Developers target 140 condos for property at SoBro's doorstep

A duo of developers pursuing a condo project in Germantown are set to buy a site for a second, much larger condo building at the edge of downtown.

September 27, 2017 | Adam Sichko | Nashville Business Journal

Dennis Devine and Meg Epstein are under contract to buy 1.2 acres of land on Fifth Avenue South, on the other side of Interstate 40 from SoBro — which has been the epicenter of Nashville's real estate boom, as seen on our Crane Watch map. In an interview, Epstein said their plan calls for a nine-story building with 140 condos. The contract is notable because it is another sign that the blitz of property sales and construction in SoBro is extending farther south from Demonbreun Street, where that activity has been concentrated.

While there's currently an oversupply of apartments in the heart of the city, as evidenced by the number of buildings offering two months free rent to prospective tenants, the Nashville Downtown Partnership has found an "extremely low supply" of condos, which tend to attract a different type of resident. The sites Devine and Epstein are under contract to buy are near the fast-changing Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood and the 21-acre site home to shuttered Greer Stadium, which is targeted for a proposed $101 million mixed-use development. "The views are really what attracted us, and the proximity to downtown. You're so accessible," Epstein said. "Even though it's still more of an industrial area, in the next few years, we definitely anticipate it filling in and more development happening."

Epstein said she expects the building wouldn't open for another 30 months. There are signs of that transition starting to take root. New Heights Brewing Co. and a CrossFit franchise are on the same small block. Other neighbors include Pollock Printing and an electrical contractor. Separately, Epstein and Devine are working on a 35-unit condo building in Germantown, on the Cumberland River. Site work is set to start next month, as Epstein and Devine finish negotiating a construction loan with First Farmers & Merchants Bank, of Columbia, Tenn. A marketing campaign to drum up pre-sales is about to begin, Epstein said. That's the first project Devine and Epstein have worked on together. Both are native Californians: Devine's father was Hollywood actor Andy Devine, while Epstein, whose company is California South Development, relocated from San Francisco in 2016.

Epstein said she is aiming to price the majority of the condos on Fifth Avenue South for less than $400,000 a unit — closer to $350,000 a unit, if she can. "I see it being affordable condos, not so much along the lines of what we're doing in Germantown," she said. "What I hear from brokers is that a lot of people want a place, but it's just too unaffordable downtown. There is a lot of luxury, but not a lot toward the other end. We want to provide a modern, really cool aesthetic ... at an accessible price." Epstein declined to disclose what price she and Devine would pay for the land on Fifth Avenue South. Nashville's OakPoint Real Estate is listing the two properties, which are on opposite sides of the street, for a combined $5.3 million. Epstein said she and Devine first would develop the land at 915 Fifth Ave. S., which faces downtown and fronts I-40. She said plans for the other property, at 922 Fifth Ave. S., are yet to- be-determined.

Epstein said the Metro Planning Department "gave us the thumbs-up for 140 units" in preliminary meetings. Epstein said she and Devine will need Metro Council to approve a zoning change to enable their project. Currently, the land is zoned "core frame," which Metro Planning defines as "intended for a wide range of parking and commercial service support uses for the central business district." Nashville's EOA Architects is designing the building. Nashville's Carter Group LLC will be the contractor on the project, Epstein said. The same tandem is working on the Germantown condo project.

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