Mark Pirtle, key developer of the Murfreesboro Gateway area, dies
Mourners of Mark Pirtle remember him for his successful commercial real estate development and philanthropy in Murfreesboro.
Pirtle was 70 when he died on Monday evening. Funeral arrangements are pending, said his brother Mike Pirtle, former editor and general manager of the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro.
Mark Pirtle had a successful career as an auto dealer, including in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville, in addition to commercial real estate development in many places in Middle Tennessee, said John Harney, a friend and business partner for more than 35 years.
“Mark was an extraordinary entrepreneur in the automotive business, but even more so in the real estate development business,” Harney said. “He was like a brother to me. He was a wonderful man.”
Pirtle had a vision to develop much of the commercial real estate in the city’s Gateway area off Medical Center Parkway that surrounds Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital, Harney said.
Harney recalled Mark Pirtle circa 2005 competing with two other developers, one national and one regional, to purchase Medical Center Parkway property through a Murfreesboro Gateway Commission recommendation to the city council to develop a Class A office building.
While competitors wanted to start construction on the condition of securing 65% of pre-vacated office space, Pirtle told city officials that he and his partners would begin work in three months.
“Mark and his partners got the deal to build it,” Harney said.
What followed was StoneGate Corporate Center, a 92,000 square foot building that was the first and initially the largest in the Gateway area dedicated to attracting white-collar jobs. Many have referred to the development as the “Pirtle building”. The property was sold in December to a medical investment firm, Harney said.
Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland also praised Mark Pirtle’s “instrumental” efforts to develop the Gateway area near the hospital.
“You can look all over the community, especially in the Gateway area, and see where Mark was a visionary to come out and try something in this area that had never been done,” McFarland said. “He could take ownership of a project or an idea, and Mark was relentless in pushing things to the finish line.”
The mayor also appreciates Pirtle’s encouragement of others to succeed in business.
“Mark was always available to meet any young entrepreneur or meet any young business owner to share knowledge and ideas,” said McFarland, who owns a home building business that has never been in partnership with Pirtle.
“The cool thing about Mark is that Mark has always been known as a negotiator,” McFarland added.
The mayor noted that Pirtle always remained loyal to McMinnville where Pirtle grew up and served on a bank’s board with McFarland.
“He was really loyal to his hometown,” McFarland said. “Deep down, Mark was a little city boy and wanted his hometown of McMinnville to always succeed.
McFarland met Pirtle before he even won a seat on Murfreesboro City Council in 2006 before becoming mayor in 2014.
“Mark was the first person to encourage me to run for city council 20 years ago,” McFarland recalled. “Mark was not only determined that Murfreesboro would be a great place to run a business, but wanted Murfreesboro to be a great place to live.”
Mark Pirtle was known to be a generous and humble donor of time and money to non-profit organizations including charities and health services, the mayor said.
“He was truly a champion for many different organizations throughout the community,” McFarland said.
Pirtle and his wife, Anita, for example, donated property for the former Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce office near the northeast corner of Northwest Broad Street and Memorial Boulevard. The chamber moved to the Gateway area off Medical Center Parkway and Interstate 24. The former office now serves the American Red Cross office at 501 Memorial Blvd. The property was part of a former State Farm regional office before Pirtle redeveloped the corner area of the busy intersection for commercial office and retail space, including restaurants and banks, recalled Harney.
“Mark and Anita were always looking for ways to improve the lives of people around them and worthy organizations, and to promote our community,” Harney said. “Mark and Anita have been very generous to many people and good causes.”
The idea for the chamber of commerce emerged after Pirtle and Harney met with representatives of a planned head office move to an old log house in the village of Cannonsburgh, a town recreation spot that features a collection of buildings from the 1830s to the 1930s.
Harney recalled that Pirtle said after the meeting that the town needed to project a different image to attract business than a log cabin, which at the time was the location of the chamber of commerce office.
“He had such foresight on many occasions,” Harney said, recalling that Pirtle would say we have to do something “and he would follow through on it.”
Mark Pirtle has earned the deserved recognition from the Chamber of Commerce. He had served as a former chamber president before the organization presented him with a Businessman of the Year award and a Business Legend award, Harney said.
Today, the chamber also honors Mark Pirtle by using his name for its economic development center.
Pirtle had also sometimes been mocked for being a short man.
“Mark may have been short in stature, but he had a giant personality,” Harney said. “He was one of the most positive people I have ever met.”
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