With MAA, TraVure Is Gateway To Germantown By Bill Dries

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The developer of Germantown’s mixed-use TraVure project is anxious to start work on the development’s centerpiece, a five-story Class A office building that now has an anchor tenant for most of the space – the headquarters of Memphis-based MAA, or Mid-America Apartment Communities Inc.

Mid-America Apartment Communities Inc. will be the anchor tenant in the TraVure mixed-use development in Germantown. Germantown leaders approved a 75 percent property tax abatement Monday over 15 years for the MAA relocation.


“We are in a hurry,” Ray Gill of Gill Properties told the Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday, Oct. 24, as the body approved a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for Gill Poplar GP – the subsidiary for the project. “We are going to do it as fast as we can.”

The target date for opening the office building is January of 2018.

MAA will become the largest publicly traded real estate investment trust focused on apartments with its August announcement that it is buying Post Properties Inc. of Atlanta for $4 billion. Even before the acquisition, the corporation was looking for more headquarters space and had decided to remain in Shelby County.

MAA is currently in 43,000 square feet at 6584 Poplar Ave., west of Kirby Parkway in East Memphis near the border with Germantown.

TraVure is a 10-acre project that is to include a parking garage, retail and a pair of hotels as well as the office building, representing a total $43.5 million capital investment. It is just east of the Memphis-Germantown city line not far from the current MAA headquarters.

The capital investment for just the office building component and parking garage is $33 million.

MAA will occupy 83,265 of the 144,968 square feet of the TraVure office building, according to Gill’s PILOT application, which won the earlier approval from the Germantown Industrial Development Board.

MAA’s new office campus will create 219 jobs for Germantown that will pay an average of $85,128, according to the application. That is 161 percent of Germantown’s per capita income.

“That’s $17 million coming into our community,” said alderman David Klevan. “A good portion of these employees, if they want to, are going to be able to live in our community.”

“It’s a pretty big day for us,” Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo said. “That will spur the hotels to come online as well as the retail. … It’s not live, work and play. It’s work, play, stay.”

TraVure is a part of what Germantown leaders refer to as the “western gateway” to the city.

“This is the first major project to come out of the ground in the western gateway,” Germantown city administrator Patrick Lawton said. “It’s going to anchor that section of the western gateway. … It’s going to spur more development, more strong economic growth as a result of Mid- America Apartment’s willingness to make this type of investment in our community.”

The PILOT agreement is for a term of 15 years and is a 75 percent abatement of personal property and real estate taxes and 25 percent of the land taxes for Germantown as well as Shelby County.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell indicated the county’s approval in a letter sent to Germantown officials.

The city of Germantown still gets $1.1 million in taxes from the project over the 15 years, or $72,000 a year, which is more than Germantown currently gets in taxes on the unimproved site.

“In Germantown, we use PILOTs sparingly,” Lawton said.

The city has two other PILOT agreements in which the nonprofit Industrial Development Board takes ownership of the property, making the tax abatement possible, and payments are made to the IDB in lieu of the taxes.

“It’s the first major development that we’ve seen coming out of the ground since that whole 50-plus acres was rezoned to the SmartGrowth code that allows for this type of mixed-use development,” Lawton said.

Until TraVure site preparation began earlier this year, the property between Poplar Avenue and Poplar Pike had been Kirby Farms – home to a historic farm house that was moved off the land as TraVure began preparing for the mixed-use project.

The initial TraVure plans encountered vocal opposition in 2015 from homeowners in the adjacent Nottoway community, east of TraVure. The first plans in the summer of 2015 had a dozen deviations from the city’s SmartGrowth ordinance.

In the year and a half since then, the plan has changed through negotiation.

“I know it’s tricky. … But we got it done,” Gill said.

Palazzolo agreed.

“There was some gnashing of teeth at one time,” he said. “But let’s toot the horn of celebration today.”

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