Since I keep reading about the Councill Court redevelopment in the paper, I guess I should talk about it, though I can't reveal any more details than what is already public information. Yes, it is true-- two years after closing Councill Court, the city and the housing authority may have found a developer who wants to do exactly what was envisioned for the area-- a mixed-use "urban village," a rare opportunity to create a whole new neighborhood in the heart of the city. If the project is approved and is built as advertised, it will change the course of the city center's development for years to come.
I won't delve into details and renderings until the project is made official, but here's a recap of what is public: a consortium of Huntsville and Nashville developers want to develop at least part of the former housing project into approximately 200 apartments, medical offices, small retail and restaurants, hotel, and the main attraction, an urban grocery store. However, there are two hurdles to overcome before anything happens.
First off, the urban grocery store, most likely a Publix, hasn't even signed on as a tenant yet. In Publix's case, a site presented to the company by a developer must go through an ominous-sounding "committee" before it is approved. Many store sites have made it to committee and have been rejected there, so a Publix store at Councill Court is not a guarantee until that happens, probably later this year. The good news is that Publix has experience with urban grocery stores in places like Greenville; Columbia, SC; and Atlanta.
The other big hurdle is the financing and construction of at least one, but probably two, parking garages. Mayor Battle has publicly said that the cost of the garage(s) will be $10-14 million. (By the way, if you're skeptical about going to a grocery store with a parking garage, it's becoming more common as retailers move into urban areas. So this probably won't be the last time you see this.)
There is good reason to be optimistic. One of the development companies that is part of the project, Nashville-based Bristol Development Group, played a major role in the redevelopment of an industrial area between Downtown Nashville and Music Row known as "The Gulch" by developing two condo towers, Icon and Velocity. In Germantown, another great Nashville neighborhood, Bristol is currently constructing an urban apartment complex similar in size to the one proposed at Councill Court. So these guys have a good track record and know what they're doing.
With the Councill Court project and Belk-Hudson, by the end of 2013, there will be 300 new apartments downtown, and there is room for hundreds more. An urban grocery store, whether it's Publix or another chain, will accelerate residential growth in the city center even further. It also gives smaller businesses, such as a dry cleaners or a sandwich shop, the anchor they need to thrive downtown.