Gentrification and Social Responsibility: An Interview with DJ Wootson

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For  my guest Developer DJ Wootson I’m doing something special and using a video clip to kick off the interview:

 

Video Credit  (Mariyo Deon)

DJ is building a new retail/commercial development on Historical Jefferson Street, “1821 Jefferson Street” which commercially will include Bongo Java, Smoothie King and on the residential side will offer one and two bedrooms apartments with all the luxurious finishings.  Now pre-leasing, check out more about 1821 at and its amenities at TitusYoungRealEstate.com

I interviewed him to learn more about his passion, and his journey.  Click below to read more.

On the Location of North Nashville

“I’m just thinking, if we look at where we are strategically,  it makes sense, right? Where are we, one mile and a half from the capital, a mile from downtown? Essentially Jefferson St., this part of the street, points to downtown Nashville.”

“Even though the [property assessors] read through the [property] lines, they considered 1821 Jefferson St. [as] a part of DTC, or downtown circle. So it’s close! Strategically, it’s close, right? But it doesn’t give you the feeling that it’s close to so much that’s going on in the city. That’s because it was undeveloped for so long. And so, the point there is the opportunity. I just think there was opportunity in this market that nobody is capitalizing on.  Not only opportunity regarding economics, not meaning that, but I think the opportunity regarding community redevelopment, right?”

“I’ve walked a delicate line in this slippery slope [redeveloping Jefferson Street] ’cause on one end, I get chased with the pitchforks. What are you doing? What are you trying to do? Who are you? Get out of here. On the other end, it’s like…Yes, do us some good, change the neighborhood. And so, if you consider everything that this area has to offer… I just think there is opportunity here.”

“I did this [1821 Jefferson Street] with the idea in mind that people who love this side of town, who are in this side of town, can enjoy some of the similar things that they go to the other sides of town for, right?”

“Now here’s the reality, if I don’t, or we don’t, or you don’t [do something to revitalize Jefferson Street], somebody will.”

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On Historical Jefferson Street:

Gateway to Heritage Plaza (the underpass on the Tennessee State University side of Jefferson Street with the graffiti) which is across the street from the new 14  townhome project “The Heritage at Jefferson Street”  for which it is the namesake.  So, that is just some of the things that I’m doing, and that’s either paying homage or adding value to the community.  I see a lot of the things that I envision as value adds.  I have redeveloped University City Flats apartments which were formally a hot spot for unsavory-ness  So a lot of times, people say redevelopment and they think it has to have a brand new structure and frame. But redevelopment could also mean take care of existing property.”

 

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On Being an Entrepreneur:

“I didn’t set myself out to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to be big. Wherever I was going, I knew I wanted to be great. I wanted to be important. I originally want to work for somebody else’s company and be an executive of  an institution.  I didn’t know that it would be,  that I will be, owning my own company. When the original career path didn’t pan out, I started to take the work I did on the side in real estate more seriously.  Asking a lot of questions and conducting a lot of meetings, my ideas started to grow.”

On Real Estate Development Being His Passion:

“It’s kind of like my ministry in some ways. In what I do in real estate, its almost like ministry in regards to being able to put together projects that serve people. 1821 Jefferson Street is a service is to the community. Building homes, particularly in areas like North Nashville where just a few years ago there were no new homes; I see it as a service.  In areas that need housing and conveniences,  I see it all as service.”

 

On Philanthropy:

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Mending Hearts is an organization that helps women that have been recently released from prison, and may struggle with addiction, to reconnect with their families, and their lives, just like a re-entry program.

Being part of something like this [the construction of the above pictured Mending House Meeting Center] really really, really, really felt dear because I know what addiction is. And I know what it does to families. My father died from drug addiction.

So being able to be a part of this project and help design, develop, and manage this project. Yeah, I played a small role but it was enough role for Katrina [the program manager] to be like, hey we’re dedicating this room to you.”

 

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On the acronym TYRE

“You ready? Is the camera on?

Titus is my son’s first name. Young is my father’s last name.

Titus represents for me, the good, right?

And my father, representing the not-so-sweet, maybe the bitter parts of life.

I will always have those two names as humbling reminders of what I hope to be the good [my son] and of where mistakes can lead you [my father’s addiction].”

On the Dollar Tree Development:

“[Pointing towards residential neighborhood] Preston Taylor homes. Hundreds of houses. Hundreds of units. Hundreds of people living over in this area and there is no… where do you shop?

I talked to at least seven other well-known grocery retailers. I couldn’t get any responses. So, after a year of looking here, looking there, I convinced Dollar Tree that this location was the place they needed to call home.

This is another example of social responsibility because people were saying you can tear it down, and you can build some houses on this acre lot.  I said, well, look around, Do they need more houses?”

On Mentorship:

“Well, again, opportunity. You put yourself in a position where somebody gives you an opportunity. That’s when you’re successful. For me, it goes all the way back to high school basketball and being able to get a junior college scholarship. I told my junior college coach that I want to continue to play ball and I want to play hard for you, I just need you to help me get to the division level and earn a scholarship. I need more help. Just give me that opportunity.”

“I worked with Dollar General for four years. I learned a lot and I learned a great deal about business.  I call it the “DG University,” and after being there for four years, it was like a college experience in terms of business acumen.  So that experience gave me an opportunity to go out and say to someone, hey look! I am ready to do something different. I’m ready for a bigger opportunity.  And the opportunity said I believe you have what it takes. And I knew no one could out work me.”

DJ Wootson on His Key To Success:

“You have to put it all in a pot.  You’re not going to be able to put your finger on one thing that makes you successful.  A great portion of it is time, the other things are the things that people can’t teach. The business stuff can be taught but the drive, dedication, and commitment to accomplish your goals, you can’t teach that.”

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I really appreciate DJ giving me some of his time to reflect and provide some action-oriented advice.  What did you take away from this article? We’d love to hear it in the comments!

KB The Nashville Social Butterfly

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