August 24, 2016

Nashville Business Journal
by Adam Sichko

Franklin developer SouthStar LLC is pitching yet another development in the Cool Springs commercial hub — this time, a project with up to 180,000 square feet of retail.

The proposal underscores how quickly real estate investors are pushing farther south in Cool Springs, accelerating a real estate boom that is remaking Middle Tennessee’s established hub for corporate headquarters. Williamson County is adding residents faster than any county in the state. It’s also adding jobs faster than any county in the nation while still ranking among the country’s 20 wealthiest counties, based on its annual median household income of more than $90,000, according to government data.

The Crossroads at Cool Springs is just the latest project to pop up at or near the intersection of Carothers Parkway and Liberty Pike. That’s less than a mile south from the intersection of Carothers and McEwen Drive, which is the epicenter of Williamson County’s surge of development, headlined by Pat Emery’s Franklin Park office development and Ovation, a roughly $1 billion proposed mixed-use development ( as seen on our Williamson Watch map).

The Crossroads at Cool Springs would be located on a nearly 20-acre site at the northwest corner of Carothers Parkway and Liberty Pike. SouthStar has been under contract before to buy this same land. Should SouthStar close on its current purchase contract, SouthStar would then own two of the four corners of this intersection — some 65 acres in all. Across Carothers, SouthStar is under construction on a big Life Time Fitness facility, a project that’s also planned to include another 48,500 square feet of retail and office space. Adjacent to that, SouthStar owns land zoned for 450 residential units. And to top it all off, in May, high-profile Nashville restaurant company Fresh Hospitality paid $3.8 million for land at this same intersection.

“It definitely will be an answer for many retailers and restaurants who just have not been able to figure out any other way to enter the Cool Springs market,” said Rob Foss, lead retail broker in the Nashville office of Avison Young. Foss represents SouthStar on the project, which he will formally debut Thursday at a regional meeting of the International Council of Shopping Centers, held in Nashville.

“The real story is, this is now Cool Springs,” Foss said. “I used to feel like this was a little more of a local neighborhood feel, rather than a regional location for a retailer. I don’t feel that way anymore. You drive down there, and you feel what’s happening at that intersection.”

Financing for the project is not yet secured, and SouthStar does not yet own the land. The cost of the project, including the contract on the property itself, was not immediately known.

Glenn McGehee a principal of SouthStar, declined comment on those details. “This is an extremely dynamic area that’s rapidly changing. We’re very excited about it,” McGehee said.

Foss said he expects a range of restaurants to be drawn to the site, as well as “major soft goods,” specialty retailers and potentially a grocery store. “There’s so much demand for restaurant space … but there’s no opportunities for restaurants anywhere else,” Foss said.

Foss said Crossroads at Cool Springs will complement, not compete, with the nearby Ovation project. At its heart, Ovation aims to inject an urban setting into suburban Franklin. The project, as proposed, would contain up to 1.4 million square feet of office space, 950 residential units and almost 500,000 square feet of retail, restaurants and entertainment. Site work on the 145-acre property it set to finish this summer. [SouthStar remains involved in Ovation after selling its half of the property last year, to Atlanta-based developer Thomas Enterprises Inc.]

“Both are better with each other. Without either, this side of the interstate does not have a significant retail gravitational pull,” Foss said. “This is going to be a notch down, in terms of exclusivity. It will be more attainable for a broader array of retail and restaurants. Ovation will be so specialty, high-end, a little more exclusive of a retail project. Ovation is choosing to be much more of an experiential, highly brand-conscious project, with more entertainment.”

The land is owned by Van Swaim, Joe Porter and Steve Eatherly, all local real estate investors.