By RACHAEL LONG
The Southwalk development proposed by Chilvers Properties passed the Nolensville Planning Commission Tuesday night after another lengthy discussion.
After it was deferred at the May meeting of the Planning Commission, leaders discussed the plans with developer Matthew Chilvers for more than an hour on June 11 and eventually voted unanimously to approve the master concept plan.
The inspiration for Southwalk came from places in Europe, namely Italy, where Chilvers said he and his wife have enjoyed visiting. He wants to bring “a little bit of that charm” to Nolensville with a mixed-use development which includes “an old school main street,” a mixture of late 19th Century and modern architecture, and space for retail, restaurants, offices and even residential use.
The total proposed development — which can be viewed here —would encompass 1,179,856 square-feet or more than 27 acres.
Ideas for the common-area plaza space include community events, live music and even perhaps a seasonal ice-skating rink.
“I really appreciate the support from the community,” Chilvers said, looking around the Town Hall chambers Tuesday night. “I did not expect the several people coming up in the public comments section… I didn’t orchestrate that. That happened on its own. And I really appreciate those who stood up for the project that way.”
Based on numbers he pulled from a formerly proposed development, Chilvers said Southwalk would generate more than $2 million in revenue for the town through sales tax.
“I think we have growing needs because we’re a growing community, and we all know that,” Chilvers said.
Questions and concerns raised among commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting included the plan’s high residential density, traffic and intersection concerns, building heights and more.
“Overall, I like the project,” Planning Commissioner Jimmy Reaves said, offering the suggestion that Chilvers look into the addition of trails for residents.
Chilvers said he’d given that idea some thought, noting that his team was exploring the north edge of the property for an additional walkway.
“I will commit to exploring it further, if we can get this passed to [the Board of Mayor and Aldermen] I believe there’s a lot of additional back and forth, discussion and fleshing out of some of the details,” Chilvers said. “It is a great point, and thank you very much for that input.”
Commissioner Joan Lawler said she liked the plan overall but had been reflecting on some of the comments she’d heard. One of those comments was that Southwalk “doesn’t look like Nolensville.”
Lawler said wondered why that was and began looking at the plan’s numbers and open spaces.
“I was looking at the buildings that are mixed use, that have both residential and retail in them, and… let’s suppose that you have children in Building B. There’s no place really, for a child in Building B to actually go outside and play,” Lawler said, noting the plan’s playground proposed on the east side of the development and the main plaza space. “But I get the feeling that for children who are living in those buildings, there’s really not a place for them to play directly outside.
“I’m not saying that Southwalk is saying, ‘No kids,’” Lawler said. “My concern is that the focus is not on families with kids, and that’s what doesn’t look like Nolensville.”
Chilvers said a project like Southwalk is not really intended to attract families with young children. Instead, Chilvers said he believes the development attracts “by nature” empty-nesters looking to downsize.
“I think we’re agreeing with each other,” Lawler said. “This project is not focused on how Nolensville looks, and there’s a lot of concern around that.”
Lawler suggested the possibility of moving some of the buildings around in such a way that the project would “look a little more like Nolensville.”
“I think what we’re trying to create here is not more of the same,” Chilvers responded. “I think we’re trying to offer what Nolensville doesn’t have yet.”
Mayor Jimmy Alexander said he had studied the plan and thought there were still some issues worth addressing, but “maybe they can be hashed out if it gets to the BOMA.”
“Bottom line is, we’re looking at some commercial [development] that this town needs,” Alexander said. “I think it would be beneficial to have commercial development on this site, and that certainly the town wants. Nobody wants it anymore than myself and the Planning Commission and the BOMA.”
One of Alexander’s concerns was with the proposed density of the project.
“Approximately 10 units per acre, that’s a whole lot,” Alexander said. “I could not imagine that in a small town. I could imagine it in Nashville.”
Alexander shared with Chilvers his concerns about the amount of open space available for the plan, as well as the “dangerous intersections” nearby the proposed development.
“If you put this kind of additional traffic on the road at these three intersections, there has to be some solution to that, in my opinion,” Alexander said. “We have to work that out.”
Chilvers said he would like to continue to negotiate with the town on issues like traffic lights.
“As we move this along, get it passed tonight, we move it on to BOMA, [I think] we continue to discuss these things,” Chilvers said. “It’s not set in stone, it’s a concept. Tonight’s vote does not give me the right to build it yet, we still have to go through the rest of the process. There’s time to deal with those things.”
Before any work can begin on Southwalk, the approved master concept plan will be heard before the board. The next meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen will take place July 11 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.