For Better or for Worse, Brentwood Backtracks on Residential Development

For the past 24 years, Chip Thompson has lived in Brentwood. He and his wife raised their family in the affluent city, located less than 10 south of Nashville. Today, Thompson's children are grown and he is semi-retired.

"I guess you can say we've had the full Brentwood experience," Thompson told me.

Thompson worries that developers are threatening to erode that experience by creating condos and apartments in what Brentwood likes to call its Town Center district, the city's attempt to create a traditional downtown or Main Street. The zoned area (called C-4, in case you've seen the protesting yard signs) is about a half-mile west of exits 74A and 74B of Interstate 65.

Thompson is far from the only one taking a stand. Brentwood's seven city commissioners are poised to vote tonight to forbid residential development within a half-mile of the original Town Center — undoing what city leaders had endorsed barely four years before, in an effort to spur activity.

Many in Brentwood have been unhappy and uneasy ever since. The first project approved under the more generous zoning is named Tapestry, 393 condos for rent on 7 acres. The first residents are scheduled to move in this spring.

The next project to come along was proposed by Jimmy Granbery, of H.G. Hill Realty Co., a family who's been a staple in the region's business community for 120 years. The proposed Streets of Brentwood involved nearly 1 million square feet of development on 17 acres, including condos. The backlash over condos, traffic and density prompted Granbery to withdraw his plans and shrink them, in part by stripping the residential piece.

The Monday vote by city commissioners means Tapestry will be the first and last of its kind, ending the city's flirt with more concentrated and intensive residential development.

The vote reinforces Brentwood's desire to try to be the same traditional city it's always been — a notable contrast these days to Nashville, where there's hardly a part of town without the cranes and bulldozers heralding the arrival of dense mixed-use development.

Lately, those pressures have crept across city lines into Brentwood, sparking complaints about clogged traffic and worries about the sewer system becoming overwhelmed and needing costly repairs. The city's population has grown by 52 percent since 2000, topping 40,000 residents. Brentwood's median household income is $134,000, two-and-a-half times the national average. The city is desirable for many reasons, including its esteemed public schools, quality office parks and convenient proximity between Nashville to the north, and Franklin and Cool Springs to the south.

City leaders are betting that they'll be just fine by sticking to the suburban-style housing that got them here: traditional, single-family homes with lush yards.

"A giant apartment complex going up in the middle of town, that has never been part of what Brentwood was, or is. Now that sleepy Brentwood is waking up and looking at what's going on, the reaction is, 'Oh my God, this isn't us,' " Thompson said. "I'm not saying that's 100 percent of the people, but I think it's the majority. We certainly can grow, but we don't have to change the nature of the city to do it."

Thompson and developers at least can agree on this much: Brentwood's change of course isn't all that surprising. It's almost as if Tapestry somehow snuck in, before residents realized what was possible under the city's newly expanded zoning.

"In their perfect world, they'd like to be a community of single-family homes on one-acre lots. But I told one of the commissioners, if you think today like you did 20 years ago ... then 20 years from now, you won't like what you see," said David Hanchrow. He is the chief investment officer at Bristol Development Group — the Franklin-based company responsible for Tapestry.

"The truth is, they don't know if they like it or not. We're not even open. How do they know they don't like it?" Hanchrow said.

"I think what they have is a fear of the unknown," Hanchrow said. "Tapestry is something different, something new. And it's not bad, it's just, different. We said, if you really want a town center, you have to have people living there."

Tapestry offers a pretty even mixed of one-bedroom units and two-bedroom units. The smallest, at 571 square feet, rents for $1,050 a month. The 20 largest units, upgraded with high-end finishes, rent for $3,600 a month.

Hanchrow said he expects Tapestry to attract employees recruited by the many companies headquartered in Brentwood, which range from Tractor Supply Corp. (Nasdaq: TSCO) toLifePoint Hospitals (Nasdaq: LPNT).

Hanchrow also expects to attract empty-nesters looking to live closer to restaurants and shopping and entertainment, and no longer needing the space to raise a family.

"This idea that if you no longer want to cut a one-acre lawn, that you're not welcome in Brentwood ... that's just crazy to tell someone who's been an active member of the community for so long," Hanchrow said.

Tapestry is located two-tenths of a mile off of Franklin Road. Just up the road, at the southwest corner of Franklin Road and Maryland Way, is H.G. Hill's project.

Originally, the so-named Streets of Brentwood involved 950,000 square feet of development: offices, retail, restaurants, a movie theater and roughly 250 condos for lease. In February 2013, Granbery and co-developer GBT Realty Corp., of Brentwood, withdrew their plans — ending some 20 months of work.

Afterward, city officials instituted a one-year moratorium on rezoning in this area, cutting off any similar development proposals that were in the pipeline.

Granbery came back with a new plan for the same 17 acres, with a new name: Hill Center Brentwood. The mixed-use development will not include apartments or condos, instead focusing on office space, retail and restaurants.

Demolition on-site is complete. Granbery expects Hill Center Brentwood to open in fall 2016, and he's already announced a key office tenant.

Hill Center Brentwood will involve 600,000 square feet of buildings, or 37 percent less than the originally proposed 950,000-square-foot development.

"I think it's not necessarily about density, as much as it is about the perception of Brentwood: one acre, one house. That's what people in Brentwood moved there for. That's why Brentwood is what it is. You can't argue with their success," Granbery told me.

"Any kind of condos or apartments run contrary to what Brentwood was founded on. That's where the push back is coming from," Granbery added. "We're happy with office and retail. We think it will be fabulous. And so we move on. We've got a very good thing going."

Thompson, the 24-year Brentwood resident, agrees with that final point.

"I don't think residents are saying, 'Stop the growth,' " Thompson said. "We want more office, more retail, more restaurants — without inviting the crowding and the infrastructure stress that you get with an apartment complex.

"Apartments are great," Thompson added. "We just don't want them right where we are."

 

Article From: Nashville Business Journal

Written by: Adam Sichko