By Michelle Price
Special to the UCBJ
COOKEVILLE – Years of work and planning were realized Monday with the groundbreaking for the new Food City retail development at 10th Street and Old Kentucky Road.
“It took a lot of collaboration,” said developer Wayne Cravens of BSM Cookeville, LLC. “I can’t tell you how valuable people like Melinda (Keifer), Stephen (Crook), Ricky (Shelton), Randy (Porter) and the Food City folks have been through this. We went through COVID and the changes that made in the whole financial environment. They stayed strong. The (property) owners, David and Susan Qualls, were great to work with, TN Rural Development Fund and SmartBank. We all worked through issues together.”
The most notable collaboration on the project was the partnership and new business entity formed when the local developers reached out to a regional retail real estate development and management specialist firm to utilize their expertise.
Tenth Street Partners was the local developer composed of the three original partners Justin Cumby (Titan Development), Wayne Cravens and Tyler Atkinson. BSM Investments Five, LLC was a division of Baker Storey McDonald, the regional expert. The two partnered to form BSM Cookeville, LLC, owned 50% by Tenth Street Partners and 50% by BSM Investments Five, LLC.
The development was one of the first in Cookeville that incorporated a traffic component requiring the developers to pay for the widening of 10th Street and improvements to Old Kentucky Road as a condition for approval.
“This development represents an opportunity for our community to improve traffic conditions along one of our most heavily used roads, addressing a major area of need according to traffic studies and many Cookeville residents,” Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton explained. “By committing to partnering in attacking this issue, you’ve proven your commitment to being a longstanding influence on our community.”
As a result of the developer’s commitment to the traffic improvements, the city of Cookeville has engaged engineers to further evaluate and design the widening of 10th Street from Fisk Road to Old Kentucky Road. This project is estimated to be bid out concurrently with the developer’s street widening and improvements.
“I believe the adjacent neighborhoods are going to reap a tremendous reward from this,” Cravens said. “I know change is never easy, but change is inevitable and if it is done well and thoughtfully, I believe the outcome is going to be far better than they first expected.”
Although some neighbors of the development voiced concerns about the project early on, developers worked with the city to incorporate any recommendations or requirements to improve the project.
“Our whole concept from the beginning was for this to be a neighborhood center,” Cravens shared. “When we think about the programing and what we hope to bring here – the different services and types of establishments – we hope they will be complementary to this northeastern quadrant of Cookeville and will give the folks that live out here an opportunity to avoid traveling across town to get some of the types of things they have traditionally had to drive a ways to obtain.”
Shelton agreed, “This development will provide another reason our citizens don’t have to leave Cookeville to shop. As our community seeks to strengthen the economy after the impact of the pandemic, local sales tax is more important than ever. Sales tax at local retailers keeps our property taxes down and provides much needed jobs and spending power.”
Teamwork amongst community leaders played a vital role in this project. Developers can achieve optimal results working with the chamber of commerce, city and/or county planners, codes officials and the development’s neighboring residents.
“Cookeville is going to grow,” Cravens added. “Either we are going to engage and thoughtfully design that growth, or it is going to grow in a creative but destructive pattern that we are going to face challenges with, but if we can just work with the public-private engagement and can appreciate both sides to it and learn to harness tools like our IDB (Industrial Development Board). Food City has done that. They’ve learned the mechanisms in cities like Nashville and Knoxville. They have been able to plan. It’s going to be a better quality of life for everyone, and we are excited to be a part of that.”