Tony Giarratana imagined a walkable downtown. Then he made it happen.
Story by Hollie Deese
When people talk about the “new Nashville,” nowhere is that more physically evident than at
505 – the tallest residential building in the state, right in the heart of downtown. Of course those
who are actually new to the new Nashville might not know how incredible high-rise living is in a
city where just a decade ago people weren’t even really allowed to live downtown.
It is the work of developer Tony Giarratana, and the 505 was in his head and heart long before
ground was broken in 2015.
Giarratana grew up in a ranch house in the beach community of Clearwater, Florida, and went to
college in Tampa. In 1981 he got a position in Denver in one high-rise building and lived in
another. That’s where he fell in love with high-rise and urban living.
“I didn’t have a car for two years. I walked to the fitness club, the grocery store, the restaurant
and bars. Mostly bars,” he jokes. “Everything I did was urban and high-rise. It was fantastic, I
loved it. Walkable.”
From there he went to New Orleans, then Nashville. A relocation specialist showed him places in
Green Hills and Belle Meade, but he wanted to be downtown. Standing at the corner of Second
and Broadway, she told Giarratana that there were apartments at the top of some of the older
“And just then Jack May walks out of one of the buildings,” he says. The specialist introduced
them and told May what Giarratana was looking for. May told him he would move out and give
him his place.
“That was on a Wednesday, and on Saturday I moved in,” Giarratana says.
But he was often stepping over drunks, and there wasn’t much to do other than hang out at the
Old Spaghetti Factory. Obviously, the hard work of turning downtown into a residential hot spot
was just beginning.
Giarratana is quick to credit then-Mayor Phil Bredesen and then-Executive Director of MDHA
Gerald Nicely with moving things along for downtown development, approving apartments even
though Giarratana was more interested in office space at the time.
“It was that conversation that led to Cumberland. And that was the beginning,” he says. It was
“To me urban living is walkability,” Giarratana says. “Downtown, after all these years, is finally
becoming what we envisioned. In 2018, it is nearly what we envisioned 20-plus years ago.”
And, he says, the end result is even better than he could have imagined. “They say ‘necessity is
the mother of invention.’ I’d rephrase that as ‘necessity is the mother of taking risks.’ We took a
gamble on it, and right at this moment we’re within months of everything we dreamed of
becoming reality. We always said that Fifth and Church was the geographic center of the
It’s starting to look that way, too, with the 100,000-square-foot food hall going in as part of the
5th & Broadway development, retailers like H&M opening, and even more hotels.
“Church Street has always been the street for locals,” he says. “The shopping, the movie theater,
the diners, the restaurants. Our vision for Church Street is where Nashvillians live – not
necessarily born-here Nashvillians, but people who are now Nashvillians. We’re very passionate
about Church Street.”
Giarratana, who maintains a residence in Williamson County, has a two-story penthouse at 505,
and his children also live in the building.
“There’s no commute,” he says. “You raise the blinds and you look at the sun coming up over
the river. It’s magical. Have some coffee, take the elevator down, start your meetings. It’s pretty
great. I can walk to my lawyer’s office, I can walk to my accountant’s office, I can walk to the
courthouse, walk to the council, walk to planning, walk to MDHA. You can walk to anything, so
you’re able to get a lot more meetings packed into the same amount of time because you’re not
having to commute all over the place.”
And the response to 505 has him energized to just keep building up.
“We just completed a 45-story building, and we’re ready to do another one,” he says. “The park
project is perfect for us. All of our experiences here at 505 are fresh. We have a lot of lessons
learned, we know what the market wants, we know what to build, and it’s not here right now.”
While the 505 has 543 units, the $240-million Paramount Tower will be 15 floors taller with
only 200 units – all 2-bedroom or larger, Giarratana says. The Paramount is planned for where
the Church Street Park now sits, part of a controversial land swap. If approved, Metro would
give Giarratana the park in front of the library in exchange for a parking lot he owns on James
Robertson Parkway. Giarratana would also commit $2 million to convert that parking lot into a
By spring he will know if he has a deal or not.
“I believe it’s the right thing for the city as a whole,” he says. “I know it’s the right thing for
Church Street, and it is the right building – not for right now, but for 2022, when it will be
complete. We’re not building for yesterday, we’re building for tomorrow. That’s what
development is all about.”