By Amye Anderson
UCBJ Managing Editor
COOKEVILLE – It’s been roughly 60 years since work was first contracted to build portions of the Putnam County leg of Interstate 40. Construction of the stretch of I-40 connecting Nashville to Crossville wrapped nearly a decade later, in late 1967.
These days, new interchanges being constructed along I-40 are rare; save for the local fifth interchange. With construction on Cookeville’s newest access point nearing completion, David McDowell is hoping a nearby undeveloped property, 119 acres of prominent interstate visibility and access, will be the future location of the area’s next big retail or commercial development.
Simply referred to as the Tennessee Avenue site, the sprawling acreage is a stones’ throw from the new interchange. McDowell, a senior associate with Colliers International, an international real estate services company, is busy promoting the development of the sprawling site.
“It’s almost like a perfect situation,” McDowell told the UCBJ, regarding the property. “It’s developable, it’s zoned, it’s got (an) interchange.”
McDowell, who works out of the Nashville Colliers office and has seen the red-hot real estate market in metro Nashville firsthand is ready to put his team’s expertise to work locally.
The Tennessee Avenue site, or the Sheridan property as it’s known locally, had been a longstanding family farm for generations. McDowell says he’s been working with the property owners, Sheridan Family Partners, for approximately 10 months; hoping to find a retail application for the property and to market it as a prime location for Cookeville’s newest retail center or industrial tenant.
“We see the Fifth Interchange in Cookeville to be a major investment by the city and federal government to promote growth in that corridor,” said McDowell.
Construction of the new interchange is in the ballpark of $23 million while Tennessee Avenue, the interchange’s connector street, came in around $5.7 million.
Meanwhile, the price tag for the 119-acre property hasn’t been revealed but McDowell says the property will be priced at fair market value and will bring Cookeville what it needs – additional retail and other commercial uses, he says. The property is split among six separate parcels – with the option to purchase all 119 acres as a whole or each parcel individually.
“There are a couple of combinations of how this might end up playing out but we’re going to paint the whole market and see what comes,” McDowell said. “We don’t see a lot of interchanges being built anymore so it looks like a really good opportunity for a developer to fill in some blanks.”
Cookeville, considered a micropolitan community by demographics standards – comprised of areas of Jackson, Overton, Putnam and White counties – is seeing its own surge in the real estate and retail markets. The Cookeville-area was recently named among the top 10 largest-gaining micropolitan areas.
The city is also within a day’s drive of 75 percent of the nation’s population. Serving as the hub of the 14-county Upper Cumberland region, which is home to roughly 317,000 citizens, Cookeville is also the retail center for the UC region; with reported retail sales of more than $1 billion annually.
The Colliers team has been busy performing a soft outreach to potential developers.
“The interest we get is pretty moderate, at this point,” McDowell said. “We felt like, early on, until the interchange is built, and completed and opened, that we’re probably not going to get a whole lot of serious play.”
Work on the interchange, now known as Exit 283, is estimated to wrap next month, according to TDOT spokesperson Jennifer Flynn. Serving as direct access to the Highlands Industrial Business Park and Academy Sports + Outdoors, the city’s newest access point and connector roadway is another feather in Cookeville’s cap; regarding the local commercial and industry scene.
Another economic boost is the recent retail jolt spurred by the development and construction of the Eagle Point retail center just off of I-40 in Cookeville. That development, currently on track for a fall 2018 completion, McDowell says, could serve as the catalyst that propels Cookeville’s retail portfolio – boosting the area’s chances of attracting big-name retailers; and even future industrial opportunities.
“That, I think, is on the front end of what we might see of the new retail development going forward in Cookeville,” McDowell said. “Tennessee is pretty popular these days.”
Estimates from the Census Bureau show the state’s population has seen a 5.8 percent increase since April 2010.