Bells Bend development could rival Cool Springs

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 2:11am

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.

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By: b_ellen on 12/31/69 at 6:00

This is unbearably depressing. We only just discovered the new Bells Bend Park. It was wonderful to find a beautiful, serene area like that, within the city and still apart from it. So, go ahead and ruin the rest of the area, just so some developer can rake in a bundle off it. Oh, yes, and we will pay for all the infrastructure, too, won't we?

By: mccullochd on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Why can't they just fix up MetroCenter, or look into revitalizing Donelson? If you drive around Brentwood and Franklin, take a look at how many office buildings have open space for rent. Clearly, we are still under capacity for this area, so why do we need these new developments? Oh, thats right...Tony G's little condo ventures are starting to sputter out and he needs to find other places to steal money from.

By: Nashville Voter on 12/31/69 at 6:00

This development with more than double the park space adding more than 900 acres.I saw the economic projections on this and it will add millions to our tax base.If you love parks you better figure out a way for Metro to raise the tax base to pay to keep them open.If everyone lives, works and shops in some county other than Davidson you will get to do your park walking in Williamson County.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Tear Nashville down and build log cabins. That will satisfy the regressives.

By: Nashville Voter on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The Nashville Economic folks said yesterday that they had 5,000,000 sq. ft. of NEW prospects looking for scace RIGHT NOW.All those buildings in Cool Springs are FULL, paying taxes to Williamson County. Wonder why Williamson County spends more on its schools than we do----they have it spend.Do a little research or go post on the Enquirer.

By: JeffF on 12/31/69 at 6:00

what open office space in Brentwood and Franklin?

By: WrdBrn on 12/31/69 at 6:00

(Newbys... sigh...) Those that don't know their history are doomed to repeat it. Zeitlin tried to make development of the bend viable for years. Please be aware that Tony G has been loading every barrel he has for this one, attending meetings at the Scottsboro community center where nearly every resident has said no to development in the core of the bend. The planning commission web site has all of the residents and concerned friends ideas listed. http://www.nashville.gov/mpc/subarea/subarea3dates.htm

By: WrdBrn on 12/31/69 at 6:00

...and there are a myriad of other items that have to be addressed. Waterway impact, environmental impact, the list is endless.

By: edb2n on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Better double check your figures, Nashville Voter. Last school year, Metro spent $9239 per student and Williamson spent $7145. I work for Williamson County Schools and it's shocking how underfunded, understaffed, and underequipped we are. Of course, no one ever believes that because we're in Williamson County. And we certainly don't face a lot of the challenges that Metro schools do (i.e. abject poverty, large numbers of ELL students, etc.).

By: JeffF on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It apparently is not the amount being spent but who the money is being spent on. You would figure that with all the focus being put on teacher salary as a way of improving education in this country that the systems with the highest pay in the state would be doing the best. So how are the schools in Memphis and Nashville again? This is not the subject of the article I know but maybe we should stop listeneing to the constant drum beat from the NEA affiliated unions regarding the NEEDED increase in teacher pay. The highest paid teachers are already not getting results. If it is a matter of students not coming prepared to learn than I counter we should be equally prepared to fund (tongue in cheek folks).

By: WrdBrn on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Thank you edbn2 and JeffF; and now back to our regular programming: The planning commission web site has all of the residents and concerned friends ideas listed. http://www.nashville.gov/mpc/subarea/subarea3dates.htm

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I have heard that Tony G wants Nashville (or the Feds, state, or all of the above, which means taxpayers) to pay for the bridge mentioned here, which would be built apparently to enable wealthy developers easy access to the area. If they want a bridge, they should pay for it.

By: Wallace on 12/31/69 at 6:00

There are several things that the developers should have considered before presenting his development plan. One would have been to ask the Charlotte Park and Beacon Square people what they thought about having a bridge coming through behind their homes, or in the air over their homes, with an interchange right at their homes, that will undoubtedly affect or take their homes. Secondly, the Whooping Cranes, which are on the endangered species, are now making Bells Bend Park and the surrounding area. I'm sure that will send these wonderful birds somewhere else for good. Thirdly, who plans to pay for new schools, roads, services, water, sewer, etc, etc.? Yes, it is close to Hillwood, Belle Meade, and Green Hills, but it's in our backyard, not theirs, in our neighborhood, not theirs, where we live in our homes every day, and we paid dear for our homes over all these years, and our homes are very important to us, and will continue to be, and we do not want a bridge coming through the Charlotte Park and Beacon Square neighborhoods, and we don't want the Whooping Cranes gone, and we don't want all this traffic coming through our neighborhoods over here, and we don't want to pay for all the other service expenses that will surely come to the John P.Q. public to pay taxes for in the future. Wallace and Janice

By: grapa on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Compromise is an oft forgotten proposal, especially when it comes to an emotionally charged topic vs. economic welfare of the whlole. Residents of "the Bend" have defeated 'dump' and 'residential' proposals for years. This is an opportunity to address all issues concerning economic growth that the city needs and the hopes for a greener Nashville. We have had 'cranes and herons' in 'the Bend' for years and see no reason that this will stop with the building of this project. The MTC group own appoximately 1500 acres in 'the Bend'. This is the same criteria others are using to say they belong to this community and have a right to call "foul".

By: Logie on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The homes located in Charlotte Park and Beacon Square are privately owned. Some people have lived here for years. I don't think they should be allowed to tear down one single house because of this bridge or any other reason for that matter.