Developer Tony Giarratana is working with Nashville’s wealthy May family to develop a town center in Bells Bend, a development they project could bring more than $4 billion in development and rival Cool Springs.
Named May Town Center, the plans call for 453 acres of the 1,434 on the site to be developed into a dense mix of office, residential and retail space. In addition, sites have been set aside for corporate campus-type office buildings, much like the suburban development in Cool Springs.
If it moves forward, the development has a 15-year timeline with the first phase scheduled to begin construction in 2010.
Giarratana is working with Bells Landing Partners, which is led by the May family. The Mays are the lineage of the family that started May Hosiery Mill in 1895. Now, the family owns real estate around Nashville, including downtown properties, Belle Meade Plaza and Belle Meade Office Park.
Developer Jeff Zeitlin has been buying property in Bells Bend for a couple of years. Three years ago, he proposed a 1,200-home development there and got some resistance from neighbors in the area because of potential traffic problems.
The area has a single access point from Ashland City Highway. But there are plans for constructing a bridge across the Cumberland River to connect with Interstate 40.
“That’s the solution to access,” Giarratana said.
May Town Center is Giarratana’s second run at a real estate development with the May family. Several years ago, Giarratana worked with Jack May as a consultant in trying to build a 12-story luxury condominium building in the parking lot behind the family’s Belle Meade Office Park. May eventually pulled the plug, after spending on designs and core drilling on the site.
This time, the project is substantially larger and more ambitious.
Several observers in the local real estate industry didn’t dismiss the project out of hand.
“It’s not absurd,” said Crews Johnston, a broker with Colliers Turley Martin Tucker. “They have to solve the access problem. You’d have to make your own amenities because there’s none out there.”
Giarratana said the service retail is already there with Nashville West, a shopping center. A potential interchange would be close to the new Costco.
Proximity to executive housing was one challenge cited for Class-A office development in the project.
“The more successful office developments are near affluent neighborhoods,” said Darwin Pankey, who runs the Grubb & Ellis/Centennial office. “That’s true in any city.”
The pitch on Bells Bend is that it’s within five miles of the highest-end executive housing in the area — Belle Meade, Hillwood and Green Hills. It’s a similar pitch made for MetroCenter three decades ago, yet it never developed into the Class-A office destination as envisioned.
“This is hardly MetroCenter,” Giarratana said.