Once Cheap and Sleepy; Now Trendy and Worth a Fortune

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107 Fern Avenue March 2016. Courtesy of Google Maps

By Peter White

NASHVLLE, TN – Old neighborhoods are changing fast and there’s no stopping it.

In 2009, 107 Fern Avenue in East Nashville was a modest bungalow frame house sitting on a half-acre lot on a bluff above I-24/I-65 just before the Trinity Lane exit.

There is no 107 Fern Lane anymore. It no longer exists.

In its place three tall and skinnies sit on .12 acre lots. Building up instead of out makes sense on this block. Each of the new homes, worth more than $500,000, has a spectacular view of downtown Nashville across the Cumberland River. The view makes up for having a neighbor 20 feet a way and a driveway for a front yard.

Once a forgotten little corner in an undesirable neighborhood, Fern Avenue lots are  some of Nashville’s hottest properties today.

Real Estate agent Page Turner says the Trinity Lane corridor has neighborhoods on both sides of I-65/I-24. They make up parts of District 2, 5, and 8 of North and East Nashville. Real estate sales started heating up in the Cleveland Park area in District 5 three years ago.

“Sales are up 60%. Our seller’s boom started in 2015 and prices are still going higher,” Turner said.  “A lot of millennials are moving there who are new to that neighborhood,” she said.

Turner was talking about the area between Eastland Ave and East Trinity Lane to the south and north and between Gallatin Pike and I-24 to the east and west. Those neighborhoods are changing just like Five Points and Lockeland Springs and the Rosebank neighborhoods of East Nashville did 4-5 years ago.

District 2 has a lot of unimproved property meaning nothing has ever been built there. Developers don’t have demolition costs so they can get straight to the construction.

Two weeks ago District 2 residents roundly rejected a proposed Section 8 housing development near West Trinity Land and Buena Vista Pike.  B. Edward Ewing bought 30 acres near there and says he’ll invest $200 million if the city helps him raise another $300 million to bring the stores, condos, retail, and restaurants North Nashville residents say they want in their neighborhood.

Ewing says he wants to create the downtown Nashville of tomorrow on the banks of the Cumberland River across from where Metro Center is now. Developing Bordeaux and North Nashville makes sense. That’s where most of the city’s undeveloped land is located.

But Ewing wants the city to build more bridges across the Cumberland River to reach the Nashville “Gold Coast” he dreams about. Ewing wants to build houses and condos in the $250-per-square-foot range. The average price of Nashville homes, while historically high and still rising, is $148-per-square-foot.  So Ewing is not talking the Redneck Riviera of Mexico Beach. He’s talking Miami Beach or Santa Monica.

“I didn’t think it would happen while I was still working here,” said Randy Ward. Ward is Residential Property Division Supervisor in the Davidson County Office of the Assessor. He has worked there 17 years.

“It’s very surprising to all of us that things have picked up so quickly,” he said.

The assessor’s office has home sales listed by zone and by month from 2013-2017 on their website.

There were 66 homes sales in Zone 6 in January 2013. In January 2017 there were 156. In Zone 4, along West Trinity Lane and White’s Creek Pike there were 9 sales in March of 2013 and 51 in March 2017. These numbers show more homes in Zone 6 have been selling than in Zone 4. But in both zones between 2013-2017, home sales have increased three times in five years.

Another gauge of how fast neighborhoods are changing is the data Metro keeps on building permits. In District 2 there were 121 demolition permits issued between 2013-2017. There were 267 demolition permits issued in nearby District 5.

New home building permits in District 2 totaled 310 and new commercial building permits numbered 31. In District 5, there were 685 new home construction permits issued and 17 new commercial permits issued.

You can see what these numbers mean if you drive through those neighborhoods. More people are selling in the older neighborhoods of East Nashville than in the relatively newer subdivisions located in District 2. But development is definitely moving westward from East Nashville towards Council Districts 1 and 2.

Real Estate Broker Page Turner has seen the city change before her eyes. New residents tend to be white with higher incomes and they are generally younger than the African Americans who are selling their homes.

“They’re moving out of state or way to the outskirts of Nashville—to Gallatin or Clarksville or they move in with family. But they can’t afford to stay where they lived and that’s a challenge,” Turner said.

She helped a couple sell their home in East Nashville and they made $400,000 profit.  “To pay $300,00 for a nice condo here didn’t make a lot of sense,” she said. “They had this nice nest egg so they opted to move to Atlanta,” she said.  Turner said they had no family or friends there.

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