Activity set to ramp up at Bartlett’s Union Depot

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By Michael Waddell, Special to The Daily MemphianUpdated: January 02, 2024 5:39 AM CT | Published: January 02, 2024 4:00 AM CT

Blue Sky Communities, led by Keith Grant, is developing the 74-acre property on U.S. 70, which sat vacant for several years after the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home closed it campus.

The master plan for Bartlett’s first mixed-use project includes 336 flats, 70 townhomes, and 161 single-family homes, along with 55 lofts above retail and an additional 6 acres of retail for a total of 85,000 square feet of commercial space.

Because of ongoing sewer capacity issues in the area, large storage tanks that will release into the Memphis system during off-peak hours were required. But getting the materials, including pipes 11-feet in diameter, delivered from the manufacturer took longer than expected.

“Everything always turns out to be more challenging than you expect it to be,” Grant said. “Actually the installation’s gone better than we expected. We’ve had dry weather, and it’s helped us a lot.”

The “smart” tanks help control the amount of infiltration from rainwater during major rain events. The system creates a bypass during those periods, taking the clear rainwater off the top and moving it to the storage tanks. That is pumped back into the sewer system in off-peak hours.

Installation of the biggest of tanks, which holds 400,000 gallons, is nearly complete. Work will start on the second, smaller tank soon.

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“This is what we were waiting on,” Grant said.

Installation of slabs for the project’s multifamily component, dubbed The Westerly, will start in about 60 days.

“So we’re going to start seeing vertical activity probably in about four months,” Grant said.

By June, he hopes to have the streets completed and start selling townhomes. The first tenants could move into The Westerly’s flats by the end of the year.

Earlier this month, the project’s final development agreement for the first phase of the single-family detached homes was approved by Bartlett’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

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“My expectation is by April 1 we’ll start developing the lots for the single-family,” Grant said.

Some Bartlett officials wish the project was further along but see a benefit from learning more about the storage tanks.

“They’ve come up with some innovative things, and I think it’s going to be very beneficial. I think the city is going to learn some things that could be helpful,” Bartlett Alderman Jack Young said. “I’m anxious to see the project get going big time because I think there’s a lot of opportunity to capitalize on with BlueOval City.”

Gill Properties is representing the developer on the commercial side and taking a cautious approach to ensure they get the right businesses to complement the project. Three outparcels are available along with 8,500 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor of The Westerly.

“We haven’t closed on anything, but we have an LOI (Letter of Interest) on one parcel and interest in a couple of others,” said Barry Maynard, Gill senior vice president of brokerage, who is handling the project with partner Frank Dyer. “Putting the right commercial user up front is way more important than getting the ones who will pay the most.”

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They are hoping to sign a higher-end, free-standing local restaurant for one of the outparcels.

Maynard notes that the loan for the project has already been completed.

“So Union Depot isn’t contingent on preleasing, securing a percentage of commercial tenants, etc. The loans have been signed, and we’re fully funded to finish this project — unlike failures like The Lake District and others in the Greater Memphis market,” he said.

Grant expects full build out of the project should take around five years, “Right now, we’re looking forward to delivering some finished product by the end of the year.”

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