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District Energy System

Renaissance Office Tower

Ted Welch

The Renaissance Nashville Hotel has been a fixture of Music City's skyline since 1986, serving as the anchor hotel for the Nashville Convention Center. Unique architecture, music-themed décor and the trendy Bridge Bar are what most Nashvillians probably associate with the Renaissance Hotel.

But many people don't realize that the top six floors of the hotel house the offices of several Nashville businesses, including law firms, public relations firms, job placement agencies and publishing companies.

The Renaissance Office Tower has been owned by Rodgers/Welch Venture since it was built in '86, and Ted Welch is the majority owner with 50 percent. Welch is a prominent businessman and highly successful commercial real estate developer, but he is also well-known in national political circles as the person to call for help with raising campaign funds. In fact, he was described in the April 16, 1995, issue of the New York Times Magazine as "perhaps the best political fundraiser ever." In the same article, Howard Baker was quoted as saying, "Ted Welch is the number one fundraiser in all history."

Welch, a Tennessee native, served as commissioner of finance and administration and chief operating officer for Tennessee from 1971 to 1974. He also served as Howard Baker's national finance chairman during the 1980 presidential election, and co-founded the Republican Majority fund with Baker from 1981 to 1986 to support Republican Senate and House candidates. Welch has been extensively involved with fundraising campaigns for several other high-profile Republicans, including President Ronald Reagan.

Since 1975, Welch has been an independent real estate investor and developer of office buildings. He owns several office properties in Nashville, but the Renaissance Office Tower is the only one on the Metro DES system. We recently caught up with Ted Welch to discuss his take on the economy, the services Metro DES provides and the commercial real estate climate in downtown Nashville.

Q: How did you get started in the business of commercial real estate investment?

A: I bought my first office building in 1975 with proceeds of Hobbs House Apartments and expanded from there.

Q: The Tower office complex on top of the Renaissance Hotel is one of your most high-profile properties. How did that project come about, and what were some of the challenges involved in the development?

A: I had an opportunity to develop and own the top six floors of the Renaissance Hotel and used industrial revenue bonds that I believe were the last ones permitted for an office building. The hotel and office tower were developed as part of the convention center project. It also included the downtown library parking garage and a retail mall, which was at the site of the downtown library.

Q: What are some of your other properties?

A: I own several properties in the Vanderbilt, Music Row and Green Hills areas. I have tenants in a wide range of industries, including health care, financial services, media, entertainment, and jewelry and fashion.

Q: The Tower is your only property on the Metro DES system, correct? Compared to your properties not on the system, what differences do you see in energy efficiencies and costs?

A: DES is very competitive, and it is an efficient provider of energy, thanks in part to the excellent management staff. They keep an eye on energy consumption and let me know if there are potential equipment issues that could be raising my energy costs, which I don't get with in-house systems at my other properties.

Q: In your opinion, what impact has Metro DES had on economic development downtown? Does it play a role in decisions to invest in downtown?

A: DES definitely plays a major role in the development of downtown Nashville. Efficient, affordable energy is a strong selling point for downtown developers and people in commercial real estate, and I think with today's economy and emphasis on the environment, DES will only become more important for downtown development decisions.

Q: The economic climate continues to be challenging for the real estate industry. What should developers and property managers be doing to weather the storm?

A: Now more than ever it's important for developers and property managers to work hard, work smart, and don't overextend. I think a lot of people have had to learn the hard way that what looks good on paper isn't always what's best for business. Now is the time to tighten up operations and focus on fundamentals.

Q: From your view, how does today's economic climate compare to other notable recessions and downturns in the past few decades, for example the 1973-75 and 1980-82 recessions? Has Nashville responded better or worse to this recession than previous ones?

A: This recession appears to be worse than previous ones. Fortunately for Nashville, we have a pretty diverse economy. We have a lot of smart entrepreneurs in Nashville, as well as a strong health care industry and tourism industry, so we have a good balance right now.

Q: There is a good bit of disagreement on what kind of economic recovery we are going to have. What's your take on it?

A: I believe the economy will be consistently improving over the next several months, but we still have a long way to go before we're completely out of the recession.

Q: You are well-known for being involved in the community. What are some of the causes and organizations that you support?

A: Republican candidates, the Nashville Symphony, The Elephant Sanctuary, Cheekwood, Nurses for Newborns, and a number of universities.