By Cynthia Anderson
NASHVILLE, TN — D.J. Wootson is helping to change the face of North Nashville with modern apartments, new homes and commercial retail along the Jefferson Street corridor.
Through his real estate development company, Titus Young Real Estate LLC, Wootson is purchasing dilapidated properties on Jefferson Street and the surrounding areas, and transforming them into modern housing and commercial leasing space.
Wootson’s most high profile project is the former Dixon Capital building at 1821 Jefferson Street which is now home to a Smoothie King and the Jefferson Street Café.
The 26,000-square-foot, 4-story building opened in April 2017. The ground floor is retail with Smoothie King on one end and Jefferson Street Café by Bongo Java on the other end. The top three stories are one and two bedroom apartments which lease from $1,270 to $1,500.
Since Wootson launched Titus Young Real Estate LLC in 2014, his company has invested more than $10 million in North Nashville.
“My focus has been North Nashville,” Wootson said. “I have taken a social approach to my redevelopment efforts. My projects have all been based on what I felt as an investor and as an observer was missing from this market. I felt there was a lack of gathering space and a lack good housing options.”
Originally from Willington, Del.; Wootson moved to Nashville from Atlanta in 2004 where he played basketball in college for Georgia State University. After arriving in Nashville, he earned a Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University while also obtaining his real estate license.
“When I was finishing at Vanderbilt, I knew I didn’t want to further my studies and I knew I wanted to try my hand at real estate,” Wootson said. “That led me to residential real estate, which led me to commercial real estate, which led me to property management and then to corporate real estate at Dollar General.”
Wootson held various roles at Dollar General, the last of which was store manager for Dollar General on Dickerson Road.
“I felt like I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing so I put together a plan to start my own company, and eventually I did,” Wootson said.
Wootson had a plan to start his real estate development, investment, management and construction company. He approached his long-time acquaintance, Nashville businessman John Ingram, who is chairman of Ingram Content Group.
“I knew John because our sons went to school together and had been in school the last few years,” Wootson said. “I had an idea of what I wanted to do and because of our familiarity, he was willing to listen. He took a meeting and the rest is history. A few months after that, I was in business.”
Ingram is a partner in the business but is not involved in day to day operations, Wootson said.
The company name Titus Young Real Estate LLC, was derived by combining the name of Wootson’s 15-year-old son Titus, with Young; the last name of Wootson’s father who died from drug abuse.
The business plan is to focus on residential and commercial development in North Nashville through socially responsible redevelopment efforts. Wootson said he noticed an unmet demand for coffee in North Nashville so he recruited Bongo Java which operates the Jefferson Street Café. Wootson owns the building and he leases space to Smoothie King, which opened in March of this year, and Jefferson Street Café, which opened in June.
“It brings healthier options,” Wootson said. “We have enough fast food options on Jefferson Street.”
In the area between Fisk University and Tennessee State University, Wootson’s company has nearly 50 apartments with leases starting at $800 per month. In that same area, the company has about 35 homes that are either completed, planned or in the building phase.
Wootson has plans for another large mixed-use development near Hadley Park that will be similar to the Jefferson Street development. The Hadley development will be four stories and will include 4,000-square-feet of retail space, condos and a rooftop deck. The building could possibly be home to a restaurant or another type of food offering, Wootson said. He expects to break ground on the Hadley project in 2019.
Additionally, Wootson’s company owns the 7-acer site on Clarksville Pike across from Lewis & Wright Funeral Home where Citi Trends is currently located, and has plans to develop that site in the near future.
Other Titus Young LLC projects include Heritage Townhomes which are currently under construction on Jefferson Street, and the Dollar Tree building on Clifton and 39th Avenues which has been open approximately one year.
All of the projects combined illustrate a transformation of the Jefferson Street corridor with development of commercial space along with new and remodeled housing in various price ranges which has attracted new residents and businesses to the area.
“I am not trying to rid Jefferson Street of what it was 50 years ago or now, but I want to try to usher in what Jefferson Street can be 50 years from now,” Wootson said.