This article on the James Robertson Parkway Auction originally published in the Nashville Ledger on June 2, 2017

Real estate auction could help reshape downtown

By Bill Lewis

Updated 1:33PM

James Robertson Parkway Auction460 James Robertson Parkway, formerly the home of the Tennessee Regulatory Agency, and the adjacent lot next door will be sold at auction by the state.

— Submitted

With names like SoBro, WeHo, Tech Hill, Marathon Village, Germantown and The Gulch, fast-growing neighborhoods with colorful identities surround downtown Nashville. Now another district is poised to take its place on that list, but it may need a more distinctive name.

After all, the name James Robertson Parkway doesn’t exactly evoke the glamor of, say, East Nashville’s Little Hollywood neighborhood or the Nations on the west side.

James Robertson Parkway is quickly becoming downtown’s next potential hot spot for residential and commercial development, as unlikely as that may seem for a roadway created during the heyday of urban renewal as a bypass around downtown’s north side.

The amount of interest in property along James Robertson Parkway will become clearer June 21, when two parcels totaling 2.1 acres will be sold at auction in the Grand Ballroom of the Hermitage Hotel. The registration deadline for bidders is June 16.

The parcels, at 450 and 460 James Robertson Parkway, are being sold as surplus property by the state. The sale is being conducted by Chattanooga-based Compass Auctions & Real Estate LLC, which also has offices in Georgia and Kentucky.

Developers across the country are inquiring about the properties, says Justin Ochs, vice president of national development for Compass. He is based in the Nashville area.

“Virginia, Atlanta, L.A., Chicago, everybody loves Nashville, loves the place and wants to do business in Nashville,” Ochs adds.

“Downtown Nashville has become a place where families want to live and businesses want to operate. We’ve been amazed by the amount of national interest this premier location has already generated,” he says.

The properties are for sale individually or together. The 0.87-acre parcel at 450 James Robertson Parkway is being used as a parking lot. The building at 460 James Robertson Parkway is vacant but previously housed the Public Service Commission and later the Tennessee Regulatory Authority and other state offices.

Known as Emerald City because of its distinctive green exterior, the 45,294-square-foot office building is adjacent to NewsChannel 5.

Nashville’s downtown zoning code allows for mixed-use development of the properties, which could include office, residential or commercial uses such as restaurants or a hotel, says Paige Holt, Compass’ president. The company is the only woman-owned real estate auction business in the state.

The zoning “absolutely gives more flexibility,” she points out. The properties are in a district that until now has largely been government offices, but that is changing.

“It’s close to the entertainment district, really a hot spot,” Holt adds.

The state purchased the two parcels 31 years ago for $3.8 million. It’s unclear what they might bring now, which is the reason for selling them at auction.

“Let the market decide,” Ochs adds.

The nearby Parkway Towers building, a 21-story office and parking structure on 0.71 acres, sold for $19 million in 2015.

The site at 450 and 460 James Robertson Parkway is “a great opportunity for a multitude of uses,” explains Lisa Maki, senior vice president of capital markets with commercial real estate firm Avison Young’s Nashville office. The firm is not involved in the auction.

“It is situated within the path of progress from Germantown to the resurgence of the northern part of the CBD (Central Business District). Our city’s growth has far surpassed experts’ predictions over the last few years,” she adds.

James Robertson Parkway is close to downtown destinations including the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Bridgestone Arena, Ascend Amphitheater, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Ryman Auditorium, County Music Hall of Fame and Museum and Nissan Stadium.

Bicentennial Mall State Park, Nashville’s Farmers Market and the new Tennessee State Museum, now under construction, are in the backyard of 450 and 460 James Robertson Parkway. First Tennessee Park, the 10,000-seat home of the Nashville Sounds Triple-A baseball team, is a couple of blocks north in Germantown, where some of downtown’s most expensive homes can be found.

Close to Germantown on the east bank of the Cumberland River, the proposed River North project is expected to bring new residential and commercial development to a 105-acre site near where Jefferson Street becomes Spring Street. The Topgolf sports entertainment complex is being developed nearby.

Around the corner from James Robertson Parkway, the $750 million Capitol View development is bringing 1.1 million-square-feet of Class A office space, 130,000-square-feet of retail and restaurant space, 650 multi-family residences and 170 hotel rooms to a 32-acre site at the intersection of Charlotte Pike and 11th Avenue.

A short distance away on Charlotte Pike, the oneC1TY development will offer 1 million square feet of office space, 170 hotel rooms, 600 apartments and 100,000-square-feet of retail space.

If a buyer chooses to develop them for residential use, the parcels at 450 and 460 James Robertson Parkway are well suited for commuters using mass transit.

Music City Central, the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s main bus terminal, is about a block away.

James Robertson Parkway connects with Gallatin Pike, where Mayor Megan Barry proposes constructing the city’s first light rail line.

Residential uses are well established on James Robertson Parkway. Metro Manor Apartments, a 170-unit building at 413 James Robertson Parkway, was sold for $15.8 million in 2015. The price totaled more than $92,000 for each apartment. Capitol Towers, a 219-unit apartment building, is at 510 Gay St. but fronts James Robertson Parkway.

The state moved its offices out of the old PSC-TRA building in 2014, says David Roberson, spokesman for the Department of General Services, the department in charge of selling the property.

It didn’t take long for word to get out that the property might be for sale.

“We have been getting calls since around that time. We’ve had a lot of interest in it,” Roberson adds.

“Nashville real estate is quite desirable. This is a good time to sell it and make some money for the state,” he says.

Real estate investors across the country are interested in Nashville, Maki says.

“It’s an incredible time for our city. I give a lot of credit for the growth to the people and businesses who have worked so hard to craft a thriving environment,” she says.

“People cannot get enough of Nashville. One of the major contributing factors for the growth in the downtown corridor is the revival of the surrounding niche neighborhoods in every direction of the city’s core.

“If you have property for sale in this town, you are being courted by some of the best developers in the country because they have seen how carefully this town has mastered a diverse population of professionals and quality developments,” she adds.