18 nov 11  | Nashville Business Journal

Tony Giarratana talks about his latest proposed office tower

by Nevin Batiwalla

High-profile developer Tony Giarratana has declined requests from the Nashville Business Journal and other media outlets to discuss his recently revealed ambitions to build a trio of towers in downtown Nashville.

However, in a nearly 40-minute conversation with Turney Stevens, dean of the College of Business at Lipscomb University, the CEO of Giarratana Properties talks at length about his plans for the corner of Church Street and Fifth Avenue, where Giarratana plans the largest of the three towers. The complete video of the interview is available to the right.

Giarratana envisions a soaring mixed-use building with a 200-room, five-star hotel beneath 700,000 square feet of Class A office space. To fill it, the developer is targeting major corporate headquarter relocations.

During the video, there is plenty of discussion about the proposed building’s unique twisted shape, sustainable design elements, conference center and the partnership with “rock star” firm Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture.

However, there’s no mention of financing, preleasing benchmarks, a timetable or potential hotel partners.

On the topic of downtown development, Giarratana told Stevens he feels the central business district “has received little attention during the last couple of mayors’ terms.”

Giarratana stressed that he’s committed to developing something significant at the site, where he for years pursued— without success— building the infamous Signature Tower, once planned to be the tallest building in the Southeast.

“The property is held in trust, and if I die I’ll leave directions for my 15- and 13-year-old child: ‘Please develop something special on this property.’ We’ve shunned every opportunity to sell it at a profit,” Giarratana said.

Near the end of the conversation, the developer talked about how his faith helped him rebound from the Signature Tower ordeal, in which he and his partners lost “eight figures.” Instead of delivering the building at the height of the recession only to eventually lose the whole project in foreclosure or otherwise, Giarratana was able to hang on to the site— something he finds solace in.

“Those years of feeling I was being punished turned into thankfulness, gratefulness,” Giarratana said. “Thank you God for not letting that building get built. All these years it’s been hard to understand it was a blessing. But I now see it as such, and we are able to start anew.”