The Franklin Municipal Planning Commission will mull a proposed amendment to the $700 million Aureum project in the Cool Springs hub of Franklin, putting off planned offices and hotels in favor of multifamily housing.

“We’ve moved away from kicking off the hotels first,” said Glenn McGehee, president of SouthStar LLC, one of the developers, on Dec. 7. “We’re not making a prediction on how much office we’ll do, but we have our finger on the pulse of the market. But frankly, we’re in one of the best markets in the country, and we’re going to start to see [recovery] before a lot of other markets.”

The Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the commission will review the proposed amendment to the approved development at a joint work session at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 9, at Franklin Town Hall, 109 Third Ave. S.. The developer plans to submit a full proposal to city planning staff next week.

The developers of the project, SouthStar LLC and Chartwell Hospitality LLC., bought the 22-acre property at the intersection of East McEwen Drive and Carothers Parkway in 2019 for $20 million.

As first conceived and approved in July 2019, the project included a 250,000-square-foot office building and two hotels, according to Ralph Knauss, South Star LLC executive vice president.

The revised proposal being put forward would build an 11-story residential tower with a rooftop terrace and a five-story building with a pool courtyard. The buildings would be joined by an outdoor promenade for pedestrians to cut between Aureum Drive and Aureum Trail.

The revamped design substitutes underground parking for above-ground spots, allowing a more creative streetscape, said Scotty Bernick, of Nashville-based Ragan-Smith Associates, which is working on the project.

“How do you maximize it for parking and all these different elements important to a healthy plan?” Bernick said. “It really gives us flexibility on the surface level to not just activate the streetscape, but introduce a really, really nice open space in the middle of this block.”

“It’s done so many things to provide an upgraded feel to it, and I’m very excited about what it can be,” Knauss said of the promenade and design.

Changing market

When approved in June 2019, the project’s first phase included a 250,000-square-foot office building and two hotels, according to Knauss.

“We all know what happened in March of 2020, so we put the brakes on this,” Knauss said, alluding to the COVID-19-related emptying of offices at a virtual forum held Dec. 7. “This is going to be a great piece of real estate development right in the bullseye of where development needs to be in Franklin.”

McGehee said South Star leaders believe the decision to redesign the residential portion of the project to make it more attractive will make any commercial office and hotel space in the development more competitive.

“The good thing we feel is we can get some of the components in place that are attractive to offices such as residential; it is a big deal for offices,” McGehee said. “By the time we get this done and we start to add some of the other pieces, we’re going to have a much better feeling about where the market is at.”

Office space vacancies in Williamson County approached the 20% mark in 2021, Colliers Nashville CEO Janet Miller said last week at a real estate summit. Miller said the vacancy rate is due to COVID-19 causing some companies to cut office space, also creating some increase in supply.

However, Miller said ongoing corporate relocations and new workers bode well for an improved rental landscape.

“What Williamson County has for us sitting here is we are picking up a disproportionate number of the new jobs from corporations coming to town,” Miller said. “The assets of this county have not changed because of COVID.”

Condos plus executive offices

The partnership is aiming to get the required planning commission approval by late January to break ground in spring 2022, according to Nashville-based Ragan Smith, an engineering firm working on the project.

The joint session will also hear details of Innovations Group LLC’s proposal for Legends View Condominiums, a proposed luxury condominium development including 20 units at 201 Cool Springs Blvd. off Mack Hatcher Parkway.

The development on 3.5 acres of land includes 18 luxury condominiums, including private executive office suites ranging between 3,600 and 4,600 square feet each and two office condominiums of 2,616 square feet each.

The 18 luxury condominiums will each include ground-floor office space and a third-floor living area including a living room, a kitchen and three bedrooms, according to the proposal. The inclusion of private office suites will differentiate Legends View as busy executives moving into Williamson County look to work from home after COVID-19, said Eric Powers, president and CEO of The Innovations Group LLC.

“Part of the vision of what we’re trying to do here is serve a percentage of the markets which are going to continue to work at home,” Powers said.