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Downtown Condo Blues Option to Green

Black visqueen covering unfinished floors at the Velocity in the Gulch this past winter speak volumes about the difficulties experienced by some Nashville new wave urban condo developers. Whiplashed by the fall of credit markets, front end speculation of a downtown real estate boom the evaporated before it really got started, many of those projects completed and their owners are under stress.

Some have owners but not “occupied.” Some stand out right empty. Some have been seen default, bankruptcy, and auction. Too many stand fallow and under utilized. Make no mistake, MDHA wanted a viable downtown community with a mix of affordable and upscale housing and structured tax credits for that purpose. Some of these developers came to MDHA with that promise.

But as life things haven’t turned out to match the city’s political and philosophical strategy and planning with the expediency of some developer’s true intent and marketing of their housing projects. The newly created tax base intended to be generated by these projects and the 15 year projections with them are at risk. It is clear the upscale downtown condo market with substantial active occupancy will not be coming anytime soon. Nor has a viable downtown option for diverse income levels.

There are over 1000 condo-like rooms and space within the immediate Downtown, Arts, and Gulch Districts. The MDHA and City of Nashville believe there is a strong need to add an adjacent Marriott Maquis-type hotel with 750 to 1000 rooms to the Music City Center project. As noted in previous articles and other media outlets the MDHA has been unable to secure any of interested investment groups with any appetite to participate in new hotel construction building venture.

Such commitment woud be at least a three year process when fully funded for a project of that scale and a budget in excess of $ 250 million. There is nothing publically on the near horizon to think a benefactor will be found soon other than “We’re hopeful” from those spoke persons close to the project.
What Nashville has are buildings in are place that could be converted to hospitality application. It would improve the at-risk residential tax base and increase the always valued hotel occupancy revenue. Conversion to a concierge specific or limited service hotel property is a viable option.

For the Gulch properties, it could add fresh product and close proximity to the southwest corner focal point of the Music City which could further enhance that dining and entertainment corridor between 8th and 12th Avenue via Division. It could revive the dream for this district and breathe added new life and resuscitate hopes for the original diverse urban community.

Here’s a partial list of condo-apartment with greater than 80 units within downtown proximity to the new Music City Center and the development districts established by the Metropolitan Development and Housing Authority.

Bennie Dillon Lofts

Some of these locations are tied in to deed restrictions in conjunction with benefits extended through MDHA development programs. These restrictions preclude change of usage of the properties as originally intended. Few of those locations have public published unit pricing that one would consider affordable housing for those who’d promote an inclusionary downtown community.

Conversion to limited service or concierge level hospitality venues could be a creative and economic option. Would there be some additional support infrastructure for this application required? Certainly. Would it be close to the price of $250 million and three year to complete? Highly unlikely. Would it enhance downtown vibe and the needed tax base? It would preclude the Gulch “hip hot” from becoming the Gulp “hip not.”

For image and political pragmatism city fathers probably should probably consider and encourage additional options precluding the sight of visqueen and dark residential buildings within a half mile of their new Music City Center jewel in 2013.


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