Proponents of 'OneC1ty' techbiz campus may need a bigger Bandwagon
By Milt Capps updated 14 December 2012 10:27 a.m.
Updated 14 Dec. 2012: The Tennessean reports that construction on the first medical building, a 100K SF facility with a clinical-practice tenant, is likely to begin in 1H13. A building dedicated to companies in healthcare technologies sectors is also considered. Original 2011 story follows. -Ed.
AT A TIME when the phrase 'real estate investment' can clear a room in 10 seconds, the proposed OneC1ty Nashville technology and business campus is being cheered-on by supporters, and given some running-room by skeptics.
With tentative support for the project from Health Care REIT (NYSE $8.9BN market-cap) and strong local support for the developers' plans to anchor a revitalized and strategically located portion of Nashville, even those who doubt the market can readily absorb the project acknowledge that some of its key pieces seem to be dropping into place.
When logical tenants ask themselves "What is the most efficient place to move new technology into the practice of Medicine, we want them to think of Nashville -- to realize, 'That's where I need to be'," said Keith Gregg, a partner in OneC1ty. The first tenants for its first one or two buildings are expected to move-in in mid-2013, he said.
That and other points in OneC1ty's case statement have apparently helped it win the support thus far of Metro Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Metro Council, Metro planning and others.
Meanwhile, the project evokes enthusiasm from Liza Massey, president of Nashville Technology Council, who told VNC that she believes that "NTC will have many member companies (current and new) among its occupants. I've heard other leaders in the tech community talk positively about the campus and even suggest having a presence there," she added.
Massey told VNC she has discussed the project at length with Gregg and Health Care REIT VP Ryan Doyle, who is based in the Nashville area. Massey said her experience "shows that whenever talented, creative people get together, great things happen. The campus setting spurs innovation and partnerships that may not otherwise happen," she added.
Pressed for an update on prospective tenants for the campus, Gregg told VNC, "We are speaking to several large pharmaceutical companies in the Northeast and two diagnostic companies who are in the areas of infectious disease, GI, diabetes, autoimmune and CNS [central nervous system] -- Also one imaging company outside the U.S. Lastly, three very large IT-analytics-clinical trials companies" are exploring OneC1ty," said Gregg. Some of the talks are "at the LOI stage," he added.
OneC1ty also recently chose as its general contractor J.E. Dunn Construction, the Kansas City-based company with a Nashville office, Gregg told VNC.
Gregg, 47, is also entrepreneur-in-residence for health/life-sci information technologies at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and is founder and chairman of Nashville-based JRG Ventures. JRG has 15 employees, he said, and provides "retained business development and corporate growth strategy" services for life-sciences, healthcare and health technology enterprises. His firm recently added to its board of directors Microsoft's James Lakes. Lakes is MS's Nashville-based director of business strategy and operations for the health and life-sciences sector, Gregg said during a weekend interview.
Also playing advisory roles thus far are Earl Swensson Associates, 505 Design (Boulder) and Hal Clark of Civil Design Site Group, Gregg confirmed.
OneC1ty has been designed to occupy nearly 19 acres accessible from Charlotte Avenue and the in-development 28th Avenue Connector, which will to some extent reunite North and West Nashville, decades after the area was split by Interstate construction. Eight buildings are imagined, with a total 1.2 million sq. ft. of office, research and meeting space, according to its website.
Its developers believe it will attract healthcare services and technology inventors, businesses and related institutions, all eager to cluster together in a community that lies in proximity to some of the nation's leading healthcare services companies and providers.
Most developers contacted by VNC about the project declined to comment on the record, noting that the initiative has the support of influential actors and that any such initiative should get a degree of public encouragement at this early stage. Most also acknowledged that questions remain regarding actual demand for the space, the economy and the cost of capital, lease pricing, the attractiveness of the location, and the broader effect on development in Davidson and Williamson Counties, among other ponderables.
A spokesman for Pantheon Park, a concept-stage project that recently surfaced in Nashville and which focuses on the music and entertainment sector, views OneC1ty as entirely complementary, said Tom Baldridge, spokesman for the Pantheon group.
The continuing effort by others to develop the Nashville Medical Trade Center, proposed for the site of the city's current convention center downtown, is not a factor, said Gregg. The two projects are complementary, Gregg theorized, with NMTC a horizontal for sales and OneC1ty a vertical development.
NMTC spokesman Cole Daugherty seemed to agree this morning, telling VNC, "We applaud any new development leveraging Nashville’s healthcare leadership. OneC1ty is an intriguing mixed-use project with priorities different from, but complementary to, the trade center. Nashville Medical Trade Center is a B2B marketplace bringing together buyers and sellers inside showrooms, tradeshow space and training facilities. We are creating a destination for healthcare decision makers from around the world to review products and services and to engage in education and training in a single downtown location.”
Nashville Entrepreneur Center (NEC) CEO Michael Burcham, who has applauded the OneC1ty idea since its unveiling, told VNC that he believes,"Bringing together healthcare services, life sciences and health technology innovators creates a vibrant environment where new ideas will flourish and new solutions will be created for our healthcare system. I look forward to seeing this idea turn into reality." Burcham earlier told the Nashville Business Journal that OneC1ty is likely to attract much-needed information-technology talent to Nashville.
Gregg noted that he anticipates that the NEC will help produce young companies that become tenants and vendors at OneC1ty. Gregg is the OneC1ty partner tasked with recruiting health-oriented companies to the project.
Caroline Young, president of the Nashville Health Care Council, told VNC, "The One C1ty development is another example of the spirit of collaboration and innovation so well known in Nashville's health care industry. And we look forward to seeing the developments that will follow and further raise the profile of Nashville as a national health care hub."
In a similar manner, via a spokesperson the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce told VNC, "While we have not reviewed the One C1ty development for formal endorsement, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce is a strong proponent of the health care industry and we support efforts to create environments that foster business growth and job creation in Tennessee.”
Toledo, Ohio-based and NYSE-listed Health Care REIT's recent quarterly report noted that the company has thus far in 2011 made gross investment of $4.2 Billion; its portfolio includes 898 properties in 45 states, the company said. VNC