Unlike May Town, Buchanan Point put people first

02/25/2013 -

From The Tennessean LOCAL & BUSINESS



Unlike May Town, Buchanan Point put people first

The defunct $4 billion My Town Center in Bells Bend was a development and public relations disaster.

But Buchanan Point, a 179-acre Donelson office park scheduled to break ground Oct. 22, sailed through the approval process and is embrace by all involved.  What make the difference was a combination of style, substance and attention to people instead of profit.

May Town, pushed by Jack May, was proposed for 500 acres in Bells Bend, one of Nashville’s last pristine rural areas.  People who live and farm in the area were livid at the idea of a mini-city with housing and retail and office space.

Buchanan Point, owned and developed by Bert Mathews with The Mathews Co., will be an office park on land between Interstate 40, Elm Hill Pike and McCrory Creek Road.  It’s a much smaller development than May Town, and it features suburbs, offices and the airport.  The area has already changed dramatically – over the past 30 year, some neighborhoods were bought out and turned commercial because of flight noise levels.

“It’s just a totally different parcel of land.” Councilman Phil Claiborne said.  “You don’t have the rural aspect. You don’t have the farmers and the ecological concerns.”

Developer did his homework

Size and location don’t tell the whole story of why May Town was squashed and Buchanan Point embraced.  In fact, it was fully approved before most people knew it existed.

“Mr. Mathews did his homework and listened to people,” said Councilman Bruce Stanley, who represents the area. “He was able to take their input, and they were able to take his input.”

May Town was fully designed before anyone saw it.  It was a “my way or the highway” approach that left precious little room for comprise.

While May Town was stirring heated debate and being picked apart by planners, Mathews quietly met 18 times with Donelson neighbors.

Mathews learned about the area’s history. Instead of looking at the area and seeing only dollar signs, he met with heirs of the Buchanan and Whitworth families before naming the project.

And, he was willing to make crucial changes to please the councilman and neighbors. Buchanan morphed from a residential and office plan to purely office, after concerns about traffic.  When neighbors had concerns about blasting, Mathews brought in an expert to talk with them, and ended up agreeing on restrictions to make the neighbors happy.

“The thing I’m most grateful for is the neighbors were willing to learn and comprise,” Mathews said.  “We did not bring the design to market until the neighbors had approved it and we were through with the process.”

Proving there’s a classy way to go about these things. And then there’s the other way.

Gail Kerr’s column runs on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. She can be reached at 615-259-8085 or gherr@tennessean.com

I have a rule about real estate: there’s a time to buy and a time to sell.  The trick is knowing when to do that.

You just have to have feel about it.” – Bob Mathews