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it's just dave

Nashville's SoBro (South of Broadway)

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The areas south of Broadway in Nashville were once true lines of demarcation in that any "decent" person would never cross (on purpose). The times are changing in a major and massive way. Comprising a huge chunk of forgotten property just a stone's throw from the CDB will see Nashville's most dramatic and massive transformation in many, many years. The good part? It's all urban in nature and will stay that way. Bringing in the Baltimore developers for some projects is a huge plus to make sure that happens.

Side point: On the graphic is Gateway Blvd, a four lane, wide median, landscaped, pedestrian and bike friendly boulevard which is planned to extend to 8th Avenue and providing an urban "Main Street" to the new downtown area.

The article and graphic:

Will ballpark make SoBro soar?

By RICHARD LAWSON

Staff Writer

New Sounds stadium looks to become a key project in developing area south of Broadway

A decade ago, architects and downtown thinkers didn't contemplate putting a baseball stadium on the riverfront south of Broadway.

Most planners thought a ballpark belonged on the other side of the river near the site of the Coliseum, not in the shadow of the trash-burning Thermal site.

A lot has changed since then.

The Thermal plant was torn down and today a new Nashville Sounds ballpark combined with residential development could provide yet another piece to the south of Broadway redevelopment puzzle that began falling into place in the 1990s.

''It really is a good link between the downtown central business district and all of the new SoBro development,'' architect Gary Everton said of the $43 million proposed ballpark, which got a thumbs up from Mayor Bill Purcell this week. Financing of the stadium project could be nailed down by the end of the week with the help of a consortium of local bankers.

Everton has been involved with planning south of Broadway for a decade.

''It's like adding another A-plus item,'' he said of the Sounds' deal. The Sounds' bank, First Tennessee, which also has the naming rights for the ballpark, is leading the effort to sign up more banks for the construction loan so no public debt is necessary. The project is in line for special financing incentives from the city. Those incentives are in the process of being defined.

Since 1997, SoBro has seen more than $250 million in redevelopment projects. Over the next few years, projects under construction or on the drawing board could push that number past $500 million.

Mike Hayes of the C.B. Ragland Co., which owns property directly across First Avenue from the Thermal site, hopes that the ballpark deal reaches fruition. Hayes is planning a commercial development, presumably residential in nature, on his site.

''We just need to know what it's going to be before we pull the trigger,'' Hayes said. ''We want it to match.''

He said he also has spoken with the Sounds' development partner, Baltimore-based developer Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse, about working together.

Struever, which has done similar projects in its hometown, wants to go big and create a new neighborhood. The firm is responsible for millions of square feet of redevelopment in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, Fell's Point and other sites.

''Our whole approach is a prosperous economy for everyone,'' said Bill Struever, the firm's president and chief executive officer. ''It's all about creating a wonderful place where people want to live and work and have fun.''

Struever has said his company usually seeks to invest at least $100 million over a five-year period when it comes to a new city.

Meanwhile Hayes' cousins and neighboring property owner, Ragland Realty, is considering putting a 150-room Hampton Inn & Suites at Fourth Avenue where Gateway Boulevard is planned for an extension. The developers are discussing design with the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency's design review committee.

''I anticipate that something will get worked out that is satisfactory to all concerned,'' said Phil Ryan, MDHA's executive director.

In a separate push, developer Tony Giarratana and his Atlanta partner, Novare Group, have been buying parcels across Demonbreun Street from the Schermerhorn Symphony Center now under construction. Giarratana said no plans have been cast in stone, but he and his partners are considering residential and retail development.

The $120-million symphony center is scheduled for completion in 2006. Hospitality industry leaders and government officials are looking to expand the downtown Convention Center. A site where First Baptist Church now stands south of Broadway is one possibility for a $202 million expansion, although that's complicated by the fact that the church may not want to move.

Building a brand new convention center could cost $300 million or more.

Elsewhere, six developers are eyeing Rolling Mill Hill, a 34-acre site on a bluff overlooking the river a short haul from downtown.

All the interest is a big change for SoBro.

''Broadway was sort of the edge you never crossed,'' said lobbyist Peter Heidenreich, who worked for Metro for 25 years and with four mayors, much of the time in public works.

Heidenreich, who oversaw the construction of the Gaylord Entertainment Center for then Mayor Phil Bredesen, said Broadway for a time just had a couple of honky-tonk bars and not much else. The street was lined with adult-oriented businesses.

When the downtown Convention Center opened in 1986, it had no entrance onto Broadway.

In the mid-1990s, change began. Studies were done and plans were developed to guide redevelopment in the area.

''What we envisioned for SoBro is pretty much looking like it is going to happen,'' said Mark Schimmenti, a University of Tennessee-Knoxville architecture professor who helped guide the early studies and ran the Nashville Civic Design Center for several years.

The $120 million Gaylord Entertainment Center provided the first major boost when it opened in 1997. Then came the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts opened in 2001.

Still, residential redevelopment has eluded much of SoBro since the late 1980s. Several years ago, a pair of developers were selected for two prime sites in the neighborhood, Rolling Mill Hill and the Fourth Avenue site where the Symphony Center is now going up, but the deals fell apart.

If residential projects take hold this time around, it could bring thousands of more people downtown, possibly building more of a base for retail development to follow.

Struever has proposed 80,000 square feet of retail next to the Sounds ballpark.

The site probably won't have national chains, Struever said yesterday, adding that it's tough to convince national retailers to come into a redeveloping area. Struever said he prefers a more grass-roots approach.

''What's really fun is working with the best of the local merchants,'' he said.

sobrographic5ia.png

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Wow, it really seems like a lot of things are coming to downtown in the near future: the ballpark, the symphony hall, Viridian, and (most likely) Signature Tower (my most-anticipated of these projects). I just hope there's enough demand for all of the residential projects. (But judging from how quickly Viridian's units were bought up, I doubt they'll encounter problems.)

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