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VOL. 36 | NO. 37 | Friday, September 14, 2012

No status quo: Cities can either grow or falter

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I suffer from yoyo-itis, meaning I am prone to rapid weight gain (RWG). For years, after following a regimen of diet and exercise that allows the scale to switch from foe to friend, I watch as the machine commits treason as fast food quickly works its way into the ever expanding belly. In short, if I’m not losing weight, I’m gaining weight.

The same trend seems to play true in the growth of cities. They are either growing or dying. There is no maintenance program, no ability to maintain status quo. While there are those who oppose any growth, i.e. the “status whoas,” such a position could lead to status woes for the area.

Mayor Karl Dean is not a status whoa type. He ends almost every speech with “Nashville is a city whose best days are yet to come,” or something like that.

Dean attended a Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce trip to Denver several years ago and was exposed to the effective collaboration of the various communities within the area, as well as the spirit of regionalism and the positive economic effect it had on the Denver area. Upon his return, he founded the Middle Tennessee Mayor’s Caucus in order to deal with regional issues.

One of the first issues was mass transit.

Ralph Schulz, president of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, says the lack of a mass transit system costs the area about one in five businesses considering relocating here.

This is of concern since this is a city on the rise. Speaking to the Transit Citizen’s Leadership Academy (TCLA), Schulz noted that when fuel costs skyrocket, businesses have had to alter work schedules in order to allow their workforce to arrange transportation to and from the workplace. The fear of a possible scarcity of the fuel supply has dictated corporate relocations into areas that have mass transit.

“There is a great body of science that says that economics are regional, that there is no national economy,” Schulz adds.

A region can control its destiny. Mayor Dean feels that by 2035 the region will experience growth of 1 million people. The “status whoas” see no reason for that. But the Mayor says “we don’t have time to lose” when it comes to mass transit.

Also speaking to the TCLA, Dean noted that MTA had reached 10 million riders and reported that Nashville normally competes with three cities: Austin, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham.

Austin has a light rail system, as does Charlotte. Raleigh-Durham has dedicated funding in place for its system.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority, led by Paul Ballard, is implementing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which Mayor Dean guarantees will succeed.

The projected energy savings is staggering. Michel Melaniphy, president of the American Transit Association, says ridership is up 5 percent nationally and is approaching the 4.5-billion rider mark, and that public transportation accounts for a savings of 4.2 billion gallons of fuel.

Matt Wiltshire, director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development, has stated that the No. 1 issue he faces in luring jobs to Nashville is mass transit.

If a city does not grow, it dies.

Sale of the Week

The sale of the week takes us to the Encore condominiums located behind the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall of the Country Music Hall of Fame, just behind Bridgestone Arena, down the street from the Music City Center.

Twelve years ago, lifelong Nashvillians would have been confused by the citation of such landmarks. Now they are as familiar as Tootsie’s or the L&C Tower. On a national or international basis, the newer structures are more widely known.

The Encore is earning a spot in real estate lore. The building conceived and developed by Tony Giarratana and the Novare group out of Atlanta, fresh off of their success at the Viridian where they sold and more importantly, closed 305 units immediately following the completion of the construction.

Unit 201 in the Encore has two bedrooms and two bathrooms with 1,113 square feet and has 11 foot ceilings, hardwood floors, custom fixtures, stainless steel appliances and two coveted parking spaces. By the way, parking spaces in these downtown developments have sold for as much as $17,000.

This is a penthouse-level condo with river and stadium view, both of which add value. The sales price of $438,000 translates to $393.53 per square foot. Babs White of Fridrich and Clark’s Brentwood office listed the property, and Becky Sullivan of Giarratana-Novare Realty represented the buyer.

The former owner realized a significant gain on the transaction, having purchased the home in June of 2011 for $328,000 and selling for $438,000 in slightly more than a year. The original owners had paid $300,000 for the unit in 2009.

Richard Courtney is a broker with French, Christianson, Patterson, and Associates and the co-author of Come Together: The Business Wisdom of the Beatles. He can be reached at Richard@Richardcourtney.com.