It is expected to be a game-changer for the city—one of the largest mixed-use developments in the history of Nashville and the state of Tennessee. With 372,000 square feet (35,000 sq m) of class A office space, 386 for-rent multifamily units, and more than 200,000 square feet (19,000 sq m) of entertainment, retail, and food and beverage space in addition to the 55,000-square-foot (5,000 sq m) National Museum of African American Music, Fifth + Broad will add another vibe to a city already famous for its music.
The dynamic urban infill project will provide a new level of street activation and connectivity throughout the downtown core. Spearheaded by New York City developer Brookfield Properties, the $430 million Fifth + Broad development is reshaping a high-profile corner in downtown Nashville. Also referred to as Fifth + Broadway, the site once served as the home of the six-acre (2.5 ha) Nashville Convention Center, which was a major anchor of the central business district for the past three decades. But the 1980s-era convention facility was rendered obsolete with the 2013 opening of the 2.1 million-square-foot (195,000 sq m) Music City Center, located south of Broadway and adjacent to the Bridgestone Arena and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Construction of Fifth + Broad began in fall 2017. Demolition of the 30-year-old vacant Nashville Convention Center—which boasted about 119,000 square feet (11,000 sq m) of exhibit space and 25 meeting rooms—began in June 2017 and was completed some three months later. For safety reasons and dust control, the center was dismantled by manual and mechanical means rather than imploded. The three components of Fifth + Broad—the retail podium in the center (which houses the National Museum of African American Music), the office tower, and the residential tower—are expected to be delivered mid-2020.
“Many of Nashville’s prior mixed-use projects sprawl over large land areas, ultimately linking the mixed uses via roadways,” says Rob Lowe, managing director of Cushman & Wakefield Nashville.
“While walkable and well received, these older mixed-use projects lacked the complexity of scale that will be evident at Fifth + Broad. The users will feel the scale of the project but also the ease with which they may flow from one use to another.”
The development is a dense six-acre (2.4 ha) site with frontage on all sides. “This is truly comprehensive mixed use contained within a city block,” says Burgin Dossett, regional manager for Brookfield Properties. “Given the tight urban site, multiple components and uses are stacked vertically and designed for easy vehicular and pedestrian access at several points. Further, sound levels, security, and privacy are program drivers when combining a professional work environment, residential apartments, and lively retail/entertainment venues. This is a project specifically designed for a city that has more people working in it, living in it, and visiting it—with more foot traffic—than ever before.”
Fifth + Broad’s residential component will further strengthen the 24/7 appeal of downtown Nashville as a place to work, play, and visit, says Butch Spyridon, president and chief executive officer of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. “The perception of downtown Nashville has changed greatly over the last five years. More than anything, offerings such as Fifth + Broad will continue to broaden the footprint of the perception of downtown as being a five-block area and will help activate valuable real estate throughout the heart of the city.”
Fifth + Broad will also give visitors and residents a more dynamic first impression of Nashville. “It’s at the entrance of downtown Nashville, and it changes the face of how people enter the core,” says Courtney Ross, chief economic development officer at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “Fifth + Broad not only alters the look of one of the city’s primary thoroughfares but also continues to connect with other developments such as Nashville Yards, now under construction. While not adjacent, both developments are within walking distance and are both at the entrance of downtown via Broad.”
The Needs of a Growing City
Fifth + Broad will deliver downtown Nashville’s largest collection of retail space alongside sought-after office and residential spaces. Because of Nashville’s diverse economy and steady growth, the city has not experienced the typical booms and busts that other municipalities have endured. “It seems like the boom now in effect is simply catching up with demand. We’re not booming on expectations or perception,” says Thomas D. Turner, president and CEO of the Nashville Downtown Partnership. “We’re booming on reality. Downtown office, residential, and retail are all in short supply as development has lagged demand. Our market research indicates demand for an additional 4 million square feet [372,000 sq m] of office space, and 8,000 apartments and condos; and with retail vacancy under 4 percent, we’re underbuilt in three key categories: office, residential, and retail. While Fifth + Broad will bring significant and welcome additions to all three categories, the market can absorb even more.”
Downtown Nashville needs better public areas and better management of existing places, he adds, noting that the legacy of poorly designed structures that limit contiguous retail storefronts is a hindrance that exists in Nashville—and in many other cities. “Fortunately, hotels are catching up to demand, with 8,000 rooms now and another 3,500 on the way,” Turner continues. “More grocery stores are en-route, with a Whole Foods under construction at 12th and Broad and a Publix being built at 11th and Charlotte in the Capitol View development. Both will be joining two smaller, well-established, full-service urban markets. Additionally, it’s possible the lack of a well-developed transit system today allows us to more effectively embrace disruptive transportation solutions in the future.”
The number of people living and working in Nashville’s downtown has lagged that of other cities with similar populations, but their numbers are increasing quickly, Lowe adds. “When Fifth + Broad is delivered, more residents of Nashville will consider urban living as an alternative—not just thanks to the on-site residential, but the amenities and conveniences the project will provide all of downtown,” he says.
Fifth + Broad is emblematic of the evolution and explosive growth of downtown Nashville. In 2008, there were 46,000 people employed in the downtown; today, there are 72,000, a nearly 57 percent increase. In 2010, there were just over 5,000 residents in downtown; today, there are nearly 12,000, an increase of 140 percent. In 2012, Nashville had 11.2 million visitors; that rose to 15.2 million visitors last year, an increase of 36 percent.
All that growth demands a broader assortment of entertainment, retail, office, and living options that appeal to people intersecting downtown, says Dossett. “We’re delivering on that need with Fifth + Broad, and it will make Nashville a more viable place to live, work, and visit for a wider audience,” he continues. “Creating so many uses in a specific district with the city’s primary attractions and business centers within walking distance will result in fewer commuter trips, greater walkability, and more retail offerings—all key components of a true city.”
Fifth + Broad is replacing the former convention center, which had a seldom-used entrance on Broad and featured a concrete wall that ran down Fifth Avenue and fronted the city’s historic Ryman Auditorium—which did not make for a welcoming feature, says Dossett. “The Nashville Convention Center served an important purpose for many years,” he adds. “But it became obsolete and out of place amid vibrant neighbors such as the Lower Broad district and Bridgestone Arena.”
Because there has not been a concentration of retail in downtown Nashville for a while, it took additional legwork with tenants to get them comfortable with being pioneers, Dossett notes. The retail component of Fifth + Broad includes a flagship Swedish multinational clothing retail H&M store, a multistory food hall by Plano, Texas–based the Food Hall Company, and a number of eateries including popular burger restaurant Shake Shack, Mediterranean culinary brand CAVA, and Nashville food favorites Hattie B’s and Slim & Husky’s. With continuing behind-the-scenes negotiations as well as unannounced leases, Brookfield notes that leasing is ahead of schedule, but the company’s policy is not to provide occupancy statistics this far ahead of opening.
The National Museum of African American Music is a key component of the development, and the connection with Nashville’s musical heritage will be unique, says Dossett. “We are Music City, not Country Music City,” he continues. “There’s an incredible history of African American music here, and the new National Museum of African American Music will help diversify and expand on Nashville as a cultural epicenter of music of all kinds.”
Fifth + Broad’s office component is filling up, too. New York–based global investment management firm AllianceBernstein (AB) announced in October 2018 that it would be the anchor tenant at 501 Commerce, Fifth + Broad’s class A office tower. AB leased 200,000 square feet (19,000 sq m) of the office tower’s 372,000 square feet (34,600 sq m) on floors 18 to 25. AB announced last year that it would relocate its global headquarters to Nashville, expected to move some 1,050 corporate office jobs by 2024.
One of the biggest challenges facing Fifth + Broad is to deliver all the elements and uses simultaneously. “Inevitably, the office component or multifamily or retail component will advance quicker at any given time due to a variety of factors, but Brookfield Properties committed to deliver all components at once to ensure an urban environment that is vibrant and alive,” says Lowe. “While a challenge, one only needs to consider that over the last six years there have been $18 billion in construction permits issued for Davidson County [which includes Nashville] to gauge the attractiveness of investing in the city. There is full confidence they will be very successful.”
Because the components of Fifth + Broad are being done all at once rather than in a phased approach, the impact upon opening is expected to be fairly instantaneous. Gary Gaston, chief executive officer of the Nashville Civic Design Center and assistant professor of practice at the University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design, says, “This is a massive development site, so the coordination of doing the buildout while trying to maintain all the surrounding uses, pedestrian, transit, and vehicular service has been an impressive feat. The previous convention building was mostly blank exterior walls of concrete and black glass; this [development] will increase the level of activity in the area, and better promote walking, cycling, and transit usage.”
Fifth + Broad will also provide an additional level of things to do while in downtown that will complement the city’s “Lower Broad” experience, Gaston adds. “Developments such as Fifth + Broad and nearby Nashville Yards both help bridge the gap between a lot of the current activity happening in downtown Nashville and other vibrant neighborhoods such as the Gulch, Midtown, and Capitol View,” he says.
The National Museum of African American Music—decades in the planning—is a key component of the development, and the connection with Nashville’s musical heritage will be unique, says Dossett. “We are Music City, not Country Music City,” he continues. “There’s an incredible history of African American music here, and the museum will help diversify and expand on Nashville as a cultural epicenter of music of all kinds.”
NC&VC’s Spyridon agrees, noting that one of the greatest benefits that Fifth + Broad will bring for visitors is not only much-needed retail downtown but also the National Museum of African American Music, which strengthens and broadens the city’s Music City brand. “Fifth + Broad pays tribute to our music brand—with the National Museum of African American Music—while still offering other diverse options,” he says.
What can other municipalities learn from mixed-use projects such as Fifth + Broad? “You need individuals across the private and public sector pulling in the same direction to deliver the best possible projects that comprehensively benefit a city,” says Dossett. “Nashville knew it needed more diversified development that rounded out the city and appeal to residents, visitors, and workers alike. Support from the public sector has been tremendous and key to seeing the project become a reality. Many individuals and organizations worked hard to create the conditions possible to ensure our project happens in a generational and transformative way that is right for Nashville.”
Others should study the evolution of Nashville’s Economic Development teams as well as the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation, says Lowe of Cushman & Wakefield. “These organizations laid the groundwork over the past 20 years through cooperation and visioning for the Nashville we live in today,” he explains. “It’s not easy work, but the success of Nashville largely rests on their shoulders.”
Adds Ross of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce: “I think other cities can make good use of the space they already have. Fifth + Broad is a good example of being able to incorporate multifamily, office, and retail and the visitor experience, while still staying with the character of Nashville. You don’t need to abandon your city’s character or culture but instead embrace it and incorporate it into development.”