Midtown braces for major growth

West End Summit expected to spur infill within fast-changing district

Mention Midtown to many Nashvillians and the response might be one of puzzlement.

In fairness, most locals likely are only vaguely aware of the massive district’s boundaries, which many commercial real estate experts define as bordered by the interstate loop on the east, Demonbreun Street/Division Street on the south, 21st Avenue on the west and Charlotte Avenue on the north.

Perhaps the district — which arguably is only moderately less important to the city than downtown — needs an anchor, a defining element that signals a sense of place and permanency. And with major on-site work soon to start on the two-towers-plus-hotel West End Summit, that centerpiece is forthcoming.

“It will be significant,” Stan Snipes, president and principal broker with Midtown-based XMi Commercial, said of the $300 million-plus West End Summit and its looming impact.

Specifically, the central portion of Midtown — with Hayes Street as the southern boundary — will be particularly influenced by the development, Snipes said. This area currently has excessive “dead space” that is ripe for reinvention — as at least 30 medium-size or larger low-use lots are located within its confines. Most of these parcels provide asphalt surface parking, while a handful are simply empty lots or have unused buildings.

There are few buildings of five floors or more. In short, this Midtown segment is underutilized.

“When you look at what is there now, you can’t help but see the potential for larger-scale product,” Snipes said. “You’ll see that corridor [within greater Midtown] filling in and a lot more product. Within 10 years, it will look very different.”

With XMi involved with about 40 properties in Midtown, Snipes pays particular attention to the district.

“The question is, Will land costs and overexuberant landowners help or hinder future development?” he said. “Everyone has to think of the big picture for Midtown. If land prices get out of control … you can’t put a high-rise on every block.”

Snipes is high on Church Street, arguably the most important east-west Midtown street not named West End Avenue.

“Land costs [on Church] are about half what they are on West End,” he said. “There is good opportunity to develop midrises.”

West End Avenue is quickly filling in. In addition to West End Summit, the street has Anil Patel’s mixed-use project at 18th Avenue and an AT&T store at 19th Avenue under construction, while Renasant looks to start work later this year on its new building at 19th. The “natural progression” of future growth will be from Hayes Street north, Snipes said.

“But at the same time, the types of uses of buildings locating on Charlotte are vastly different than what is locating on West End,” he said.

Those Charlotte buildings — both existing and perhaps to come — are overwhelmingly low-rise and often medical-industry related. In contrast, West End features taller structures home to office and hotel space.

Rick Frazier, vice president of marketing services with West End Summit developer (and Midtown-based) Alex S. Palmer & Co., said Hayes Street — which the back side of  West End Summit, which will include an Intercontinental Hotel, will address — could be a wildcard in Midtown’s future prospects.

“We feel strongly that [Hayes] has tremendous potential for retail, restaurants and multifamily and, potentially, low-rise office,” Frazier
said. “We have had numerous discussions with these types of developers very interested in being close to the West End Summit.”

As for the district’s numbered avenues, which run north-south, Frazier said 19th Avenue shows potential, in part because it connects to Division Street on the district’s south end.

“We are already seeing new retail going in on both the east and west corners of 19th and West End,” he said, referencing the AT&T and Renasant projects.

Allen Arender, vice president of development for Holladay Properties, said investors and property owners are recognizing the impact West End Summit will have on the immediate area. 

“Perhaps it will do for the north side of Midtown what the convention center is doing for SoBro,” Arender said.

If, for this exercise, you extend Midtown west via West End and Charlotte avenues to 31st Avenue, the dynamic changes.

“[On Charlotte], there will be a combination of reuse of some buildings and replacement with midrise structures,” Arender said. “This area will eventually be bookended with WES and One City (announced about 16 months ago) on the east and west, respectively, with the points in between redeveloped along with more growth of the Centennial and Baptist campuses that will also spill over into [the heart of] Midtown. Charlotte is an emerging urban neighborhood that will be impacted by re-urbanization. As this unfolds in the coming years, I would expect to see increased density and more midrise and high-rise buildings.”

Obviously, questions remain. Can the existing Midtown infrastructure handle the growth? Snipes doubts so. Does the area need more hotels? Frazier says yes.

Regardless, growth — maybe explosive in nature — is hitting Midtown.

“Midtown has been our corporate headquarters for over 25 years,” Frazier said. “Drive through here five years from now and prepare to be amazed.”