UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Real Estate Club visited Nashville, TN – the home of country music – to learn more about the real estate market in this fast-growing metropolitan area.
Nashville has benefited from several decades of strong mayoral leadership that has made economic development in Nashville – especially in the downtown areas – a priority, creating a lot of opportunity for those in commercial real estate.
From the acquisition of two professional sports teams (the NHL’s Predators and the NFL’s Titans) to the development of two new downtown sports arenas and world-class conference venue to the relocation of several key employers to downtown Nashville neighborhoods, once blighted and abandoned areas are now experiencing a renaissance thanks to significant public and private investment and the presence of talented commercial real estate developers and financiers.
Our trip was organized by Nashville native Tyler Jones (MBA ’15), vice president of Holladay Properties. Our morning kicked off with a history of Nashville development and an overview of the commercial real estate market by Bert Mathews (BA ’76), president of Nashville-based The Mathews Company and partner at Colliers International. Mr. Mathews gave us a tour of his company’s Trolley Barns property, an adaptive-reuse project of six buildings built in the 1940s and formerly occupied by municipal public works departments. Once a neglected area of Nashville, the Trolley Barns property is now home to several for-profit and nonprofit organizations, as well as a handful of restaurants, bringing residents back to this section of the city again.
Next we were afforded an insider’s look at Music City Center, Nashville’s 1.2 million square-foot convention center that opened in May 2013. The construction of Music City Center and the neighboring Bridgestone Arena were catalysts for the revitalization of the part of Nashville’s downtown area popularly known as SoBro, short for “South of Broadway.”
Charles Starks, chief executive officer of Music City Center, provided us with an overview of the building’s history, including the challenges of creating an enticing convention center and downtown focal point across a site that has a 65-foot elevation change from end to end!
In addition to the Trolley Barns and Music City Center sites, we met with executives from Highwoods Properties, the largest office landlord in the Nashville area. Highwoods is building a new 30-story office tower in downtown Nashville that will be the corporate headquarters of Bridgestone Americas. Once completed, the new 514,000 square foot Bridgestone building will help to further reshape Nashville’s growing skyline.
We also met with executives from Boyle Investment Company, who detailed their Capitol View project – a 32-acre mixed-use development expected to contain one million square feet of office space, 312,000 square feet of retail space, over 1,000 apartment units and two hotels.
We concluded our day in Nashville by meeting with MarketStreet Enterprises at their new 205,000 square foot Gulch Crossing office building. MarketStreet Enterprises is the master developer of The Gulch, a 60-acre former industrial area, which has been transformed into one of Nashville’s most desirable locations. In addition to MarketStreet’s new Gulch Crossing building, The Gulch is home to a number of apartment buildings and condos, retail space, restaurants and Class A office space.
With $2.4 billion in building permits approved in 2015, and more than 20 cranes actively working within Nashville’s urban core, it is clear that the real estate boom in Nashville is showing no signs of letting up. Music City is a fine example of how a supportive local government and business leaders can work together to promote economic growth and development and revitalize urban downtown neighborhoods.