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The Donald Trump of Nashville

By Stansberry Research Interview Series
Wednesday, November 22, 2006

“We opened that one last month. But when we broke ground on it back in the ‘90s there were only 8-10 units available in central business district.”
I looked out the 11th story window of Tony Giarratana’s office boardroom to see Viridian, a 305-unit condominium building he built in downtown Nashville. To my right were The Cumberland and Bennie-Dillon, two of Tony’s other condominium complexes, each with 289 and 86 units respectively.
It’s safe to say that Tony Giarratana is the residential market for downtown Nashville. Of the 1,675 condos in the central business district of the city, he owns 690. He’s been featured in the New York Times and USA Today. Comparisons to Donald Trump are more than valid except that Giarratana doesn’t have a history of going bankrupt... or making reality TV shows.
Regarding the condos that Tony doesn’t own, he’s still involved indirectly: he was the one who petitioned Nashville’s Metropolitan Development & Housing Agency to open the city’s historic business district for construction back in 1993. Without Tony Giarratana, there wouldn’t be any condos in downtown Nashville.
Prior to Tony’s involvement, there were only 8-10 residential units available in the district. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about buildings, I’m talking about units, as in condos. He changed all of that.
“From 1963 to 1993, the historic districts couldn’t be developed,” Tony said, sitting down at his boardroom’s table. “The idea was that Nashville’s central district would be primarily for high rises. Nashville was to be a commuter city, with people riding public transportation into the city. In fact, prior to 1993, you couldn’t have more than 50 parking spaces in a new building.”
Tony changed all of that. And he’s almost single-handedly growing Nashville’s downtown real estate market out of its infancy. Currently Nashville only has 2,000 odd condos completed or scheduled for completion. According to the Wall Street Journal there are currently 100,000 odd condos scheduled to come online in Miami. And this isn’t even counting condos already in existence.
To put this into context, Miami is only one and half times the size of Nashville (2.2 million residents vs. 1.6 million residents) and yet the former has 100 times as many condos. Sure, Miami’s condo market has been at bubble proportions... but the discrepancy is still ridiculous.
Especially when you consider what Nashville has to offer. For one thing, it’s the healthcare capital of the US: there are over 200 healthcare companies located here, including Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), which recently staged the second largest leveraged buyout in US history.
The city is also home to 17 colleges (its unofficial nickname is The Athens of The South). On top of that, Nissan just moved its North American headquarters there. Last, but not least, it’s the second biggest music production center after New York.
Nashville was the first major city in the US to develop a metropolitan government. It has a hockey and football team. There are museums, art galleries and some 99 parks. And yet, only 2,000 downtown condos?
As Tony put it, “there are cities that are a third of Nashville’s size with four times the downtown residential development.”
I spoke with Tony for the better part of yesterday morning about Nashville’s real estate markets and his current projects including The Signature Tower: the tallest building outside of New York and Chicago.
There’s plenty more to come on this city and its real estate guru. I’ll report all of the details in my next issue.
Good investing,

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