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Marathon Man: The Driving Force Behind a Community Revival How one determined developer is helping restore the creative spirit of Nashville's downtown scene.

By Jason Ankeny Edited by Frances Dodds

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When Barry Walker acquired the long-abandoned Marathon Motor Works auto factory for $52,000 in 1986, most people around Nashville, Tenn., thought he was throwing good money after bad.

Truth be told, "bad" barely begins to convey the fate that befell the site in the decades after the final touring cars and rumble-seat roadsters rolled off Marathon's assembly line in 1914. Not only was the factory crumbling to dust after years of neglect, but its surrounding downtown neighborhood was a no man's land plagued by poverty, violent crime and drug abuse.

"Marathon was nothing but bums and homeless back then--there were prostitutes all over the place," Walker says. "Everyone said, "You're crazy to do this. You're going to die.' So I bought a pistol--a .38 with a 6-inch barrel--and started cleaning house. I'd fire that gun every morning to clear everyone out of here. I did some crazy stuff, man."

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