Imagine retail shops, restaurants and entertainment venues wrapping around the Broadway and Fifth Avenue North sections of a redeveloped Nashville Convention Center property with an office building plus new convention and meeting space for the Renaissance Nashville Hotel facing Commerce Street.
Then picture an apartment building just down the hill toward Broadway with an amenity deck overlooking the city.
Or consider walking along new pedestrian-friendly streets with sidewalks, landscaping and curbside parking incorporated into the design of the overall 1.9 million-square-foot project eyed for the old convention hall site.
Those are among features of the planned $400 million makeover of the 6.2-acre tract, which received a major boost, with national mixed-use developer OliverMcMillan signing up as developer Pat Emery's joint venture partner.
"This will lead to a block-by-block more rapid evolution of the downtown because success begets success and the high tide raises all of the boats," said Dene Oliver, chief executive officer of San Diego-based OliverMcMillan. "We're going to bring the first-ever live-work-play-shop experience there."
Involvement of OliverMcMillan, whose Buckhead Atlanta upscale, mixed-use development just won the Urban Land Institute Atlanta's Project of the Year, is seen as a milestone for the local redevelopment effort. Nationwide, the firm's various projects have been known to attract upscale retail tenants.
"For them to look at Nashville in the same light as some of the other very large markets in which they're working sheds a positive light on our city," said Drew Chorney, a partner in RightSite Partners LLC, a Nashville-based company providing site selection services to retailers and developers.
Work could start in summer
Emery bringing OliverMcMillan along as his joint venture partner comes as the local development team he leads faces a Jan. 31 deadline to submit final plans to Nashville's Convention Center Authority.
The convention center authority picked Emery's group, which includes Cushman & Wakefield|Cornerstone, to negotiate a contract as the master developer. The authority will then make a recommendation to the Metro Council, which ultimately would have to approve any agreement.
The revised design creates a more open-air feel, with residential units and new streets added to the mix. "The other design had retail, but this will be very successful retail, and this really creates more of a neighborhood with all of the uses," said Emery, who's best known as an office developer in Cool Springs.
Investment bankers at J.P. Morgan, which has been Emery's financial backer on past office projects, initiated his initial conversation with OliverMcMillan.
If plans stay on track, work will start in the summer with demolition of the existing convention center structure. The construction is expected to take 2½ years.
Oliver said OliverMcMillan plans to pitch the retail space through its New York offices, with some of the retailers to be similar to those at its Buckhead Atlanta and River Oaks District project in Houston.
"This isn't necessarily going to be about luxury shopping," Oliver added. "This is going to be about urban experiential shopping. Nashville is not a hard sell. People get it. There hasn't been an opportunity like this before. Everything's been in the mall."
Barry Smith, president of Nashville-based commercial real estate firm Eakin Partners, welcomed the addition of apartments to the plans. "Residential would give the project an additional element, thereby widening its appeal," he said.
OliverMcMillan has $1.8 billion in projects under construction or just completed in cities such as San Diego, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Denver and Phoenix. Oliver declined to discuss financing of the redevelopment of Nashville Convention Center, but cited the firm's ties to well-known lenders.
Reach Getahn Ward at 615-726-5968 and on Twitter @Getahn.
The project is expected to include:
• 215,000 square feet of retail, entertainment and dining space
• 350 apartments
• A roughly 300,000-square-foot office tower up to 18 stories
• 60,000 square feet of creative offices above the retail space
• A 140,000-square-foot conference center
• The 40,000-square-foot National Museum of African American Music
• Up to 2,500 parking spaces
Written by Getahn Ward
Article from Tennessean