park. The nonprofit turned the property — now called Burch Reserve — over to Metro for free, so that it could be used as an addition to Edwin Warner Park. I commend H.G. Hill for their generosity and efforts to preserve this valuable, unspoiled natural land.

Located north of Highway 100 across from Edwin Warner Park, Burch Reserve will extend Edwin Warner across the highway, and will include an underground pedestrian tunnel beneath the CSX railroad tracks. This new section of the park will be open to the public this fall.

H.G. Hill, along with Friends of Warner Parks, worked diligently to save from development this uninhabited land, which is considered one of the largest old-growth forests in an urban area in our region. Thanks to them, we will now be able to enjoy Burch Reserve’s native Tennessee wildlife and vegetation, such as oak and hickory trees, walnut trees and tulip poplars, for decades to come.

A true asset to Nashville, the Warner Parks provide a wide variety of things to do and see outside our small-big city. Boasting eight miles of bike trails and more than 10 hiking trails of varying lengths and skill levels, the Parks are a perfect place for a scenic afternoon ride or a sunrise run with friends. Percy Warner is also home to two public golf courses — the 18-hole Harpeth Hills Golf Course and the 9-hole Percy Warner Golf Course.

For the history buffs, the Warner Parks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are home to several Nashville landmarks. The Cedar Glen Spring House, the Hodge House and the World War I Memorial all tell great stories of Nashville’s past. The Allée/Belle Meade Steps are said to be the “front door” to the parks and make for a memorable and scenic climb.

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Wood Caldwell is managing principal of Southeast Venture, a diversified commercial real estate company. He writes about Middle Tennessee commercial real estate issues once a month for The Tennessean. Reach him at wcaldwell@southeastventure.com

Nashville proudly joins the NERDS crowd

(This article originally appeared in the Tennessean on April 25, 2016)

429871739_bdb9df5c37_oNashville has been dubbed one of the “NERDS” in 2016. An acronym standing for “Nashville, East Bay, Raleigh, Denver and Salt Lake City,” the NERDS were revealed in a recent report from Jones Lang LaSalle, a global professional services and investment management firm. These six cities are identified as hidden gems that have emerged in the market as up-and-coming hotbeds for innovation, expansion and population migration. It’s safe to say that Nashville is in good company!

The study takes an in-depth look at what makes each of the NERDS a rising star, comparing statistics among each city and against national averages. With nearly 1,500 people moving to Nashville each month and a record-breaking commercial real estate year in 2015, it’s not too surprising that Nashville made the list. Our city is booming.

The mass influx of new residents is supported by businesses’ desires to serve their needs. There were 37 business relocations and 117 expansions in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, according to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. And thanks to a strong and steady economy, Nashville is positioned as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship with a solid foundation to support growth for years to come.

Even though Nashville’s already earned its status as an “It-city,” the transformation has only just begun. In 2016, we can expect economic growth to the tune of $2.7 billion in capital investment dollars and 18,000 new jobs in Davidson County. It’s never been so cool to be a nerd.

Our largest industries, education and health services, provide jobs for nearly 200,000 people within city limits and another 200,000 in surrounding counties. And our largest employers, Vanderbilt University and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, together employ more than 20,000 people. According to this research, Music City is very quickly earning a new title — Eds-and-Meds City.

Of course, this surge in our city’s growth is a huge boon to the commercial real estate market here. With over 120 cranes decorating our skyline at any given moment, and a multitude of projects on the horizon, the city’s built environment is changing rapidly and for the better.

There is one small caveat that accompanies rapid growth: high prices for both commercial and residential real estate. With all but 18.1 percent of the nearly 3 million square feet under construction already leased and a vacancy rate of less than 7 percent, prices won’t wane for the foreseeable future. The good news? A plethora of commercial and residential options outside of the city’s urban core are available for a fraction of the cost. There’s something for everyone in this city.

Looking ahead, I see Nashville’s inclusion in this study as a sign of promise and hope of what’s to come for our great city. There are new jobs being created. We are attracting well-educated and creative individuals. Our built environment is changing for the better to support this growth. I believe that through all of this, we will become stronger and more unified as a city, and that Nashville will remain the same little-big, or in this case little-bigger, city that it’s always been.

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Wood Caldwell is managing principal of Southeast Venture, a diversified commercial real estate company. He writes about Middle Tennessee commercial real estate issues once a month for The Tennessean. Reach him at wcaldwell@southeastventure.com

Welcome to the team, Kerry and Monika

Have you heard? Southeast Venture has added Kerry Osborne, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, as director of design services and Monika Whittenburg, IIDA, LEED AP, as a senior interior designer.

Kerry OsborneOsborne will oversee design services alongside Paul Plummer, principal of design services, and Ginny Caldwell, director of interior design. Most recently Osborne served as director of the architecture department for AECOM, an engineering consultant firm in Indianapolis. There he worked on commercial and industrial projects in health care, hospitality, transportation and education.

Monika Whittenburg

Whittenburg will direct and collaborate with other design professionals on projects and manage projects throughout the entire design process. Her work at other firms included a strong emphasis on healthcare design, as well as corporate and educational projects.

Southeast Venture began offering interior design services in 2000. Our interior design and architecture teams work closely in designing multi-family, corporate and healthcare projects. Notable projects include 12 South Flats, Hill Center at Sylvan Heights, Concept Technology and MediCopy.

Nashville’s ‘it’ status is 35 years in the making

By Wood Caldwell

(This article originally appeared in the Tennessean on March 21, 2016)

In 1981, Ronald Reagan was president, Music City (and the world) was introduced to MTV and our commercial real estate firm opened its doors. The view through our doors has certainly changed in the past 35 years.

The Nashville skyline has transformed dramatically. The American General Tower (now Tennessee Tower) was the city’s tallest building in 1981, because the AT&T headquarters — aka “The Bat Building” — had not arrived. Other skyline-defining buildings missing in 1981 included 5/3 Center, One Nashville Place, Nashville City Center, Pinnacle at Symphony Place, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Bridgestone Arena, Viridian Tower, Encore, the Renaissance Hotel, Downtown Hilton Hotel, Omni Nashville Hotel, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Music City Center, to name but a few. Today, our skyline is ranked as the 12th most beautiful in the nation by Thrilllist.

Nashville Skyline Crop

The ground-level view of downtown has changed just as significantly for the better. Pockmarked with shuttered storefronts, strip clubs and porn shops, Lower Broad was far from a tourist Mecca. In fact, the Nashville Convention Center was built in the mid-1980s with no windows or doors on the Broadway side of the building because the street was such an eyesore.

The only real foot traffic downtown was on Second Avenue (then known as Market Street), where some enterprising entrepreneurs had purchased the old warehouses there and begun to transform them into retail stores, restaurants and office space. But even this part of town was largely deserted after dark. People just didn’t go downtown, no matter how much you enticed them, which was proven when a beautiful shopping mall was built where the downtown public library sits today. It lasted about two years.

The idea that the industrial area south of Broadway, now known as SoBro, or the grimy and depressed area near the railroad switching yard, aka The Gulch, would someday be home to some of the most valuable real estate in town would have been outlandish, had anyone been crazy enough to suggest this.

Union Station Hotel was still an abandoned train station. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts was still a post office. Cummins Station was an abandoned warehouse. The city’s largest strip club, the Classic Cat, was next door to Hume Fogg High School. The Hall of Fame was in a rather small, barnlike building on Music Row. Where the Roundabout Building is today sat a portion of Hank Williams home, which someone had moved there as a tourist attraction (though I never saw it attract anyone). There was no Music Row Roundabout, no “Musica” statue — just a confusing intersection of five streets.

Looking outside of Downtown Nashville, there was no Cool Springs and The Mall at Green Hills was a modest, one-story affair. In contrast, Hickory Hollow Mall was the highest grossing mall in the state and its cousin north of town, Rivergate, was also minting money.

For a night on the town, Hillsboro Village was the only urban, mixed-use part of town, and it was becoming the trendy restaurant hub of Nashville, thanks to pioneering restaurateur Jody Faison, who launched Faison’s in the early 1980s and essentially founded Nashville’s independent restaurant landscape. Within a few years, Randy Rayburn opened Sunset Grill, and Hillsboro Village’s restaurant run began in earnest.

The striking difference between then and now is the result of enlightened city leaders and local real estate visionaries working together to build a better city. It has been a privilege to have a front-row seat to this incredible transformation.

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Wood S. Caldwell is managing principal of Southeast Venture, a diversified commercial real estate company. He writes about Middle Tennessee real estate deals once a month for The Tennessean. Reach him at wcaldwell@southeastventure.com.

Past informs future development of Hillsboro Village

By Wood Caldwell

(This article originally appeared in the Tennessean on Feb. 22, 2016)

Once upon a time, Hillsboro Village was all there was.  Before 12 South, the Gulch, Germantown, East Nashville and other urban neighborhoods became hip (or, in the case of The Gulch, even existed as a neighborhood), the only place to experience a truly successful mixed use, urban environment was along 21st Avenue South between Capers and Acklen avenues. As time went on and more trendy areas emerged, however, the Village began to lose its appeal; popular businesses came and went.

hborovillageBut with changes like the sale of the former sites of Bosco’s and Sam’s Sports Grill and development of 2100 Acklen Flats, Hillsboro Village is poised to once again be one of Nashville’s most vibrant urban neighborhoods.

To see where the area is headed, take a look at where it came from. The property where Hillsboro Village sits today was originally owned by Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham as part of the large Belmont estate. In 1890 it began to be subdivided into neighborhoods and kick-started the boom of streetcar suburban living in Nashville. By the early 1920s, along with the wave of residents moving to the area came a business district with five grocery stores — from mom and pop places like White’s Market to Southern chain stores like Piggly Wiggly and H.G. Hills stores — and bakeries and gas stations. The opening of the historic Belmont Theater in 1925 contributed to the bustling activity of the area.

More retail shops emerged along the strip in the 1950s and 1960s, however, most of these businesses have since gone to retail heaven —  except for Pancake Pantry, which has been a Hillsboro Village staple since it opened in 1961. In the 1980s and 1990s, with restaurateurs Randy Rayburn and Jody Faison at the helm, Sunset Grill, Faison’s and the Iguana and JoeD’s Chicken Club not only made the strip Nashville’s premiere dining spot (and the place to see and be seen), they also created what became known as “The Vodka Triangle.”

Development changes of the late 1990s were led by H.G. Hill Realty, developer of 2100 Acklen Flats. In 1997, H.G. Hill converted the northeast corner of the strip, centered on the famous Pancake Pantry, into mixed-use space for retail, residential and restaurant tenants. To boost the area’s already thriving development, Vanderbilt University met with land and business owners and developers to protect the character of the neighborhood and set boundaries on its own campus expansion.

The buildings along Hillsboro Village today keep the character of 60 years ago — even though some are newer buildings ­— because an Urban Design Overlay (UDO) was put in place in 1999. Stakeholders and the Nashville Metropolitan Planning Commissionestablished the UDO to outline regulations and best practices that must be followed by businesses coming into the area, requiring that an advisory committee review all proposed architectural changes. It encourages storefronts of varying heights and designs, parking lots behind the businesses and the continued presence of street parking and pedestrian access.

The preservation of this urban, pedestrian-friendly center in Nashville is just as important today as it was 17 years ago. Local developers are putting more money and energy into bringing the charm of Hillsboro Village back to relevance. With this growth, the neighborhood is primed to continue to be enjoyed for decades to come.

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Wood Caldwell is managing principal of Southeast Venture, a diversified commercial real estate company. He writes about Middle Tennessee commercial real estate issues once a month for The Tennessean. Reach him at wcaldwell@southeastventure.com.

Everyone Loses In The Controlled Economy Advocated By Affordable Housing Movement

By Wood Caldwell, Managing Principal at Southeast Venture

In order to keep up with the 80+ new people moving to Middle Tennessee every day (that’s over 30,000 a year, with a large portion of this influx coming to Davidson County), construction of apartment, condominium and mixed-use developments has hit record-breaking levels, and this boom must continue to in order catch up with demand. Indeed, the relatively high rental rates for apartments in some parts of Nashville are a function of this imbalance between supply and demand. When supply meets demand, rates will moderate. This kind of adjustment to reality is the beauty of a free market economy.

Unfortunately, there is a movement to control rents by exchanging development incentives for “affordable housing.” Let me say, everybody loses in a controlled economy. As stated before in other articles, it would be a “self-inflicted recession.” This is Nashville’s future if such a plan prevails.

Should everyone who puts in a good day’s work be able to afford to live in our city? Certainly, and there is plenty of moderately priced housing in Nashville already. Is it in the hip neighborhoods like downtown, East Nashville, Sylvan Heights, Germantown or 12 South? No, yet this is what this movement demands.

But why? Is this really a noble cause? Isn’t it rather like demanding that all Nashvillians who drive a late model Chevrolet be upgraded to a Cadillac at public expense? Is this something we should raise property taxes to pay for? It is worth harming our city’s economy?

The latest salvo in the affordable housing “crisis” is a proposed ordinance from the Metro Planning staff, mandated by Metro Council, which seeks to enforce affordable housing quotas by taking away certain key incentives from developers unless a certain number of units in their residential projects are rented or sold at below-market rates. Currently, developers are allowed to build taller buildings by adding floors when their projects include characteristics like public parking, eco-friendly design or mixed-use ground floor elements such as retail and restaurants.

Therefore, height bonus equals needed downtown public parking, “green” designed buildings and mixed use projects: key elements essential for creating a vibrant downtown. It’s a win-win. The irony of this proposal is that it was the Metro Planning Commission and Metro Council that voted to incorporate these bonuses years ago to stimulate development and bring people back downtown.

This ordinance now goes to Metro Council for consideration. Hopefully, they will vote it down, just as the Planning Commission voted unanimously not to recommend it to the Council. This ordinance’s heavy-handed approach to forcing the development of below-market housing will have the unintended consequence of severely slowing development of residential real estate throughout Nashville. Everyone loses.

It’s also worth noting that nowhere in the ordinance is there anything about paying for this plan – even though the planning staff’s report estimated it would cost $10 million a year to compensate property owners for the money lost due to “affordable housing” quotas. Where is this $10 million coming from? This obviously means a tax increase. Either that, or cutting funding to other city services like education and public safety.

Again I ask, is this a sacrifice we want to make so that people can move from affordable housing in Antioch or Madison into a place they can’t afford in downtown or East Nashville? Is it really that important for our city to subsidize a hip lifestyle for everyone? Surely we have more pressing issues.

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Southeast Venture Brokers Sale of Historic Hillsboro Village Property to Elmington Capital Group

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This press release was originally released on Feb. 4, 2016

Southeast Venture Brokers Sale of Historic Hillsboro Village Property to Elmington Capital Group

Property at 1803 and 1805 21st Avenue South date back to 1920’s

NASHVILLE, Tenn. February 4, 2016 — An historic Hillsboro Village property that dates back to the 1920’s and formerly housed Bosco’s brewpub and Sam’s Sports Grill has been purchased by Nashville-based Elmington Capital Group for $8.3 Million.

The property is composed of two adjacent buildings at 1803 and 1805 21st Ave. S. The .91-acre site is in the heart of Hillsboro Village and includes a 60-space parking lot and a .16-acre vacant lot, both in the rear of the building.

“We are excited about the opportunity to contribute to the revitalization of Hillsboro Village,” Elmington Capital Group CEO Cary Rosenblum said. “As not only owners but neighbors as well, we look forward to being a part of both the conservation and transformation of this historic part of Nashville.”

Southeast Venture brokered the deal on behalf of both the buyer and the seller. James Roscoe High, CCIM, represented the buyer, Elmington Capital. Wood Caldwell, Managing Partner, and Jon Petty, CCIM, represented the owners of the property, one of whom is Buckhead Investments.

“I couldn’t think of a more perfect buyer for this property,” said Southeast Venture’s James Roscoe High, CCIM. “Elmington Capital views this as generational real estate. They are committed to maintaining the legacy and integrity of the buildings while finding tenants that will complement Hillsboro Village.”

About Southeast Venture

Founded in 1981, Southeast Venture is a diversified commercial real estate and design services company guided by a mission of “Building Value by Valuing Relationships.” The firm provides and coordinates the delivery of brokerage, development, architectural and interior design and property management. This unique, comprehensive approach to commercial real estate offers a cost effective and efficient way of meeting its clients’ commercial real estate needs. For more information, visit SoutheastVenture.com, or find Southeast Venture on Twitter @SEVentureCRE.

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