After seven months of work, and facing opposition that has not waned, it’s now starting to look like a Nashville developer may drop plans for a big apartment complex on Charlotte Avenue.
The twist comes in the wake of a March 24 vote by the Metro Planning Commission to indefinitely defer a proposal from developer Stonehenge Real Estate Group. The company has cut the number of proposed apartments by 45 percent, in an unsuccessful effort to win the backing of many Sylvan Park neighbors and their Metro councilwoman, Kathleen Murphy.
The planning commission vote, intended to allow more time for community discussion, surprised advocates and opponents alike. Why? The commission, in a fairly rare move, did not take the advice of Metro planning staff — who recommended approving the zoning change that Stonehenge is seeking to make its project possible.
The stalled project has emerged as the latest flashpoint of pushback to Nashville’s dizzying growth spurt, an increasingly prevalent point of contention as developers rush to meet demand generated by the city’s population growth and job gains. The debate about this project echoes one from last year in the same Sylvan Park neighborhood, where similar concerns about increased traffic and too much density (i.e., too many people and too much activity concentrated on one property) were among several factors that wound up leading noted chef Deb Paquette to abandon plans to open her next restaurant there.
“It’s now a question whether residential will be able to go on the property at all. The neighbors have been pretty vociferous about not wanting it to be a residential site,” said Tom Patten, who owns the property at 4101 Charlotte Ave.
“I thought, when we started this, that everybody would want to get rid of that industrial site on Charlotte, but that does not seem to be the case,” Patten said. “We just kind of got smacked last night, and we’re trying to regroup.”
Stonehenge’s latest plan calls for 295 apartments, 22 townhomes and five single-family homes, for a total of 322 residential units on a 7.1-acre property. That’s about double the zoning that Metro policy recommends, though that policy does allow for the discretion to approve more development.
Charlotte Avenue is a major corridor into downtown and one that’s long been eyed as a place where Metro could expand its mass transit options. As we’ve written, if you want to grasp the scale and significance of Charlotte Avenue’s budding revitalization, just study the block or so on which the Madison Mill site is located. The building would wrap around a small retail strip that opened about one year ago, featuring the popular restaurant Flip Burger. A single railroad spur separates the Madison Mill property from a $60 million mixed-use development by H.G. Hill Realty Co., a site where construction crews are building a 262-unit apartment building, townhomes and at least three announced restaurants. A short walk gets you to the L&L Restaurant Equipment Co., whose owner is proposing an overhaul.
Presently, the site in question is zoned for industrial uses. It’s home to a shuttered manufacturing facility most recently used by Madison Mill Inc.
Without the commission weighing in (either favorably or unfavorably), Metro Council, which has the authority to implement zoning changes, can’t vote on the matter.
“Seven months, and you don’t even have a planning commission recommendation. What does that tell anybody about trying to do this kind of thing in that area?” said Shawn Henry, an attorney who represents Stonehenge. “Sylvan Park doesn’t exactly have a welcome sign up for new development.”
Murphy, the councilwoman who represents the area, said Stonehenge’s latest plan is better than previous versions, which called for as many as 550 apartments. While she does not support the company’s latest plan, Murphy reiterated that she remains committed to continue working to find a plan that she and neighbors would support.
“It would be a little too speculative for me to talk about what we’re looking for moving forward, since we’re still so fresh off of this meeting,” Murphy said Friday.
“You’ve got to justify that extra density. I just didn’t feel like that plan had been fleshed out enough, and enough justification given, for such an increase in density,” Murphy said. “The community plan says you can be more flexible if it meets the intent and goals of that plan. And I don’t feel like it’s met enough of those. Work still needs to be done to get it down in density.”
Todd Jackovich, the founder of Stonehenge, confirmed he remains under contract to buy the land. He said he is “figuring out what alternatives could be put on the site, or if there is any room to negotiate with neighbors.”
Adam covers commercial real estate and manufacturing.