When Marketstreet Enterprises started snapping up property in what would become known as the Gulch fifteen years ago, the idea was to establish an urban neighborhood.
“And a neighborhood is potentially a fragile entity,” says managing director Jay Turner. His father, full-time philanthropist Steve Turner started Marketstreet before handing off the reigns to his son.
The Turner family, who earned their riches with Dollar General, has built, bought or otherwise had a hand in two-thirds of the Gulch, which is a type of redevelopment district that gets special tax benefits and other help from the city.
The early projects focused on residential buildings – condos and apartments. The Gulch now has more than 1,700 units and a vacancy rate near zero. Retail and restaurants have been added along the way, but now construction is well underway on a 200,000 square-foot office building called Gulch Crossing. And plans have now been unveiled for a 224-room boutique hotel.
Marketstreet played a role in both. But Turner says he’s starting to play a more defensive role after playing cheerleader for so long. He says he almost feels like a guardian for the couple thousand people who now call his condo and apartment buildings home.
“There are a lot of people that live down here, and they live in buildings that we have in one way or another been involved with,” Turner says. “So we feel a sense of duty to make sure that what goes next in the Gulch would be something that they’d be proud to live next to.”
Turner says he’s particularly protective because there are almost no zoning restrictions for the former industrial site. The only businesses banned from the Gulch are strip clubs.
But Turner also doesn’t want the Gulch to bleed into the rest of downtown. He wants it to be connected and yet distinct.
“The Gulch will grow, and it will continue to get more and more dense,” he says. “My hope is that it will always be known as ‘The Gulch’ so that it will always be a place in and of itself, that it will not just become the border of downtown.”