Affordable commercial space will be key to keeping Nashville local

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  • Tyler Cauble is founder and owner of The Cauble Group, Parasol Management and Hamilton.

While the affordable housing crisis has been a big topic of conversation over the years, the discussion surrounding the shortage of affordable commercial space is lacking.

In addition, very few programs have been put in place to help small businesses tackle this crisis, despite the fact that they bring so much character and depth to our communities.

As a native of Nashville, I have seen the city undergo significant changes over the years.

Growing up in Green Hills, I witnessed the dramatic transition from a prosperous neighborhood with family owned shops to a bustling street occupied mostly by large corporations.

As real estate prices rose, small businesses simply couldn’t compete with the rental rates that domestic businesses could afford.

How can we work to preserve local businesses

US-41 will include another site for East Nashville's restaurant concept, The Wash, offering modular micro-kitchens that provide restaurant entrepreneurs with a place to start their business.

While Nashville has changed dramatically, some neighborhoods have managed to resist sweeping transformations. I have always admired East Nashville and its ability to stay rooted and local. Many musicians and artists still reside in East Nashville, and the area is frequently experimenting with new food and drink concepts.

It is clear that East Nashville has retained its character due to its commitment to supporting local businesses. If we are to preserve the authenticity of Nashville and the personality of our neighborhoods, it is important to protect small businesses by changing our approach to new development.

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During the pandemic, my eyes were opened to how mixed-use spaces and smaller units can provide much-needed growth opportunities for local businesses, and my vision for The Wash stems directly from that epiphany.

Washing, a new food and beverage development that will open in the bays of a former East Nashville car wash, will allow foodservice startups to test new concepts in

“Retail-oriented ghost kitchens” without spending six figures on building a restaurant.

What commercial real estate companies are wrong about small businesses

I have no doubts that keeping Nashville local will depend on creating affordable and versatile spaces. While this concept has been proven to work, there are several reasons why commercial real estate companies (CREs) typically avoid renting to smaller companies.

First, many companies find it logistically easier to work with national companies than with small companies.

Second, there is a common misconception that you have to lower your rates and sacrifice square footage when renting smaller units. Despite these perceptions, I have often found that the opposite is true.

Tyler Cauble

Leasing smaller units doesn’t necessarily require you to sacrifice square footage. Instead, it allows CRE companies to offer affordable spaces to a wider customer base. Because the units are smaller and more affordable, CRE companies can often increase rather than decrease their rates, sometimes charging two to three times market rates on their projects.

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At the same time, the monthly cost remains affordable for small businesses.

For this reason, I would encourage CRE companies to experiment with leasing small units. While this approach may require some additional upfront expense to make the units more accessible to individual businesses, offering smaller spaces can result in significant long-term benefits for the business and its tenants.

Nashville will grow and prosper by staying authentic

I would also encourage banks and credit institutions to remain vigilant in cases where small tenants are overlooked and neglected.

If we are sincere in our intentions to enable small businesses, then we need to make sure that these businesses do not face discrimination in practice.

I firmly believe that the authenticity of Nashville is what makes it such an attractive destination for tourists and a welcoming home for locals.

Finding new ways to prepare people for success and make spaces accessible to aspiring entrepreneurs is crucial.

The future is local, and by taking action to protect our neighborhoods, support small businesses, and enable affordable development, we will continue to see an authentic Nashville grow and prosper for years to come.

Tyler Cauble is the President and Founder of The Cauble Group, a commercial real estate business built by Nashville natives that unites buyers, sellers, owners and tenants in commercial, office, industrial and multi-family real estate. Tyler also founded Umbrella management and actively raises capital through his latest business, Hamilton, for value-added investments and development


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