Emma planning Rolling Mill Hill move

E-mail marketers to anchor trolley barns development

The leaders of e-mail marketing company Emma have signed a letter of intent to lease 20,000 square feet of space in the trolley barns at the base of Rolling Mill Hill.

The eight-year-old company – one of Nashville’s most successful homegrown technology stories – plans to move its 85 local employees into two of the six-building trolley barn cluster in the summer of 2011. Between now and then, Mathews Co. will oversee their renovation, which will include a patio-like area between the buildings.

Several details still need to be ironed out, but Bo Spessard, Emma’s director of operations, said the lease will be for between six and eight years and will include parking spots. Rachel Mitchel of NAI Nashville represented Mathews; Emma did not use a broker.

The trolley barns were built in the early 1920s to handle the maintenance of the city’s electric streetcars. Along with a few of the Metro General Hospital buildings, city planners have viewed them as a crucial component of the redevelopment of Rolling Mill Hill and the vision for a truly mixed-use downtown.

Co-founder Clint Smith said the Rolling Mill Hill site appealed to his team on several levels. It’s a funky urban crossroads adjacent to the Cumberland River greenway, comes with plenty of open interior space and is expected to become the heart of a planned creative community.

“There aren’t that many opportunities like this, something that feels like a place Emma ought to be,” Smith said. “This is an entrepreneurial venture in a start-up neighborhood.”

Developer Bert Mathews said his team has “other things in the works” for the trolley barns – which total 90,000 square feet – and intends to launch renovation work in earnest this summer.

“Our idea is focused on creating a community,” Mathews said. “We want to maintain the character, the essence of the buildings themselves.”

Emma’s lease includes the option of taking up another 10,000 square feet down the road. The company has steadily added people since its founding in late 2001, outgrowing spaces in Grassmere, off Music Row and in Hillsboro Village. It moved into its current home on Eighth Avenue South in 2008, where it now leases 15,000 square feet on three floors.

Emma’s letter of intent comes just a few weeks after Michael Hayes at C.B. Ragland said it will redevelop the former Music City Mix Factory that sits two blocks from the trolley barns.