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VOL. 36 | NO. 33 | Friday, August 17, 2012

Would ‘Strings’ resonate with lessees?

By Bill Lewis

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"Strings," a 300,000-square-foot development being proposed by Impakt Commercial Real Estate, would combine restaurants and retail with higher-end office space and condominiums.

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Nashville already is home to a replica of the Parthenon, a downtown icon that looks like Batman’s cowl, a museum with an exterior resembles the keys of a piano and country singer Webb Pierce’s guitar-shaped pools.

So why not an office and condo tower in the shape of the city’s favorite musical instrument?

The planned and appropriately named Strings building would resemble an acoustic guitar rising 32 stories out of the ground somewhere in the heart of the city, although an exact location hasn’t been announced.

First, though, curious observers in the real estate industry are watching to see whether such an unusual project can secure financing. The building’s lead developer, Travis Kelty at Impakt Commercial Real Estate, says that shouldn’t be a problem.

“Certainly financing’s available for good projects,” Kelty says. “A lot of money is on the sidelines.”

He expects to hit the goal of having the building 50 percent pre-leased before locking in financing, and says he believes Stings will appeal to professionals who want a signature address.

“It’s going to be a higher-end tenant,” Kelty says. “Law firms, financial services, banks, health care, obviously the music industry and marketing and P.R. firms would like to be in this type of space.”

The project’s size – 300,000 square feet – and its unusual floor plan could work against it as the commercial real estate industry continues to recover from a prolonged downturn, real estate professionals say.

“It looks to be monstrous,” says Richard Courtney, a Realtor with French Christianson Patterson & Associates. “I find it hard to believe anyone would finance that in today’s market.”

The building’s guitar-shaped design – with floors that vary in size and shape – could increase the challenge of signing tenants.

“Lenders and occupiers understand how to populate a typical square to rectangle 25,000- to 30,000-square-foot floor plate,” says Tom Frye, managing director for CBRE commercial real estate in Nashville.

It is “a bit harder to comprehend floors that configure to a guitar-shaped shell that may tend to be a less efficient layout. The tenant trades floor plan efficiency for the pizazz of a sexy building. There are those kind of users, but a thinner field.”

Floor sizes in Strings would vary widely, from 36,190-square-feet of space on the sixth floor to 3,100-square feet of office or condo space on the 20th through 29th floors – the neck of the guitar. The top three floors are reserved for an observation area, restaurants and bars. The bottom five floors are restaurants, retail and parking.

Anderson Companies, a subsidiary of the Sylmar, Calif.-based Tutor Perini Corporation, will serves as general contractor to “facilitate a design-build approach.”

Tutor Perini has experience in iconic buildings, having designed hotel and casino projects in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Biloxi, including the 50-story replica of the Eiffel Tower at Paris casino in Las Vegas.

Other projects include the 18 million-square-foot City Centre in Las Vegas, the largest privately funded development in the U.S.