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VOL. 37 | NO. 4 | Friday, January 25, 2013

Will success finally find Gallatin Pike?

By Stephanie Toone

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The Shoppes at Fatherland in fast-growing East Nashville opened in November.

-- Photo: Lyle Graves | Nashville Ledger

East Nashville’s newest hotspot, Shoppes on Fatherland, a $1.2 million retail district housing a variety of hip startups, adds to the growing list of bustling business districts at four-ways stops within the trendy neighborhoods near the Gallatin Pike Corridor.

The retail and dining scenes, designed with bohemian millennials in mind, flourish on nearly every corner: Riverside Village, at the corner of McGavock Pike and Riverside Drive; Walden, at the corner of Eastland and Chapel Avenues; Five Points, at Woodland Street and 11th Street.

“I felt like retail was needed in this area,” says Shoppes owner Mark Sanders, who has lived in East Nashville for 30 years. “I look at the Shoppes on Fatherland as an incubator for these new startups. There’s such an entrepreneurial spirit here. There’s great synergy.”

There’s still one high-profile spot in the East Nashville area that remains on the outskirts of this gold mine of development – the Gallatin Corridor, including the main arteries of Gallatin Pike, West Main St. and East Main St., where cash-advance businesses, liquor stores, warehouses and fast-food restaurants rule the roadway just minutes from East Nashville’s most fashionable hangouts.

Check cashing, crime, zoning

The East-Centric Pavillion, a 3,200-square-foot, open-air space that is part of the Shoppes at Fatherland, is an example of the innovative thinking helping to shape the area

-- Photo: Lyle Graves | Nashville Ledger

Though millions have been invested in Shoppes on Fatherland and the other East Nashville restaurant and retail districts, some business owners and developers say the Gallatin Corridor’s perception as a crime-ridden eye sore has kept it from reaping the benefits of the growing interest in fully developing East Nashville.

Those critics also cite the Gallatin Pike Specific Plan zoning, passed by Metro Council in 2007, as being an obstacle to growth.

“There have been a few modifications to the SP, and it needs to be more,” says Urban Green Lab developer Dan Heller. “I think the mistake of the Gallatin Road SP was not just that it is too heavily weighted on the punitive side, but it also mistakenly assumes that restricting certain businesses and imposing a higher design aesthetic will automatically lead to improvements. “

Council members sought to change the face of Gallatin Corridor through Specific Plan zoning.

The design and usage limits were meant to deter the addition of more cash advance establishments from setting up shop on Gallatin Pike and spur pedestrian-friendly retail and real estate. Instead, the zoning plan has kept those less desirable businesses rooted along the Corridor and kept some developers from investing there, Heller says.

Heller and others feel the SP zoning blocked a Publix shopping center that was set for Gallatin Pike in 2010.

‘Biggest regulatory failures’

Adding to the visual appeal of the Shoppes at Fatherland are the centrally located mailboxes, one for each business

-- Photo: Lyle Graves | Nashville Ledger

The lack of major developments along the corridor proves that business development cannot be regulated, says Jesse Hamilton, co-owner and general manager of Riverside Village’s Village Pub. He and his partners also will open a new beer growler station, Hopstop, in East Nashville this summer offering an assortment of 36 American draft beers that can be bottled and taken home to enjoy.

“The SP has been one of the biggest regulatory failures, because it did the exact opposite of what it was meant to do,” Hamilton says. “There’s now no competition for the cash lenders on Gallatin. It’s going to take a lot for the business dynamics to change there, but I do think developers should open their eyes to Gallatin Pike.”

Amendments to the zoning document, including developers no longer having to tear down a structure just to renovate it, have made the SP more developer-friendly, says District 7 Councilman Anthony Davis. Some of the design aspects of the zoning, such as requiring new construction to be built to the street, have made Gallatin Pike more aesthetically pleasing.

“I’m very pleased with what’s happening on Gallatin, and I don’t think the SP is hindering it,” Davis says. “We have small businesses opening. The owners of McDonald’s just made a $1 million investment in a renovation. Every property is getting better one parcel at a time.”

Rehabbing the Fluffo building

The Shoppes at Fatherland is one of many flourishing pockets of development in East Nashville. It features 8,400 square feet of retail space and a 3,200-square-foot, open-air pavillion

-- Photo: Lyle Graves | Nashville Ledger

Though Heller disagrees with most of the zoning, he has benefited from added leniency that amendments to the SP plan have offered. He and his partner March Egerton have invested $2.55 million in the rehab of the Fluffo building at 900 Main Street, about three blocks west of Five Points.

The 60,000 square foot locale is the home of Fat Bottom Brewing, which has drawn thousands of customers for its brews and dishes. Edley’s BBQ will move to the industrial spot in April, and hot yoga, a growler station and other businesses could fill the expansive space by the end of the year.

Heller and Egerton’s project could be the beginning of small business owners and East Nashville developers looking past the Gallatin Corridor’s history and toward the future.

“Improvements usually come when smaller, individual property owners gather the ideas, resources and new tenants to improve small segments along the road. It’s more organic and market based versus government and “planned” based,” Heller says.

The organic improvements to Gallatin have drawn the attention of developer Adam Leibowitz. His company, Double-A Development, will build the 70-unit Eastside Apartments, a mixture of midrise and townhome style one-two bedroom apartments on Main Street in response to growing interest in the East Nashville neighborhood.

Success and more to come

East Nashville’s residents desire to not only dine, but shop in their community, has meant business success in the neighborhood despite the struggle to develop the Gallatin Corridor.

The Shoppes on Fatherland, 1006 Fatherland St., has 8,400 square feet of retail including High Garden Herbs & Tea, 1907 Apparel, Inspire: Virgin to Vintage and photography studios for people and pets, says Sanders.

The site also features the East-Centric Pavillion, 3,200 square feet of open-air space, which has been the site of a small festival and has sparked interest from local bands and brides-to-be.

Sanders also owns nearby Wax Nashville and Far East Vietnamese Cuisine. He plans to open a new restaurant, which he declined to name, on Fatherland by the end of the year.

Walden, at the corner of Chapel Avenue and Eastland Avenue, also has created that same synergy with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Silly Goose and Ugly Mugs. The second phase of Walden, opening this summer, will include a 5,500 square foot location for Climb Nashville, a gastropub and new condos. Egerton, who also owns Walden, says the $4 million, $22,000 square foot second phase was a response to the developing market in East Nashville.

Davis welcomes more developers to take such lofty investments on Gallatin Corridor.

To encourage that interest, the councilman plans to soon meet with developers and other stakeholders to discuss a small business development bill that would crack open the door for more retail and restaurants on Gallatin Pike.

Incentives could help spur the economy on the corridor, Hamilton says.

He says he still hopes, in the meantime, entrepreneurs start taking a second look at Gallatin.

“There’s great buildings, and landlords are willing to work with startups,” Hamilton says.

“I took a second look, and I’m glad I did. With all the interest in the “new” East Nashville, there’s lots of opportunity.”

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