Ovation

CORRECTION: This story was updated on July 27 to show that the early Ovation developer Stan Thomas sold the land to a company with a similar name, suggesting he could still be involved.

The Georgia developer Stan Thomas who promised to build a sprawling complex of restaurants, retail stores and office buildings called Ovation may have sold his last foothold in the development. 

The Ovation development was supposed to be a $700 million mixed-use project covering 147 acres in Cool Springs. At one point, plans included 350,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 1.4 million square feet of office space, a 300-bed hotel and nearly 1,000 homes. 

According to county property records, Thomas' company sold his last piece of the property in June for about $9 million. However, as the Nashville Business Journal reported, his company—called THOMAS OVATION LLC—sold the land to SAMOHT OVATION LLC, which is Thomas spelled backwards. He originally purchased that property for $15 million in October 2015. 

The new owner is an anonymous Delaware corporation formed a day before the sale, but the name of the new company suggests that Thomas could still be involved. 

In 2012, the Franklin development company SouthStar and the North Carolina company Highwoods Properties bought the land and planned out the development. They officially broke ground in October 2014, predicting major progress within a year.

In 2015, recognizing that the scope the project was too large, SouthStar sold its portion of the property to the Georgia development company Thomas Land and Development, led by Stanley Thomas, for about $46 million. 

Since then, Highwoods Properties moved forward with its plans to build more than a million square feet of office space. The company finished building the infrastructure in 2016, and opened the North American headquarters for Mars Petcare in the summer of 2019.

On Thomas’ side of the property, progress was much slower. The property has paved roads, but no new buildings. Most of the land remains undeveloped, in part because of Thomas’ legal and financial woes.

Thomas’ company narrowly avoided foreclosure in May 2017 by filing for bankruptcy. The company emerged from bankruptcy a few months later, only to file for bankruptcy again in 2018. In June 2019, a portion of Thomas’ property went up for auction after he defaulted on a loan. 

That month, a bail bondsman who claimed to represent a Middle Eastern developer bid more than $40 million—winning the auction on the steps of the courthouse in downtown Franklin—but he disappeared before he could close the deal. 

Thomas’ creditors then took possession of the 34-acre property, which is now for sale, but he still owned 42 acres in the Ovation development. A different lender threatened to foreclose on the remaining property—Thomas’ last foothold in Ovation—in September, 2019. Ultimately, he repaid a major loan for the property and retained possession.

"We feel like it will be something that all of Tennessee will be proud of," Thomas said, according to a post from the early days of the project on the website for the Franklin developer SouthStar. "It will be a very special place to come and spend time.”

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