William Hawkins, president of Chas. Hawkins Co., Inc./CORFAC International, loves selling commercial real estate in Nashville. And why wouldn’t he? This Tennessee city is in the middle of a boom period. And Hawkins told Midwest Real Estate News that this boom isn’t about to end.
Midwest Real Estate News: Nashville is certainly hot right now. What are some of the reasons behind these busy times in the city? William Hawkins: I grew up here in Nashville. I grew up in a real estate family. My father was in the commercial real estate business. I’ve lived here almost my entire life. I would say that Nashville has been doing a lot of things right for a lot of years. This “overnight” success we see now has been in motion during the last 20 years. There has been an intentional focus on doing a lot of things better. It’s not only our city and chamber of commerce, our economic development organization and our mayor’s office, but it’s also been in the developers’ offices. We’ve all tried to improve to make Nashville a better place.
MREN: The city certainly is seeing a lot of commercial real estate activity today. It must be an exciting time to be selling real estate here. Hawkins: I began to see the city come together when we got NFL football here, the Tennessee Titans. There was a big shift in the culture that came when we got that NFL franchise. It really brought everyone together. Before, if you were in the country music business or in the manufacturing business you didn’t always interact with each other. If you worked at the Bridgestone plant in LaVergne or if you lived in Fairview, you didn’t always know what to think of each other. But when the NFL came, everyone had something to cheer for that was the same. It brought us together.
MREN: Has that impact continued? Hawkins: As people got unified, it did start to make a difference here. If you were in the country music business before, you might have been on a little bit of an island. Some 20 or 30 years ago, other people in Nashville might not have looked at country music as what they wanted the city to be about. If you worked for Hospital Corporation of America, you might have looked at yourself as being in that medical community on an island. You didn’t understand what the Bridgestone guys were all about. When the NFL came here, though, that is when Nashville became OK with being Nashville.
MREN: What are some of the bigger changes to come to the city since the arrival of the NFL? Hawkins: For one thing, we really began to improve our downtown. We did it with a new convention center that did really well for a while. Now we have a new convention center that’s doing even better, the Music City Center. That building contains 1 million square feet of convention space. It opened less than a year ago, and has been a big boon to the downtown. There is an Omni Hotel, a class-A hotel, right next to it. We are also getting a new Minor League baseball stadium in the Germantown neighborhood. Just 10 years ago, that neighborhood was hardly even known. With the population growth that is occurring right now in Nashville, urban living is coming back. It was only 15 years ago that you wouldn’t have wanted to live in downtown. It was way too edgy. Today people are moving downtown.
MREN: How strong is the multi-family sector in Nashville because of this new focus on urban living? Hawkins: Thousands of multi-family units have been added to the downtown urban-living environment. The Gulch and Germantown neighborhoods are seeing a steady addition of condos and apartments, new high-rise buildings.
MREN: What about some of the other commercial sectors? Hawkins: Retail is the sector that has been the slowest to respond, but even that sector is now building momentum again. It’s all caused by the population growth we are seeing here, which is caused by Nashville being such a quality place to live and play.
MREN: You specialize in the industrial sector. How strong is that sector today in the Nashville area? Hawkins: We are seeing a lot of companies that are relocating to the Nashville market. And companies that are already here are expanding in the industrial market. Nashville is very central as far as its location. Three major interstates lead direclty into Nashville. The velocity of business has created strong employment numbers. A lot of young people are moving here. New tech jobs are being created. That has all helped to boost the industrial market here.
MREN: What are some of the bigger industrial moves happening right now in Nashville? Hawkins: Beretta is new to Nashville. It is building a $45 million manufacturing and R&D facility that will begin production in first quarter of 2015. Nissan is investing $109 million in its existing facilities, which will create 1,200 jobs. Nissan is investing $49.8 million in its Lewisburg facility, $57.6 million in its Shelbyville facility and $2.1 million in Smryna. Hollister is building a new build-to-suit building that will be 240,000 square feet. And Amazon, which is new to Nashville, is building a 1-million-square-foot build-to-suit facility here.
MREN: Why is Nashville such a good place in which to do business? Hawkins: A lot of businesses are coming here because Nashville has a unique lifestyle. It’s a fun town to be in. The market here has shifted from a tenant-driven market to a market that favors landlords. We are excited about he opportunities that are out there today for our company. We own and manage about 8 million square feet. We are about 97 percent occupied right now. The spec development is beginning to start now, too. One of the areas in which our industrial market was soft was with some of the big-box space out there that was vacant. That big-box space is now being taken off the market. We are going to see spec development beginning here in a larger-scale way soon.