Three big topics on the lips of AEC industry professionals in Nashville include the opportunities of an urban redevelopment effort, the persistent challenge of affordable housing and stormy banking forecasts that threaten to dampen the first two. The redevelopment opportunity, says Pyle, is the Metro East Bank project that’s bringing work for firms of every size. The affordable housing issues persist in the wake of local construction activity and the banking environment where lenders are tightening their belts.
“Construction in Nashville is starting to see a slowdown, but the amount of backlog is still very strong,” says Pyle. “It’s harder to secure financing for new projects because banks are more discerning about their lending practices.”
He pins higher interest rates as the top challenge for builders in Nashville because they are making it more difficult to break ground on new projects, and while 2023 saw a somewhat diminished construction volume, it was still a record-breaking year for construction permits in the city of roughly 700,000.
“I expect a noticeable slowdown in construction through 2024 as financial institutions limit their current exposure and the nation awaits the results of the 2024 election,” Pyle adds.
Wary banks aren’t the only headwinds.
“For all contractors, the competition of qualified talent continues to be a major challenge,” he says. “The construction industry is also facing a generational skills gap, with its workforce aging and fewer younger workers entering the market to backfill more experienced positions.”
BELL is trying to overcome the hurdle by focusing on upskilling current employees via training and resources, Pyle says, which is doubly important as the company continues to grow. Sectors like multifamily, hospitality and heavy highway/infrastructure are staying strong in the Nashville market, he says, adding that the mixed-use Nashville Yards development continues to be the hottest project in town.
“The amount of vertical growth in the 19-acre neighborhood over the last few years has been amazing,” Pyle says, noting his firm’s partnership with Clark Construction on behalf of Southwest Value Partners.
ENR has reported on work at Nashville Yards, including the $350-million redevelopment of the YMCA of Middle Tennessee’s facility, set to be Nashville’s tallest building once completed. Being built by general contractor AECOM Hunt, the 60-story, 750-ft residential tower is scheduled to complete by January 2026. The project ranked No. 17 on ENR Southeast’s 2022 Top Starts rankings. ENR has also reported on the new stadium in the works by the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans, which struck a $2.1-billion deal with Nashville to construct an enclosed stadium in October 2022 and picked a Turner-AECOM Hunt team for the project in August. Scheduled for a 2027 completion date, the facility will be built in parking lots adjacent to the team’s home since 1999, Nissan Stadium, and is set to total 1.75 million sq ft and seat about 62,000 fans.
The East Bank redevelopment, though, may take the title of Nashville’s hottest project soon.
“The East Bank redevelopment will really come into focus in 2024 with the outcropping of the new Titans stadium and Tennessee Performing Arts Center, as well as the kickoff of commercial, multifamily and mixed-use development projects that have been on the horizon for several years,” Pyle says.
For BELL, some big ongoing projects in the Nashville market include Ashwood, a design-centric, mixed-use office and retail concept on 12th Avenue South, the city’s preeminent shopping, dining and entertainment corridor. Another is Tempo by Hilton Nashville Downtown, the brand’s newest hotel in the heart of Music City.
According to BELL, the 16-story, 480,000-sq-ft luxury hotel designed by Earl Swensson Associates will complete in spring 2024, featuring 306 rooms, an outdoor pool and bar, an event lawn and a fifth-floor sky lobby offering views of downtown Nashville and Nashville Yards.
Amid all that activity, people need affordable places to live in the city, and BELL is working on a project with city leadership to house unsheltered people via the Metropolitan Nashville Permanent Supportive Housing and Downtown Homeless Service Center. The center, designed to significantly reduce Nashville’s homeless population, will provide onsite supportive services like counseling, hygiene and health services.