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The New Nashville Skyline

With a growing number of condos and loft buildings in the works, downtown Nashville is set for its biggest growth spurt ever. Not to mention to three quarters of a billion dollar convention center…

Nashville’s Downtown Construction Boom

When Jed Clampett first struck his fountain of bubbling crude -oil that is -he loaded up and his truck and he moved to Beverly. Today he could have stayed closer to home. Today he could have purchased a swanky high-rise condominium unit in downtown Nashville. He could have plopped down $1 million for a premium riverfront metropolitan penthouse, and no one would have batted an eye. He might have had to lose the tattered hat and worn jacket but, otherwise, he would have been perfectly happy.

Believe it or not, over the past few years Nashville has witnessed a sudden spurt of interest in downtown living, one that’s generated a remarkable construction boom in both condos and lofts alike. You might think the folks living in a place so steeped in tradition as Music City would be making for the foothills, carving out blasé subdivisions like they do everywhere else, but you’d be wrong. Despite all the gritty twang that Nashville’s recording industry puts out, the city itself is actually a very hip place, with enough artists, intellectuals, and forward thinkers to put larger towns to shame. What’s more, the local population is proportionally young. The average age is just 35.

Nashville’s young and upwardly mobile have been moving into downtown dwellings by the thousands, generating an unprecedented boom in the downtown Nashville real estate market. Everything is downtown anyway, all the cool nightspots, the restaurants, the Titans Stadium, the Predators Arena, the new library, the symphony, the river. Why not live next door to it all?

Downtown Nashville Condos

Indeed, so many people have moved in that numerous downtown residential districts have been carved out. Nobody says they live downtown anymore. You live in SoBro, the area just south of Broadway where all the old honkytonks are. Or you live in Rolling Mill Hill, or the Central Business District, or the Music District, or The Gulch, which is a renovated rail-yard and warehouse district.

The Gulch – now there’s an interesting story unique to Nashville. Just a few years ago it was all but lifeless, strewn with weedy cement lots and vacant structures. Now it’s a thriving community, where a 1,000 square foot condo unit can fetch more than $300,000. To get a sense of how eager people are to live in renovated neighborhoods like The Gulch, consider the case of The Icon, the area’s very first residential condo tower. In its first phase of development, Icon sold all of the units in a 22 story building in less than 48 hours. Now it is nearing completion of its second phase, but those have all been sold too.

The appearance of distinct downtown neighborhoods helps foster a sense of community, but it’s also good for business. When people move into downtown dwellings, stores come in behind them. The Gulch is becoming a nice place to live, for instance, but it is facing a demand for new restaurants, grocers, and even coffee houses. Thus, as downtown becomes more populous, retailers and entrepreneurs stand to benefit as well, especially as the demand for essential goods and services continues to grow. This is exactly why Philadelphia based Urban Outfitters is set to open their very first store in Tennessee right smack in the middle of The Gulch.

Resident Demand vs. Condo Supply

With so many people keen on moving into downtown condos and loft renovations, more developers are bound to come calling. Currently, more than 1,000 units are being built and an equal number have recently been announced. By next year, an estimated 4,500 new units will be available for sale or lease. Even so, the market is by no means saturated. That’s because Nashville adds five to six thousand new residents each year, which means that demand will continue to outpace supply by a large margin. Some forecasters are even predicting that the trend towards downtown settlement will last for the next 25 years.

And if the newcomers are anything like the regulars, they’re going to want to live downtown, too. Unlike so many other places, where builders head out to the suburbs, the emphasis in Nashville has been on urban renewal. City Hall has played a significant role in the revitalization effort, generating tax incentives for developers to create new residential units that allow people to live where they work. Comparatively speaking, the condos and rental units that have appeared downtown over the past few years are highly affordable. $250,000 may seem like a substantial investment for a small living space, but it’s peanuts compared to what people shell out to live in some of the city’s older neighborhoods like Historic Richland and Historic Edgefield.

Nashville Lofts

Affordability’s not the only reason people want to live downtown. With both fuel prices and environmental concerns on the rise, fewer consumers are interested in making lengthy commutes. For people who work in midtown and downtown Nashville, condos and lofts are a sensible option to housing that’s 30 to 45 minutes away. Not only are they able to save a considerable sum on gasoline costs, they also have the satisfaction of knowing they have a lower carbon footprint.

Of course there are negative consequences to all of this growth, as well. More residents means more construction, more noise, and slower traffic. As of yet, the development has taken place on a relatively sporadic scale, but as the pace increases so too will the urban congestion. There will also be a need for a modest increase in police presence across the various downtown development zones, in order to keep the crime at bay. As property rates rise in conjunction with high demand, so will the area’s attractiveness to the criminal element. Thankfully, Nashville enjoys modest crime rates, anyway, so the installment of one or two police substations ought to be sufficient.

Even though these detractors can be significant and should be taken seriously, they have not been enough so to dampen people’s enthusiasm for living downtown, and with good reason. Over the past few years more than a billion dollars has been poured into downtown development and renovation projects. There are more amenities and services for downtown residents than ever, and the overall quality of life is remarkably high. What’s more, downtown Nashville has much to offer in the way of both history and natural beauty. What could be better than to have it all in one’s own back yard?

 

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