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Suburban waterfront development: Houston firm tees up infrastructure projects with apartment complex

Site plans for Ariza Bellevue at 1084 Morton Mill Road.

Site plans for Ariza Bellevue at 1084 Morton Mill Road.

Metro Planning Department

After more than two years of work, Texas developers have nailed down more site plans for a riverfront apartment complex in Bellevue, complete with a land donation to Metro Parks and a handful of other infrastructure projects.

Nashville Business Journal reported last summer that Houston-based Cypressbrook Co. was pursuing Ariza Bellevue, which would include 417 rental units in a 44-acre pocket by a large Harpeth River bend.

But today, the company also revealed plans to undertake six public infrastructure projects near the site, aiming to make its slice of Bellevue more accessible for pedestrians.

Cypressbrook Co.'s project site in a bend of the Harpeth River.

Cypressbrook Co.’s project site in a bend of the Harpeth River.

Davidson County Property Assessor

The projects, which will be funded by the developer and collectively cost at least $7 million, include:

  • Donating around 20 acres of the larger project site to Metro Parks and Recreation, adding to a nearby 51-acre park area donated by the The Dorothy Cate and Thomas F. Frist Foundation in 2019. The new 20 acres could hold anything from an expanded soccer facility to baseball fields or other sports-centric uses.
  • Creating a 500-foot bridge (which will accommodate foot, bike and car travelers) over the Harpeth River, in turn connecting the development site to Coley Davis Road, which runs parallel to Interstate 40.
  • Creating a Coley Davis Road bike trail.
  • Extending the Harpeth River Greenway south.
  • Creating a pedestrian tunnel under the railroad just south of the project site.
  • Providing vehicle access to the existing 51-acre park adjacent to the development land.

The larger Ariza Bellevue project is estimated to cost around $100 million to build, said Michael Novelli, Cypressbrook’s founder and managing director. The Metro Planning Commission is scheduled to review designs at its July 28 meeting; no groundbreaking date has been set.

“We’re adding a fairly dense project and surrounding it by park space,” Novelli said. “This is why Paris and London are built this way — cities that have thrived for generations because they did this, allowed relatively dense development with park space all around it.”

Bellevue is Nashville’s fourth-hottest apartment market, boasting an annualized growth rate of 28.6% as of June, according to ApartmentData.com. For Ariza Bellevue, Novelli said he’s targeting rental rates ranging from $1,400 to the low $2,000s.

The suburb, which sits around 10 miles west of downtown, has long been considered a more-affordable housing option amid Nashville’s unprecedented rental rate growth. But that’s changing quickly, said Alan Thompson, a decades-long Bellevue resident and landscape architect at Ragan-Smith Associates.

“I would love to say it’s a very affordable option, but that has kind of gone away in the last two to three years,” he said in an interview. “You may get a somewhat less rent option in Bellevue, but it’s not going to be significantly less.”

But the suburb may not contain the same capacity for growth that Nashville proper does, Thompson said. The area is limited significantly by its topography — the land becomes hillier and more forested the further west you go.

“The overall quality of life in Bellevue has dramatically improved,” Thompson said. “We will be limited simply by terrain alone.”

Suburban waterfront development

Nashville is turning its head toward the Cumberland River, a long-neglected natural asset. Meanwhile, Cypressbrook is doing the same with the Harpeth River. But waterfront development comes with infrastructure challenges, especially with Nashville’s history of devastating floods.

The Bellevue area was hit hard during Nashville’s 2010 flood, with more than 1,000 of its residents affected, according to The Tennessean. This means developers would be wise to take extra care with how they navigate flooding and stormwater issues.

“Clearly it gets the neighbors nervous,” Novelli said, pointing out that Ariza Bellevue, if realized, will sit extra-far outside the floodplain.

But suburban riverfront development is different from what’s happening in Nashville proper, Ragan-Smith’s Thompson said.

Cypressbrook isn’t trying to build directly up against the river, for one. The goal is to work with the river to create solid infrastructure, like the proposed bridge, and the challenge is doing it all seamlessly and within environmental guidelines, Thompson said.

In fact, the site’s challenging aspects are what drew in Novelli more than two years ago.

“We just thought it would be a very unique and wonderful place for people to live, and at the same time able to help do a bunch of very cool things for the community that otherwise are very hard to get done,” he said.

Ariza Bellevue is eyed for a single phase of construction. The development team is pursuing “specific plan” zoning, which accommodates a variety of uses outside of regular zoning regulations.

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