August 27, 2008

Nolensville community has high appeal and plans to grow

Residents, retailers, neighboring towns define booming area
By The Tennessean-August 27, 2008

To the untrained eye, the intersection of Nolensville Pike and Concord Road can easily be confused for Williamson County. And why not?
The area has higher design standards than what you find a little farther north in Davidson County. The new town homes and businesses bear the influence of Brentwood and Nolensville, though these municipalities have no control over the area.
In fact, a portion of it even has a Brentwood address, given its location within the 37027 ZIP code.
It's a thriving pocket in southeast Davidson County where young professionals such as Brian Maholic have recently discovered a person can find an affordable home while benefiting from the amenities of its more affluent neighbors.
"This part of town isn't all that bad," Maholic, 25, said. "It's really close to everything. My wife and I are both runners, and we run in Crockett Park all the time. We're in Davidson, but they want to be Brentwood."
A few years ago, this area where Williamson and Davidson counties meet was nothing more than overgrown fields and old, rundown homes and businesses.
"When I first started looking in the area, there was really not much out there except the antique stores," resident Wendy Perrotte said. "Now, it's still a little transitional, but I think for the most part it's kind of cleaning up."
She moved into the area two years ago and has seen it steadily develop to offer more restaurants, retail business and grocers.
"I have really enjoyed being able to shop without driving very far," she said.
Residential growth has kept pace. Developers, unable to put up town homes across the border in Williamson County, instead opted to build here and have found a niche, especially with a younger clientele.
Lenox Village, the large pedestrian-friendly mixed-use development just north of the county line off Nolensville Pike, is one of the most successful neo-traditional projects in Middle Tennessee. With its residential component of single-family homes, town homes and condos now well established, the retail and lifestyle components are under way.
Last year, Maholic bought a 1,600-square-foot town house in Concord Place, an impossibility in Brentwood. But with no children and quick access to interstates 24 and 65, he found it an ideal situation for he and his wife.
"Our options were really, do you want to live in Mt. Juliet? No. Spring Hill? No. Do we need that much of a home? Not really, and the town homes are really popular," he said.
Brentwood influence felt
In January, Pam Taylor moved from Florida to Cane Ridge. She shops in Brentwood and wants to see more of that community's influence bleed into her own.
The area bordering Williamson County, though not as strict as Brentwood or Nolensville, does have a higher design standard. Parker Toler, the Metro councilman representing the area, said the idea is to keep a fluid aesthetic between the borders.
"We're trying to keep the development so it matches what's in Williamson County and what's in Davidson County," he said. "Those are nice developments, where the Publix is and the new Kroger is," Toler said. "I think things will need to fit in with what's there."
He pointed out that some Williamson County residential developments, such as Annandale and Burkitt Place, extend over the county line into his district, again blurring the identity of these communities.
That creates a challenge for Brentwood and Nolensville officials, who are working to protect property values in their cities.
"I think everybody pretty much is allowed to do their own thing, and that's a difficult situation when you have three municipalities come together," Brentwood City Commissioner Betsy Crossley said. "That is really a growing area. It's close to Brentwood. It's upscale Davidson County."
She said Brentwood does have some agreements with neighboring communities that regulate what can be built, such as not having commercial in one area abut residential in another.
In Nolensville, which adopted strict design guidelines a few years ago, community leaders keep a nervous eye on what's happening just over the county line.
"We wish we had more say on it, but we don't. We have none," Nolensville Planning Commissioner Matt Happel said. "You hope that it's going to look good. I think someday it will probably blend a little bit."
Happel said the businesses and homes going up in the area sometimes use materials that aren't allowed in Nolensville because his town is looking to create a "small-town quaint" look in its future developments.
Retail thrives
This area has become a popular destination for many Williamson County residents because it offers eating and shopping options closer than they can find in their own communities. Several restaurants have opened just over the county line in southeast Nashville because Nolensville, which has seen rapid residential growth in recent years, doesn't allow liquor by the drink.
In December 2006, Bill Darsinos opened Sophie's Bistro, an upscale restaurant at 6601 Sugar Valley Drive, just off Nolensville Pike. The 85-seat restaurant appeals to patrons on both sides of the county line.
"Every month, business gets better," he said. "I get a lot of Brentwood, a lot of Franklin customers. A lot from the Lenox Village. We're a suburb of Brentwood, so our clientele is pretty affluent."
Darsinos said the immediate area around his business continues to attract younger residents with disposable income looking for more-upscale eating options.
"It's a diverse group that wants to have a nice dinner, a romantic dinner, but they don't want to drive all the way downtown, spend the money on gas," he said. "Those are the people who would go to Midtown Cafe or Sunset Grill, but instead of driving, they're coming here."
He foresees, even with the economy's slowdown, the area continuing to grow in the next two to three years.
Toler said he also expects more commercial and residential development in this area and says that's good news for residents who want to see it develop an identity beyond its proximity to Williamson County.
"We love living in the area and just wish for a little bit more 'community' type of feeling, and I think that if we were absorbed into a town, that would help us in defining the area, socially," Maholic said. "Right now we're just kind of the rest stop between Nolensville, Brentwood, Smyrna and Nashville."
Creating that feel includes adding amenities such as sidewalks along Nolensville Pike and bringing in more restaurants, he said.
"I'd definitely like some more food options," Perrotte said. "We go over to Cool Springs and Smyrna for shopping. A Home Depot or Target would be great as well as some clothing and shoe stores."
For Maholic, the developing area still provides a great first home, but in the coming years, he may consider a short move across the border into Williamson County.
"I'm really watching what's going on in Nolensville and hoping we can get in there," he said.

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