For most born-and-bred suburbanites or country folks, the phrase “loft living” is a new one.
“The loft came out of the ‘artist loft’ concept,” says Mark Deutschmann, who founded Village Real Estate Services in 1996, “where you took a warehouse and created a space for an artist to work. The ‘true loft’ can have open rooms or closed rooms, but it’s the older building that’s been converted. The ‘soft loft’ is the newer construction building that mimics a loft—they have high ceilings, open rooms, or concrete floors.”
The go-to group for the loft-living lifestyle in Nashville is Village Real Estate Services and the CityLiving Team. Deutschmann and his agents have a wealth of knowledge and can help you navigate through the burgeoning urban market in Nashville.
“Nashville is different from other cities,” Deutschmann explains. “We restricted housing downtown for 50 years, so Nashville, for better or for worse, has lagged behind. But now we’re in a really good position in our urban core.”
This is because everyone, it seems, is gravitating to live downtown. But, says Deutschmann…
“You can’t just talk about ‘downtown’ anymore. You have to think about the different neighborhoods that are emerging.”
Here’s the skinny on the different districts to keep in mind:
The Gulch: Also known as 12th South and the surrounding areas, The Gulch area (www.nashvillegulch.com) is home to such well-known places as City Hall, Therapy, BarTwenty3, and recently developments like Icon and Velocity. The draw of The Gulch is the young, urban atmosphere with easy access to all the perks of downtown. It draws on all the hip-ness of the Nashville scene without being soaked in country music kitsch.
Germantown: For a traditional, family oriented feel, check out Germantown (historicgermantown.blogspot.com), an area of approximately 18 blocks from 3rd-8th Avenues North. Considered Nashville’s first suburb, Germantown was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and has also been designated as an Inner City Arboretum. There are new developments springing up left and right, like 4th & Monroe or The Lofts.
“The Lofts at Werthan Mills, an old cotton mill built in 1872 that’s being converted to 300 residential units, is one of the main developments,” Deutschmann says. “And there are other smaller projects. It’s mixed zoning, and you’re seeing some really interesting projects emerge—district lofts, town homes, flats.”
East Nashville Gateway: “You’ve got East Nashville and you’ve got downtown, but between there are a couple major projects,” Deutschmann explains. “Fifth & Main is a multiphase project, and the first phase under construction will be somewhere between 300-400 residential units when completed.”
The area is convenient to parks and walking trails like Riverfront Park, Shelby Dog Park and East Bank Greenway, but the real draw may be the Five Points neighborhood, a thriving commercial district with businesses like The Turnip Truck (a whole foods grocer), Bongo Java and a host of restaurants and lounges (www.eastnashville.org).
SoBro: The SoBro neighborhood is “everything south of Broadway” in the heart of downtown. The proposed site of the now-on-hold Sounds stadium, one of the biggest projects is Rolling Mill Hill. A master-planned community that is an adaptive use of the old Metro Hospital on the Cumberland River, this development sits on one of the highest points of land at the edge of downtown and promises to have one of the best views in the city.
Church Street Corridor: “There are a lot of great old buildings that are being redeveloped with housing upstairs and businesses at street level,” Deutschmann says. “You have lofts at the Exchange, the Church Street Lofts, The Kress lofts and the Viridian...there are a lot of different residences emerging there, and they’re all selling well. Also, they’re creating a community of art galleries there; I think it’s kicked off a new wave...it really is becoming the Avenue of the Arts.”
WHY GO URBAN?
Andre Scott, a business owner in his 30s, moved to Nashville and fell in lovewith the location of the city, but also with the community thriving on the Avenue of the Arts idea. Scott purchased a unit in The Kress building in December 2006 and moved in three weeks ago.
“I have gotten so much exercise in the last three weeks,” Scott says. “I have not used my car in 10 days. I walk everywhere—it’s awesome.”
Scott’s estimation of Nashville urban life carries weight. He grew up in Tuscaloosa, Ala., (where his parents still live), lived in a loft in Chicago for 10 years, and for a while lived on his horse farm in Lewisburg, Tenn.
“I love my farm, but my whole attitude changed when I moved here,” Scott says. “I got really excited. But it’s not new-city excitement. It’s the excitement of picking the right spot.”
Scott’s Realtor, Josh Stalls, is a buyer broker with the CityLiving Team.
“Josh was a great Realtor,” Scott says. Stalls’ goal is to help clients “find their niche in the urban market,” and he has helped Scott do so.
The design features of loft living appealed to Scott, who because of his previous experiences, was prepared for the unique challenges that exposed pipes and concrete floors can present—but that didn’t stop him from bringing in a design team to help him make decisions.
In true Nashville style, Scott’s painter and designer are a husband-and-wife team who are also a part of the band The Arlenes. Steve and Stephanie Arlene hail from London and have helped transform Scott’s loft into an urban chic living space. With dramatic reds, mustard yellows and avocado greens, the main living space is warm and inviting, even with the 16-foot ceilings exposed duct work that in other spaces might be unwieldy.
“What’s really cool is that each of these spaces [in the Kress] is ultimately a different shape,” Steve Arlene says. “They all start out painted stark white, like a blank canvas. It’s interesting to see what everyone’s doing with them.”
The unifying element in Scott’s loft is the chocolate-brown ceiling, which complements all of the other colors he’s chosen; even the teal in the guest bedroom and the natural wood of the kitchen cabinets and bedroom door.
“This style is really appealing to me,” Scott says. “It’s like a place in the Village [in New York City].”
MAKING THE FIRST MOVE
If, like Scott, you’re ready to make the move toward urban Nashville yourself, but you just don’t know where to start, Deutschmann suggests first considering what kind of community you want to live in.
“Ask questions like: ‘Do I like the old-character buildings, or would I rather go with new construction?’ ‘How many people would I like having live in the community I’m in?’” Deutschmann says.
You’ll also want to think about what amenities and features are important to you. For instance, The Westview has a green roof with native plants growing. The Morgan Park Place in Germantown uses low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, in-line water heaters and EarthCraft criteria for building, making it an eco-friendly development that also means it will be cheaper for the resident when it comes to energy bills. Other developments feature space on the ground floor for commercial use, fitness centers and rooftop pools.
In the end, loft living is a choice that goes beyond a simple decision based on budget or location. Loft-living—at least in Nashville—can change your daily routine, expand your circle of friends and even increase your fitness level.
That might just be enough to convince even the life-long suburbanites to start packing their bags for a move downtown.