ULI Nashville Sponsor Spotlight – Village Real Estate
This month’s ULI Nashville sponsor spotlight shines on Mark Deutschmann, ULI Nashville chair and the founder and CEO of Village Real Estate Services and Core Development Services. Mark is also the author of a new book, One-Mile Radius – Building Community from the Core, available at Parnassus Books, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
What brought you to Nashville?
I was working with killer whales in Canada. My Zodiac boat caught fire. I landed on an island where I met a couple of people from Nashville and became friends with them. I came to visit them in Nashville and never left.
When you launched Village Real Estate Services in 1996, how did you change the way real estate was practiced?
The idea was to attract agents who had a sense of social mission, sell a lot of homes, revitalize our neighborhood commercial districts and use the Village Fund (the charitable arm of Village Real Estate) to support important causes in our community.
Today, we have 350 agents and staff members and a strong team at Core Development Services. I’m proud to say the Village Fund has paid out $2 million in grants to nonprofits that are helping enrich and strengthen our neighborhoods.
We’ve revitalized transitioning neighborhoods affected by urban flight and helped Nashville create a solid residential core.
Tell us a little more about the Village Fund.
In the earlier days, I was involved in the community, selling a lot of houses, and doing good things but I started asking myself “what can I do differently?” I was part of the Social Network Venture, a group of business owners who were using their businesses as a tool for social change. Through my conversations with SNV peers, I decided I could put some ownership of my real estate company into a fund that would give back to the community. The Village Fund started growing and I realized the lovely synergy you get when you’re working and giving back to your community. Now over 200 organizations in Nashville get grants from the Village Fund and our agents have become change agents. They get to follow their passions by volunteering and serving on boards and are the face of Village with nonprofits in our community.
What was the city like when you started practicing real estate in Nashville in 1986?
Downtown was pretty devoid of any activity at night. Nashville had not yet decided to allow residential development in the core. Most of the commercial districts and adjacent neighborhoods were victims of urban flight, including Hillsboro Village, Germantown, 12South district and East Nashville.
Nashville has come a long way. As a real estate entrepreneur and community builder, I’ve learned a lot about the evolution of neighborhoods, how to activate them and what makes them sustainable. I’ve also learned how to use business as a tool for positive social change. That’s why I wrote my book. I thought others might be interested in the development of Nashville neighborhoods from the perspective of someone who’s been in the real estate business 35-plus years.
After hearing Senior ULI Fellow Ed McMahon speak to ULI Nashville in 2008 about the energy consumption of buildings, you volunteered to chair a ULI sustainability committee. What was the outcome of that committee?
Ed said that approximately 45 percent of Nashville’s energy was consumed by buildings with 40 percent of carbon emissions coming from heating, cooling and lighting. The figures are higher for neighborhoods with older homes. That got my attention.
Our committee started the Go Green campaign. We teamed with TVA and NES to get homeowners to have energy evaluations conducted on their houses and then do necessary energy retrofits. We worked with council members engaging district by district. We also got a grant to retrofit and repair 100 low-income households, with Hands On Nashville doing the work.
More than 3,850 homeowners signed up for the energy evaluation and 1,900 retrofits were performed. The program continues to impact thousands of Nashvillians by improving energy efficiency and reducing utility and home maintenance costs so seniors and low-income families can continue living in their neighborhoods.
You’ve written a book, titled One-Mile Radius – Building Community from the Core. What is the significance of one-mile radius?
I use the one-mile radius metaphor to describe the impact you can make by concentrating your business and involvement in a neighborhood. It was my unique selling proposition when I got into real estate. When I started Village Real Estate, I told everyone, “I sell real estate within a one-mile radius of Hillsboro Village.” I knew every house in that one-mile radius, the condition, the history and the property values. I lived in the neighborhood, invested my time and money in its business district and neighborhood events. By working and connecting within a one-mile radius, I made a lot of impact. I also grew my company and became a change agent for my city.
You serve on the Mayor’s Transit and Affordability Task Force. How will your business roles and your positions as ULI Nashville chair and Greenways for Nashville board president help the task force shape strategy?
It provides an opportunity to incorporate all the best practices of ULI. Connecting neighborhoods to transit with greenways and complete streets. Healthy corridors. Trail- and Transit-Oriented Development (T2OD) intersecting with our urban greenway system. Density will be centered at transit stops along the major corridors with services for residents and transit users. This T2OD creates opportunities for walkability and affordable and workforce housing. Residents in nearby neighborhoods can use the city’s greenways to walk to transit.
Core Development Services is actively developing Nashville’s urban center with adaptive reuse and mixed-use infill development. What’s the next big project for Core?
The ambitious, five-phased development of the 342-unit Werthan Mills Lofts was the first project for Core Development Services. We’ve been working hard ever since to help people live in the city by building lofts, townhomes, cottage homes, maker spaces and mixed-income housing. We have several projects underway, and a lot of exciting opportunities, in Wedgewood-Houston and the Nolensville Road area and around the fairgrounds.
You’ve developed a reputation for finding the next emerging neighborhood before anyone else. What’s your secret?
I come at it with a sales and marketing hat on. We have an active sales team of 350 agents and we do regular bus tours of urban and emerging markets with our agents. We hear from them and that shapes where we are going at Core Development Services.
What has juggling taught you about business?
Juggling is a great metaphor for life and business. I used to juggle things like knives and fire and worked up to seven balls. I did street busking and juggled in troupes with lots of passing and showmanship. And I started the Nashville Juggling Club. I can still throw a few balls, but now I mainly juggle my businesses, my family and my community passions. With juggling, good patterns that are well organized make for a good show. If you drop one of the things you’re juggling, you pick it back up with grace. If you’re active and engaged in community, not everything will always be perfect but it’s better to be involved and engaged.
50 by 50 list. What are some of the things on your list for 2018?
Heading into my 50th birthday, I started a list of 50 things I wanted to accomplish by the time I was 50. I ended up with over 100 things on the list and was able to check off 50. Studies show that people who write lists are more successful. My list is a mix of business, personal and community goals. It’s a real practice of work/life integration. You want to practice everything, not just focus on business. My goals for 2018 include getting the next phase of the urban greenway finished, getting the transit referendum passed and taking a submarine ride.
What advice do you have for ULI Nashville Young Leaders?
Get involved. Stay engaged. Work with our District Council to build healthy corridors and support transit. Register to vote. Vote for the transit referendum on May 1.
*If you agree that a comprehensive transportation solution is needed now, please consider showing your support. Join the nearly 30,000 Nashville/Davidson residents in signing the petition at transitfornashville.com and share it with friends, family, neighbors and colleagues. Nashvillians who want less gridlock will have the opportunity to show their support for a more mobile and equitable Nashville by signing the petition and starting the transit conversation in their community.