Neighborhood Spotlight: Midtown

Nashville encompasses such an eclectic group of people — young and old, newcomers and natives — but one thing you’re certain to find in any part of our city is a sense of community, and near the center of it all is the bustling Midtown district.

With its close proximity to Belmont University, Vanderbilt University, office buildings and local hospitals, Midtown is home to many young professionals, college students and musicians. Containing nearly 30 bars and restaurants, Midtown provides a more casual atmosphere for locals and students trying to escape the crowds of tourists that flood Lower Broadway nightly.

Nashville has become nationally known recently for the quality and variety of its restaurants, and you’ll find a outstanding sampling of dining options in Midtown, from authentic sports bars like Winners Bar & Grill and Losers Bar & Grill, to iconic spots like Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, Midtown Cafe and the Catbird Seat. There’s something for everyone, with new hot spots opening frequently.

Midtown isn’t just about bars and nightlife, it’s also home to Centennial Park and The Parthenon — two of Nashville’s most famous attractions. The Parthenon was inspired by Nashville’s moniker as “Athens of the South.” In the 1850s, long before the town was referred to as Music City, Nashville was regarded as a center of intellectual exchange — placing a large emphasis on, and subsidizing, many institutions of higher education. So, for Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition, an exact replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece, was constructed in 1897. Today, Nashville’s Parthenon is a wonderful perch for people-watching in Centennial Park. On any given day, you’ll see people enjoying Nashville’s beautiful weather, taking a stroll through the park’s green space, feeding the pigeons near the pond or going for a run on one of the many paths.

With numerous apartment and condominium complexes, Midtown is also a haven for young people just getting their footing in Nashville. The streets of Midtown are studded with hotels and lodging options, as well, perfect for visitors and parent’s weekends at neighboring universities.  

In addition to all the activities these attractions offer, Midtown is home to Nashville’s world-famous Music Row. The popularity of  WSM’s Grand Ole Opry radio program positioned the city as a mecca for country music. In 1954, the first business on Music Row was created when Owen and Harold Bradley opened a small, makeshift studio on Sixteenth Avenue South. Not long after, an influx of music industry executives flocked to Music Row. RCA then decided that Music Row would be the best site for it’s new Nashville recording facility, Studio B. The studio was built in 1957 and counts Elvis Presley among the stars to record there.

A great neighborhood to consider whether you’re a college sports fan, musician, medical professional or someone who’s simply looking to have a good time, Midtown embodies Nashville’s reputation of a fun, upbeat community fused with history and character.

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Partner Profile: Todd Alexander, Principal and Director of Brokerage Services

This is part of our blog series in which we’re highlighting our influential partners at Southeast Venture, including information about their backgrounds, work and perspectives on real estate trends and all things Nashville. These are a few of the leaders that inspire innovation and drive our company forward, so take a few moments to get to know them.

Todd AlexanderTodd Alexander is a principal with Southeast Venture who oversees the Brokerage Division. He began his career with Southeast Venture as a real estate broker in 1999 and has since been involved in all aspects of the brokerage and commercial real estate business, including tenant representation and landlord representation, as well as acquisition and disposition services. He is currently responsible for leasing and sales of over one million square feet of office product and over 70 acres of commercial property in the Greater Nashville region.

What changes have you seen within the company during your tenure?

A lot. We went from around 25 employees to now over 50. Our Brokerage Division had three brokers when I started (including me). We now have 14. We added an Interior Design Division.  We went from 5 partners to now 9. Also, our development work ramped up significantly, completing projects valued over $200,000,000. I have seen our company not only physically grow, but more importantly, we have grown a team of great people that care deeply about what they do and how they do it. Relationships are always put first. This has helped establish a great culture of like-minded people that are really fun to work with.

What trends are you seeing in commercial real estate?

Specifically with the design of space, I am seeing companies responding to a younger workforce desiring more amenities within their space and in the buildings they occupy. Space is continuing to become more open and collaborative with opportunities to use rooms in various ways. In development, I think we will start to see parking ratios in general offices start coming down over the next 5 years. There will always be some tenants that will be more dense, but how the work force gets to and from work is changing very quickly, and I believe this will have an impact on how projects will be developed.

What is your favorite Nashville project/development from the past year?

On the smaller side, I really like what Oakpoint did in the Nations with Stocking 51. We obviously have a vested interest in that area, and I think they did a great job setting the tone for more exciting developments in the area which will include Silo Studios. I also really like the new JW Marriott’s look. We need the hotel rooms, and I think the design is a great addition to Nashville’s skyline. Another one that comes to mind is Bridgestone building. Having a company like Bridgestone move to the Central Business District (CBD) is going to be nothing but a positive for downtown Nashville.

Silo stuidos

Silo Studios

What project/development are you most looking forward to in the coming year?

I am really looking forward to see how the Nashville Yards project comes together over the next several years. While this project is a multi-year, multi-phased project, it has already kicked off with the Hyatt along Broadway. The sheer scale and location of this project has the opportunity to really be transformative. Having a mixed-use project on the periphery of the CBD, anchored by a strong entertainment venue and opportunities for new retail, is really going to be a unique gateway to our downtown.

What’s your favorite thing about Nashville?

Well, I’ve called it home all my life. I think my favorite thing is the people. I have heard all my life from people that visit Nashville, that “everyone is so friendly.” I couldn’t agree more. It is a great place to live and raise a family.

Where do you think commercial real estate is headed in the next 5+ years?

I think Nashville will continue to attract more people moving in from around the country. I also believe the quality of the workforce is improving, and this will only improve opportunities for growth in commercial and residential development. We may see a general slowdown in the next 18 months, but I think Nashville will continue to be a great growth story in the coming years.  

What do you like to do in your free time?

Spend time with my wife and help raise our five kids. That is my real job….commercial real estate is just what I do in my free time.

5 Multi-family Interior Design Trends in Nashville

Although the manic growth in Nashville has started to slow down, there are still a ton of people looking for rental housing. That influx is marked by young people who are still in their nomadic days, not yet ready to settle down and buy property. As a result, you see cranes all around town that are building apartments.

With so many of these buildings going up, architects and designers need to find ways to make their projects stand out. There is a clear style that has developed among these new, trendy living spaces, which features modern concepts, chic accents and premium finishes.Eastside Heights

A couple of our latest apartment designs, Station 40 and Eastside Heights, are no exception. Here’s what they spotlight to be on-trend:

1. Luxury surfaces

Just as hardwood floors are in demand in single family homes these days, so are they the flooring of choice in rental properties. Easy to clean with an elegant look, they are the best way to get a great-looking apartment that can be easily be prepped for the next tenant.

Another finish that adds a little luxury to a temporary home is quartz or granite countertops. Whether Island-style or along the wall the old-fashioned way, nice countertops and ample cooking space, have become a necessity in these units.

And you can’t forget those trendy kitchen backsplashes. Anyone who watches HGTV knows that a modern kitchen isn’t complete without a backsplash that provides a charming accent to the room. Subway tiles are the most current right now, and we don’t see this trend going anywhere anytime soon.

2. Metals

As we become more surrounded by technology, metal finishes are being incorporated into our homes via our computers and TV’s, down to our smartphones. Bold and attractive, metals can add a very sleek look or – as with the brushed nickel fixtures and accents Station 40 boasts – they can even add a bit of a rustic charm, as well.

Stainless steel appliances are also being featured in a lot of new and newly-renovated units. Gone are the days of finding the cheapest options possible to fill an apartment. Renters are looking for luxury, so the appliances need to be as stylish as the rest of the place.Station 40

3. Natural light

An important part of any living space, right now homeowners (and renters) are looking for more and more of it! Rather than the small paneled windows of bygone eras, multi-family designers are opting for large windows with few to no panels that often take over a majority of the outer wall spaces to let the sunlight pour in.

4. Smart technology

Along with the stainless steel appliances, multi-family developers are sweetening the deal with smarter apartments that bode well with this technological age. These include anything from Nest thermostats to USB wall jacks to key fobs rather than keyed doors. Where the young people are, the technology is too.

5. Communal spaces

Perhaps the biggest, and most important, trend in multifamily is having larger spaces outside the apartment units for social gathering. From lounges, to courtyards, to game rooms, residents have access to TVs, pool tables and other entertainment that’s fit for their whole crew of friends to come and visit. Many are located outside or offer flexibility such as garage doors that can open the space to the outdoors on nicer days. These spaces are especially necessary in a place with weather as great as Nashville’s.Eastside Heights

Many of these design trends seem to be here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future, and designers have focused on making designs that are timeless, especially with upgraded appliances and technologies. With so many buildings going up with unique and upscale styles, Nashville’s aesthetic is changing to match its reputation as a contemporary, nontraditional city with charisma.

Neighborhood Spotlight: Wedgewood-Houston

Once an industrial area filled with warehouses, factories and garages in a rundown part of town rarely visited, Wedgewood-Houston has experienced a redevelopment renaissance over the last few years as artists and creatives have flocked to the area. Two miles south of downtown, Wedgewood-Houston (AKA WeHo) boasts lower rent and housing prices relative to the nearby neighborhoods of the Gulch, 12South and Belmont.

The area’s history dates back to the American Civil War. It’s home to Fort Negley, the largest fortification built by the Union after the fall of Nashville in 1862. The abandoned Greer Stadium, the former home of the Nashville Sounds with its guitar-shaped scoreboard, sits just south of the site.

The most historic building still standing in the neighborhood is the Merritt Mansion on Humphreys Street, purchased a few years ago and converted into a recording studio by Nashville-based rock band Kings of Leon. The home was built in 1840 for Sally Merritt, the youngest daughter of Captain John Rains, and her husband, Gibson. Rains reached Nashville with James Robertson on Christmas Day, 1779, and purchased a 640-acre farm in the neighborhood.

Many of the neighborhood’s most notable restaurants and businesses embrace the area’s industrial history: Award-winning restaurant and bar Bastion is in a former jam factory; Dozen Bakery resides in a former truck repair shop; and David Lusk Gallery is in the building of a former truck mechanic. Other can’t-miss WeHo restaurants include Santa’s Pub, with its year-round Christmas decorations and top-notch karaoke, as well as Gabby’s, Clawson’s Pub & Deli and Smokin’ Thighs.

WeHo is also all about the arts. Popular among residents and visitors is the robust variety of art galleries and creative spaces located within a few blocks of each other. Some credit the David Lusk Gallery on Hagan Street, which opened in 2014, as the spark for the recent influx of redevelopment. In addition to David Lusk are Zeitgeist, Hunter + Gatherer, Sherrick & Paul and Julia Martin Gallery, all of which participate in the free monthly art walk. Named Arts & Music at Wedgewood-Houston, the event is held the first Saturday of each month, coinciding with the Downtown First Saturday Art Crawl. There are also multiple spaces for independent artists and creatives to set up shop, including in Fort Houston and the May Hosiery Co-Op complex, which is currently undergoing a major overhaul. The redeveloped complex, which contains multiple masonry buildings, will eventually include 80,000 square feet of office space, three restaurants, seven retail storefronts, rooftop space and a possible hotel.

Unique to the area is the prevalence of live-work housing, with a retail component on the first floor and a loft or living area on the second floor. New homes are also popping up as developers take advantage of the lower cost of land, and home prices are rapidly on the rise as the neighborhood continues to gain popularity.

We look forward to seeing what is next in store for the up-and-coming Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood.

Partner Profile: Tarek El Gammal, Principal at Southeast Venture

This is the first in a new blog series, in which we’re highlighting our influential partners at Southeast Venture, including information about their backgrounds, work and perspectives on real estate trends and all things Nashville. These are a few of the leaders that inspire innovation and drive our company forward, so take a few moments to get to know them.

tarek el gammalTarek El Gammal is a principal with Southeast Venture focused on brokerage and development services. Since joining Southeast Venture seven years ago, Mr. El Gammal has represented clients in a brokerage capacity of over $150 million in transaction value and has overseen the activities on approximately $70 million of development.

What changes have you seen within the company in the time you’ve been here?

In my time with the company, I’ve seen that the timing of Southeast Venture’s  growth was well-positioned with Nashville’s growth. We have become a more diverse real estate company touching more product types than before. When you look at the company’s history you can see this has been a persistent theme but one that stands out to me during my tenure.

What trends are you seeing in commercial real estate?

There is definitely a big trend toward urban growth. In the past five years, the multifamily sector went from a shortage to more supply than demand with owners who are offering healthy incentives for prospective renters. Submarkets like Germantown, that didn’t exist only a few years ago, are thriving. We are also seeing a trend in the most desirable suburbs where multifamily developments are being developed as part of larger mixed use projects, rather than standalone buildings.

And deal sizes continue to grow – not just because of inflationary effects, but also because of the scale of projects being undertaken. We’re seeing a city change before our eyes with density difficult for anyone to have imagined 10 years ago.

What was your favorite project/development from 2017?

Eastside Heights, in East Nashville, has been a special experience for me. Theunique architectural design coupled with wonderful public art (see: the “EAST” mural) has made it a landmark asset in some respects. I’ve enjoyed watching the first residents occupy the building and take advantage of the amenities we all worked so hard to program correctly. More broadly, I’ve enjoyed watching Germantown build out its residential housing. 2017 was a pivotal year for the neighborhood where a tremendous amount of supply was delivered and has helped to create a truly unique part of Nashville.

Eastside Heights

What project/development are you most looking forward to in 2018?

I’ve really enjoyed seeing the work our firm is doing on the Silo Bend project. It will have such a huge impact on that area of town [The Nations] and help in its ongoing transition from a heavy industrial corridor into a walkable neighborhood with office, retail and residential areas. The Nashville Yards project will be one that I am excited to see start in earnest, as it will have one of the greatest impacts on our city’s downtown once fully built out. It’s going to be amazing to see.

What’s your favorite thing about Nashville?

Everything (it’s hard to pick), but I would point to the music industry, which is something that creates a unique angle for the city.

Where do you think commercial real estate is headed in the next 5+ years?

Hopefully up. From my perspective, I think that the current conditions of oversupply in multifamily housing will be short-lived and our market will return to a healthier supply/demand balance in the next 12 months or so. From there, it is likely that the development activity will return to a more sustainable level.

Neighborhood Spotlight: Charlotte Avenue Corridor

Through the heart of Nashville runs a familiar street that crosses through several up-and-coming neighborhoods, including Sylvan Park, Sylvan Heights and The Nations. Where Charlotte passes through these neighborhoods you’ll find a bustling area lined with some of Nashville’s best new restaurants, apartments and businesses.

In the early 1800s, Charlotte Avenue – formerly known as Cedar Street – linked the southern steps of the Capitol all the way to the western edge of town. The construction of James Robertson Parkway later broke up this direct route. The street name was changed from Cedar to Charlotte because it ultimately leads to the town of Charlotte in Dickson County – which was named for the wife of James Robertson.

The 1980s and 90s saw a Charlotte Avenue that was much like the rest of Nashville, run-down and in need of some serious overhauling. In fact, a key landmark in the neighborhood was the historic Tennessee state prison. Since then, the area has been part of massive urban redevelopment projects that have made Nashville into the city it is now.

Many of the remaining warehouses and industrial buildings from the “olden days” are now being repurposed for other projects. In 2016, we started development on a former industrial site at 5400 Centennial Boulevard in The Nations. The development, which broke ground last year as Silo Bend, centers on a 200-ft tall silo and will include single-family homes and apartments, as well as mixed-use space for offices, retail, restaurants and more.

Groundbreaking ceremony at Silo Bend

Today, the section between 40th and 52nd Avenues has sprung up with many trendy new dining options, including Salt & Vine, Double Dogs and M.L. Rose, as well as classics such as Hattie B’s Hot Chicken.

And the neighborhood has completely turned around from its run-down days to a neighborhood with a higher concentration of “urban sophisticates” than 96 percent of U.S. neighborhoods.

From a once industrial part of the city to a blossoming town center, Charlotte Avenue has become a hot spot for families young and old to shop, eat and live. As property values continue to rise, it is quickly becoming one of the places to be. There is no doubt it will continue to expand outward, but in the meantime, do yourself a favor and try some of those delicious restaurants.

A Look at Cool Springs After its 30th Anniversary

Cool Springs was the brainchild of Southeast Venture founders George Volkert and Dick Sorenson. It’s almost unbelievable to think that it’s been 30 years since ground was broken for the Cool Springs interchange in 1987. The official anniversary was on November 12, 2017, which was serendipitously Dick Sorenson’s birthday.

The Cool Springs area has come a long way in 30 years, from thousands of undeveloped acres of open fields to 7.5 million square feet of office space – a close second to downtown Nashville.

Once the interchange was approved by the Department of Transportation, the partnership sold property to CBL & Associates from Chattanooga to develop the Cool Springs Galleria. That put us on the map as the company responsible for the original master plan and beginning execution of Cool Springs.

A Nashville Post article, published in conjunction with the November anniversary, revealed that the development once was known as Park65, but the name Cool Springs was chosen instead for a nearby landmark, the Cool Springs Farm, which included a historic home, now relocated to Crockett Park.

Former Southeast Venture President George Volkert promised at the groundbreaking that the 1,150-acre Cool Springs project would create 16,000 jobs and more than $200 million in city and county tax revenues over 20 years, and that promise has surely been met.

Breaking ground on the interchange set the stage for a major regional hub outside of Davidson County. Developments have now expanded to both sides of Interstate 65 in Cool Springs, including several luxury hotels, shopping centers (in addition to the mall), business parks, office buildings, big box retailers, low-rise apartments, condominiums, restaurants and car dealerships.

It has become a regional center, drawing people from across Middle Tennessee, southern Kentucky and northern Alabama.

One of our first large-scale projects, we never could have imagined the explosive growth that has taken place in Cool Springs. We look back at this development fondly and are excited to see how the area continues to expand for years to come.