Don Hayes is looking forward to walking out the front door of his new East Nashville townhome and stepping aboard a train that takes him downtown without having to fight Gallatin Pike’s notorious traffic congestion.
“I have used a mass transit system a few times when I lived in the Northeast and I feel it is a great way to get to downtown and not worry about traffic or parking. … I also feel a little more connected to a city when riding the train,” said Hayes.
He recently moved into Chester, a development of 17 townhomes at the intersection of Chester Avenue and Gallatin Pike along the first route of Nashville’s proposed light rail system.
The $6 billion transit plan includes bus rapid transit, bus-on-shoulder, commuter rail service between cities and, for the first time, light rail in Nashville. The plan would be implemented over 25 years if voters approve funding.
Real estate professionals believe the plan would boost property values and lead to new investment in the surrounding neighborhoods as mixed-use transit-oriented developments are located along the routes. And, by making it easier to travel between employment centers and affordable neighborhoods beyond the city’s core, light rail and better bus service could increase access to workforce housing.
“If done right, it will make a huge difference in the quality of our city,” Jimmy Granbery, chairman and CEO of H.G. Hill Realty Company, said during a recent forum held by ULI Nashville, the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute.
“We may not have an affordable housing issue as much as a connectivity issue,” said Granbery.
The region’s first transit-oriented development is already under way in Lebanon. A depot for the Music City Star commuter train, planned for several years, is now under construction in Hamilton Springs and is expected to be open within a year. The train provides service to downtown Nashville.
Hamilton Springs is zoned for up to 2,500 residences, although developer Jack Bell expects the actual number will be no more than 1,800. An apartment development and about 20 single-family homes have been completed.
Transit -oriented development is new to the region and “a lot of people doubted” Hamilton Springs would succeed, said Bell.
“I have a lot of interest now that the station has started,” he said.
“Some people don’t get it. Younger people are going to get it. The younger generation understands” the value of transit, said Bell.
Hayes had already decided to move to Chester before the transit plan raised the possibility of light rail service outside his front door. Now he believes his new neighborhood will become even more desirable.
Since its announcement, the transit plan has become “a major selling point” for owners of Chester townhomes, said Realtor Newell Anderson.
“Proximity to the stops will be huge. Look at Manhattan. Proximity adds value to real estate,” said Anderson, a Realtor with Village Real Estate Service. A related company, Core Development Services, is the developer of Chester and Bailey, which comprises 16 modern townhomes and condo flats along Gallatin Road and West Eastland Avenue.
Chester is priced in the mid to high $300,000s. Bailey is priced in the mid $300,000s to the $400,000s.
Core is also developing Alloy off Nolensville Pike, another corridor where new transit service would be expected. At Alloy, a development of 81 condos, 10 residences were recently available for less than $200,000 and 15 were priced below $250,000.