From the Nashville Business Journal:
Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce preps corporate campus sites
Premium content from Nashville Business Journal - by Annie Johnson, Staff
Date: Friday, February 18, 2011, 5:00am CST
Commercial Real Estate
Nashville business leaders want to create a shovel-ready inventory of 30- to 50-acre sites for corporate campuses.
It’s an effort aimed at attracting more companies to Davidson County, which is facing growing competition from surrounding suburban counties, namely Williamson.
In the past decade, 96 percent of major company relocations and expansions in Middle Tennessee have landed in suburban-type settings, rather than urban, downtown locations, according to recent research by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. Efforts to increase Davidson County’s piece of that suburban market largely have been bucked by neighborhood concerns, political discourse and economic woes.
While details of the new plan are in the works, economic development officials and commercial real estate brokers point to growing momentum for transforming smaller, vacant lots into campus-style sites that can fit a handful of 100,000- to 150,000-square- foot buildings.
Officials aren’t shy about the barriers to such a plan: Rezoning and redeveloping land would require significant cooperation from a handful of stakeholders – support that has been slim in recent years.
It’s easy for "people sitting in leadership … just to turn our back and say, ‘Let the private sector solve it,’ " said Janet Miller, chief economic development officer with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. "What we’re realizing is it’s going to take more than just private sector ingenuity to really make this work."
Namely, projects like the controversial May Town Center failed when organizers didn’t fully account for zoning changes that would have allowed for a bridge to the development. And the proposed redevelopment of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds lost momentum when neighborhood groups protested.
Miller said the latest effort will involve the coordination of public entities, private developers, engineers and topographers alike. The chamber already has identified available parcels of at least 30 acres scattered throughout Davidson County.
"Let’s get the public players to the table, let’s get the private players to the table and go at this methodically," Miller said.
Alexia Poe, Metro’s director of economic and community development, said the city typically works on projects deal by deal, but having ready-to-go sites would help streamline that process.
"These focused, targeted, smaller sites are working with and maximizing what we have," Poe said.
Bert Mathews, president of The Mathews Co. and chairman of the Nashville chamber, said Nashville and Davidson County have missed out on a variety of opportunities by focusing on individual sites.
"The issue is trying to make sure that we don’t deal with this site-by-site but by addressing and trying to put together a whole variety of different sites and learn from different issues that we’ve gone through," he said.
That’s where creating an inventory comes into play. Think of it as a scaled down version of what the Tennessee Valley Authority did with its megasite program that landed Hemlock Semiconductor in Clarksville and Volkswagen in Chattanooga.
Hilton "Buck" Forcum, a principal with the Nashville office of brokerage Newmark Knight Frank, said having those types of sites dotted throughout Davidson County could help attract more firms.
"That’s why you’ve got so many of those things going down to Cool Springs," Forcum said, where suburban campuses are plentiful.
The location of potential corporate campuses in Davidson County is up in the air, but economic development officials have a good starting point: an inventory of existing zoned and vacant property.
That inventory shows a lack of available, vacant parcels of 30 acres or more, but business leaders say they’re working with what they have.
"There just aren’t a lot of horse pastures … to choose from," said Janet Miller, chief economic development officer with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. Most of the identified space is scattered throughout Davidson County. A dozen or so properties dot the Cane Ridge Road area, while another six are dispersed throughout Antioch. But those two areas haven’t seen any major relocation or expansions in the past decade, according to chamber research.
The Ashland City area, on the other hand, has about 13 parcels that are 30 acres or more.
Courtney Ross, vice president of existing business at the chamber, emphasized the map of parcels is simply a starting point. Land could be eliminated for a variety of reasons including topography and access to interstates.
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