Greenways and high-rises: Nashville’s next era of development

Greenways and high-rises: Nashville’s next era of development

Writer: Ryan Gandolfo

3 min read March 2023 — As new development continues to send Nashville and Middle Tennessee into the stratosphere, the region’s real estate and construction leaders discussed ways to be intentional about growth and challenges to address, from affordable housing to mobility. At the opening panel of the Invest: Nashville 2022-2023 launch conference, moderated by The Housing Fund President and CEO Marshall Crawford, founders and leaders shared their perspectives on the development pipeline in Nashville and what it means for outlying communities and the region’s outlook.

“Middle Tennessee serves as the anchor for so many other cities. Sprawl is a major conversation and impacts those individuals who can’t afford to live in Nashville, so they’re looking at Clarksville, Columbia, or other nearby cities,” said Crawford. Located about 40 minutes southeast of Nashville, Murfreesboro is one of those cities — and ranked as Smartasset’s No. 3 boomtown in the United States, citing a significant increase in housing units and business growth in recent years.

As the city has grown, so have its economic drivers. “Nashville’s economy is remarkably more robust than before when it was healthcare and music. That’s not the case now. You have the tech sector, which is going through some bumps, industrial manufacturing, and you mention our deal in Clarksville on the EV side… those types of growth environments are where our business goes. The nice part is it’s coming from a lot of different places. We’ve been intentional about our diversity of work but luckily we are in a market where we can do that,” said JE Dunn Construction Senior Vice President Sean Buck. Near the end of 2022, South Korea-based LG Chem announced an investment of $3.2 billion for an EV battery manufacturing facility in Clarksville, signaling a new milestone in regional investment for an emerging industry. Nashville Business Journal’s Adam Sichko reported that JE Dunn Construction will lead the construction of the factory, citing multiple sources.

As Middle Tennessee continues to see businesses relocate and expand, so has the number of residents calling Music City home. During the panel discussion, Mark Deutschmann, founder of The CityLiving Group, spoke to his efforts in making the city more sustainable and affordable through smart planning. “During the pandemic, we’ve been building the greenway system that will come from Centennial Park and down to the farmer’s market. That will kick off this year. We’ve also been thinking about where the Old Sounds Stadium used to be. It’s a 68-acre park that’s now out for master planning and I think we’ll see some funding in the next capital budget that will create a world-class urban park to serve our community,” said Deutschmann. “We’ve been building for a car-centric society for 50 to 70 years and now we need to connect the dots in the urban core. We need to connect people to places with greenways and smart bikeways to make it easy for people to get to their jobs, school, or church. It’s an ingredient for affordable living — you let people move without a car and save some money.”

While the city remains in growth mode despite concerns of an economic downturn, there are challenges that leaders feel cannot be overlooked. “We’re continuing to see supply chain improvements but I stay awake at night worrying about where we are going to get all the people to build the buildings and also to work in all the businesses we have here. Setting up good transportation systems that include all of Middle Tennessee and raise the level of all communities so people continue to move in will drive our businesses,” said John Vardaman, business unit leader at DPR Construction. Vardaman cited a recent survey that showed 90% of construction projects experienced a delay of some sort from their original timeline. “I do think there’s something there where people are focused on starting fast rather than finishing fast. That’s where the planning piece comes in and having the right people there early on,” he said, adding that processes like prefabrication help “limit the manpower on site for an efficient, well-run project.”

As the panel’s discussion wrapped up, speakers returned to what makes Nashville a unique and exciting market. “There’s a lot of good things about Nashville, and we actually have a brand. … If you ever have a chance to have your city named after a TV show, take it,” said Deutschmann.

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