Donelson Plaza is undergoing a major redevelopment and rising vertically by the minute to bring to the city a town center with a eclectic new vibe with mixed-use to shop, eat and live.
The 1960s-era shopping center will be transformed into a modern hub to Donelson, according to Allen Arender, a partner at Holladay Properties, developer of the project.
The project is currently underway and visible with the transformation of the 12-acre site, formally known as Donelson Plaza, which has been a mainstay in the community for years with businesses such as Chester’s and Castner Knott. Donelson Plaza opened in 1961, and Castner Knott was its anchor tenant.
With the fresh refurbish and mammoth redevelopment, the area will be a new urban town center. A relocation of the Metro Nashville Branch Library will take center stage in the development, but the existing space will have new facades, green space, eateries, retail, office and even apartments down the road.
“We bought the property about three years ago,” Arender said.
It was about an $8 million purchase.
“We felt it was a big site in the heart of Donelson,” he said. “There’s great retail space, and we wanted to reimagine the space and are aiming to create a town center to go from all retail that it was to a mixed used with office, retail and residential apartments.
The current spaces, not part of the new construction but existing, are in the midst of a major redo and refresh, said Arender.
By the end of the year, already three prime retail spaces will be available for lease.
“We are currently working on three prime spots totaling 8,000 square feet,” he said.
One of the spaces will be on the lower level, and the other two spaces will be on the street level of the plaza.
Already there’s keen interest from business owners and entrepreneurs. Arender said most of the interests are “food destination” places such as restaurants and a coffee shop.
During the revamp and renew, there are obvious current tenants doing good business in the plaza such as Donelson Air, Southern Thrift and Dollar Tree.
“We do have existing tenants leasing and, of course, we will honor these,” he said. “As people move out and it gets turned over, this will determine our next phase.”
The Holladay Properties offices will be the first new tenants by the end of the year. They will take up two levels and about $14,000 square feet of the new construction.
Arender said there are plans for an apartment element to the project, most likely to come to fruition in 2020.
“We are working on two scenarios as to where they will be,” he said.
Favored locations for the apartments are behind the plaza or in front more toward Lebanon Road.
Along with building new offices and remodeling the inside and outside of the current space, there’s a push for new landscaping, parking areas and more.
“It will be a whole new look,” said Arender. “It’s happening as we speak, and it’s so exciting.”
Tree islands have already been built in the parking lots, and soon plants will appear in those. A green space is planned in front of the library. A courtyard is planned between the offices and the library.
“It will be a great place to go with seating areas and lighting,” he said. “Just a great place to go for visitors to the plaza or a place to read the book you just checked out from the library.”
A fun tidbit Arender shared is a treasure found while rebuilding the former Chester’s clothing boutique that was at it prime decades ago.
Covered up and unseen, when workers started to rebuild Chester’s, they uncovered something special in the travertine floor tile.
“They found a tile with the logo of Chester’s engrained,” said Arender.
With historic preservation in mind, they kept the tile.
“We want to place it in the planned courtyard,” he said.
The project will be phased over several years, but by the end of the year, citizens will see a huge transformation already. There’s already a major buzz from the business community clamoring to be part of the new urban town center.
“We are really looking forward to our office moving there soon so we can be part of this huge development of the Donelson area,” Arender said. “We want to breathe new life into this area where people fondly remember and grew up.”