In focus: Alex Palmer

Developer back in spotlight with West End Summit

In 1984, Alex Palmer had the foresight to see Midtown as the next big thing for Nashville.

His Palmer Plaza was the mixed-use district’s first true high-rise and its opening signaled that Palmer himself clearly saw the potential of Music City's "new downtown."

Palmer Plaza was a success, one for which Palmer was roundly and rightly praised. That bold move nearly three decades ago gave Palmer a reputation as a bold visionary and for years, that was his legacy.

He banked on that capital in 2004 when he announced his equally ambitious West End Summit project, an office and hotel project planned for the Broadway/West End Avenue split the bridges the booming Midtown and a resurrected downtown.

But even visionaries are no match for the vagaries of a slack economy.

Palmer's WES — stalled after excavation — became just the opposite: a hole, a symbol, a punch line. Filled with water and not much else, West End Summit earned the derisive nickname of Lake Palmer, a monument to the 2008-09 economic downturn and the resulting comatose commercial real estate market.

But you can't keep a good man down. Not forever.

In September, HCA announced it would headquarter two of its entities — Parallon Business Solutions and Sarah Cannon Research Institute — at the suddenly revived West End Summit, the two subsidiaries occupying a combined 500,000 square feet. The news hoisted the $200 million, two-building project back to life.

Suddenly, the always vibrant Midtown became fire hot.

Suddenly, the hole-in-the-ground jokes stopped.

Suddenly, Palmer was back where he belongs: in charge.