William Hastings has wanted new downtown Nashville office space for a couple of years now, needing more room for a workforce that has quadrupled since landing in SoBro a dozen years ago. But his wasn't exactly the typical office search.
"We wanted space with character, history and architectural significance. If that's your criteria, it's hard to find," Hastings said.
Perhaps that makes Hastings Architecture Associates, the Nashville area's third-largest architecture firm, the ideal and logical buyer to emerge for Metro's former Ben West Library. The building on Polk Street has sat vacant for roughly a decade, but Hastings now is under contract to pay $4 million to buy it — with plans to spend another $6 million to $8 million on renovations.
"We're out of space. It's that simple. Our desire is to stay downtown and do something reinvigorating that has some meaning," Hastings said in an interview. The firm his father started more than 30 years ago now employs 61 people. That's up from a head count of 16 when offices moved from West End to SoBro in 2002.
Metro has attempted to sell the site multiple times in recent years. Most recently, the Tennessee Education Association was set to buy the building for the same price Hastings is paying. That move was contingent upon the teachers' union selling its Germantown-area building to Dallas developer Provident Realty Advisors — a deal that fell apart in fall 2016, which meant the teachers' union did not follow through with its purchase of the Ben West Library.
Metro owns part of the site, and heirs of the McLanahan family, which originally donated the property to Metro, own the remaining portion. Hastings has separate purchase contracts in place with both entities. Metro Council must vote to allow Metro to sell its land. Legislation enabling that land sale is set to debut at a council meeting on March 7. If it progresses smoothly, Metro Council could approve the bill in early April.
“I am thrilled with the opportunity presented by Hastings Architecture to renovate and reuse this property while maintaining the historic features of the building," Mayor Megan Barry said in a statement. "While it is unfortunate that the agreement with the Tennessee Education Association was not able to be completed, I am confident that Hastings Architecture will put the Old Ben West Library to great use in a way that respects the history of the building."
Hastings said the building offers about 40,000 square feet of space for offices. After renovations, the architecture firm will occupy about half of that space and seek tenants to lease the other half, Hastings said.
"This site and building holds special meaning and promise for us," said David Bailey, a principal at Hastings Architecture. Bailey noted that the site is where downtown's original Carneige Library opened in 1906. Metro tore down that library to build the Ben West Library in the mid-1960s.
Hastings said he expects to move-in around the start of 2018.
Hastings has 13,500 square feet of space at its current building on Third Avenue South, which the company owns. After moving out, Hastings plans to retain ownership and lease that building to new tenants.
Article from the Nashville Business Journal. See original article below: