Learn why commercial developers are looking at Rutherford County for new office and retail expansions.
Scott Graby, CEO of Hearthstone Properties, traveled to nearly two dozen developments around the country — including a cruise ship — to gather design ideas for his latest project, the Fountains at Gateway.
But when it was time to choose a location for the mixed-use development, he had only one city in mind — Murfreesboro. The city ranks among the 15 fastest-growing cities in the country, according to 2015 Census data and is home to the Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), the second-largest university campus in the state.
Add to that, access to the Nashville market but with a lower cost of living and doing business, and it’s easy to see why commercial developers are flocking to Rutherford County.
“Our ultimate goal in developing the Fountains was to attract more corporate users to Murfreesboro. In order to do that, we knew we couldn’t simply build typical suburban office buildings and hope to generate traction,” Graby says. “We started with a blank slate to envision a place that was unlike any other in Tennessee. We designed a nine-building, mixed-use development with an urban ‘Main Street’ ambiance — meandering streets, park areas, putting greens, splash pad and stages for performances and events.”
Rutherford County, TN: Millennial Talent Attraction
Located across from St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital off the bustling Medical Center Parkway, the Fountains at Gateway features high-end office space as well as more than 20,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Current tenants include Board & Brush do-it-yourself creative studio and trendy restaurants, such as Burger Republic, Tom+Chee, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop restaurant and Nothing Bundt Cakes bakery.
Graby says many of the development’s design features, such as a fitness center, a bike locker, bike rentals, campus-wide WiFi and plenty of green space, were included to appeal to the area’s younger residents.
MTSU is located just two miles from the Fountains at Gateway. Graby hopes developments like his will encourage companies with in-demand jobs to consider Rutherford County and provide more opportunities for the 20,000+ undergrad students at MTSU to stay in the immediate area upon graduation and allow more millennials to work closer to where they live.
“We have a wholesome, family-friendly atmosphere that is unique to Rutherford County,” Graby says. “This is a reflection of good schools, vibrant churches, great city leadership, interesting history and Southern charm. We also escape the traffic problems of our neighbors to the west and north, while having easy access to the airport and all the big-city cultural and sporting events less than 30 minutes away.”
Corporate Headquarters in Murfreesboro
“Our university and our talented workforce mean that great jobs and new investments are coming here,” says Rob Lyons, Murfreesboro City Manager. “Millennials and the Creative Class are looking for great places with vibrant downtowns to live, and, in turn, employers are looking for great workers and a great place for their workers to live.”
Rutherford County’s residential growth has also translated into revenue growth for retailers. Retail sales topped $6 billion in 2015, thanks to developments such as The Avenue Murfreesboro, the Gateway District in Murfreesboro and Colonial Town Park in Smyrna. The Avenue Murfreesboro, a lifestyle retail and restaurant development, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017.
This sector continues to blossom. Anchor Commercial Development announced plans in 2016, to convert a former YMCA into a 100,000-square-foot retail center called Stones River Place, and Stones River Mall announced plans for a new upscale dine-in movie theater. Meanwhile, the Oaks Shopping Center, a 32-acre mixed-use development in Murfreesboro’s Gateway District, continues to welcome new tenants, including the décor retailer HomeGoods.
“We are looking for restaurants and retailers that do not head-on-head compete with our existing tenants, but rather complement our existing line up. We already have a great group of tenants and we are working to ensure that we fill any holes in types of tenants to offer customers a good variety and mix,” says Rhonda Thomas, director of leasing and property management for Resource Realty, a Parkes Co., developer of the Oaks.
Thomas says the county is at the perfect crossroads for growth.
“The demand for growth on the retailer side, along with the increase in population and job growth is driving the interest in Rutherford County,” she says.