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MiKen Development Creates Projects Around Community Engagement and Consensus Building

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MiKen sets itself apart by being the hometown company that cares about enhancing Nashville’s overall quality of life.

Michael Kenner began his real estate career in Seattle in 2004 following his service in the U.S. Army. After four years of putting together deals for other developers, the Nashville, Tenn., native moved back to his hometown in 2008 and founded MiKen Development in 2013 to become an advocate for urban neighborhoods and equitable development. 

“I went in as a developer and took the approach of finding out what the neighbors wanted and needed during regentrification to right some of the wrongs,” Kenner says. “I wanted to see my city grow the right way and worked on affordable housing in my free time to get developers to put affordable housing stock in more developments.” 

Since MiKen’s founding in 2013, Kenner has remained an advocate and local expert on affordable housing policy in middle Tennessee. He has been engaged with policy work surrounding the establishment of design standards, including a sub-standard lot variance policy for Nashville. As part of its neighborhood-centric philosophy, MiKen founded a tactical urbanism forum, TURBO (Tactical Urbanism Organizers) Nashville, in partnership with the Nashville Civic Design Center.

As a developer in what Forbes has called one of the hottest cities in the United States, MiKen says it sets itself apart from the national builders by being the hometown company that cares about enhancing Nashville’s overall quality of life through neighborhood planning efforts and socially conscious growth. 

“We take a neighborhood-centric approach and right now that’s The Nations in west Nashville,” Kenner says. “We have branched out into secondary markets that are untapped because in first-tier markets, we are getting priced out by the institutional guys. That’s not just a Nashville problem, that happens in any ‘hot’ city in the U.S.”

MiKen is hyper-focused on The Nations, a neighborhood in Nashville, which allows the company to maintain a versatile portfolio of developments, including multifamily, mixed-use and single-family. The team not only lives and works in the communities in which its members develop, but they also lead grassroots efforts within neighborhoods to help the company navigate the rapid process of redevelopment within Nashville.

The Annex

MiKen acquired 18 acres in the heart of west Nashville’s The Nations neighborhood to transform a former industrial yard into a master-planned community. The Annex will feature studio units and up to 2,100-square-foot townhomes, walking trails and green space, promoting walkability and healthy living. 

“As development pushed from downtown Nashville to the outer rings, I came in and tied up as much industrial land as I could and rezoned it over the past two years to residential to continue to build critical mass,” Kenner says. “I worked with the local media to partner on campaigns and promote the development and its walkability.”

The master-planned community includes Rows at the Annex, which will feature 62 townhomes, and The Woods, with 30 single-family homes and a future mixed-use and retail development. At a minimum, 10 percent of each phase is affordable housing.

Phase one of The Annex includes Rows at the Annex, which is 90 percent complete. Phase two involves the development of the 30 single-family homes in The Woods, which is 60 percent complete. Phase three will include 60 multifamily units with retail, which is in the design and permitting phase. The fourth and final phase will include more multifamily units and is in the preliminary design stage. 

During the design phase of The Annex, MiKen met with community members to discuss their concerns and find out what they wanted to see improved. The community said it wanted to increase density to get sidewalks, and that’s what MiKen worked to deliver. 

“We drew the boundaries of our site on a map and put LEGOs on the table for them to help us design the site with density and walkability in mind,” Kenner says. “Each of the five groups had almost the same vision of the site, which is what we are building today.”

MiKen prides itself on taking a community approach to developing its sites. “We’re a neighborhood-centric development company that believes in creating projects around community engagement and consensus building,” Kenner says. 

Moving forward, MiKen expects Nashville to continue to grow at a reasonable rate rather than the high-intensity growth it has seen over the past two years. The company has a full pipeline of 500 units planned in various neighborhoods of Nashville that will keep it busy for the next five years. 

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