Saturday, March 27, 2010

Trolley barns at Rolling Mill Hill will get new life

The trolley barns at Rolling Mill Hill, near the banks of the Cumberland River and within view
of downtown Nashville, will undergo a renovation that will create 90,000 square feet of office, retail and restaurant space.
Emma, a fast-growing e-mail marketing firm, has signed a letter of intent for 20,000 square feet of that space. The firm plans to move from its Eighth Avenue South offices next year.

Developer The Mathews Co. is pursuing additional leases to fulfill a requirement for obtaining a bank loan to fund the project.

"It's going to be a great home for Emma and when consummated will be a catalyst for Rolling Mill Hill's future development over the next decade," said developer Michael W. Hayes, vice president of CB Ragland Co. Hayes has no financial part in the trolley barn project.

"The trolley barns really are the heart and soul of the development," Hayes said.

Barns have had multiple uses

The six trolley barns, built in the 1930s during the Great Depression, have been used by Metro as repair shops, for storage and as offices until they became dormant in 2007.

Metro Development and Housing Agency hired The Mathews Co. to renovate, lease and manage the barns off Peabody Street at the lower section of Rolling Mill Hill. MDHA owns the barns.

Bert Mathews, chief executive of The Mathews Co., hopes to complete the renovation work by summer 2011. The work would have to begin nine months in advance to be completed by then.

Emma has an option to take 10,000 square feet of additional space as well, said Bo Spessard, the firm's chief operating officer.

Now 8 years old, Emma has ridden a wave of digital marketing growth. It has 85 of its 100 employees in Nashville. It occupies 15,000 square feet in a building on Eighth Avenue South.

"We're just trying to envision what our growth is going to look like over the next year and a half," Spessard said. "We're going to be ready for some more space and we're looking to get in front of that."

Getahn Ward can be reached at 615-726-5968 or

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