Creating Places: A Citizen Observer's Look at Nashville's Built Environment

Writer's Note: William Williams' interest in the manmade environment dates to 1970, at which point the then-young Williams started a collection of postcards of city skylines. The collection now numbers 1,000-plus cards. Among the writer's specific interests are exterior building design, city district planning, demographics, signage, mixed-use development, mass transit and green/sustainable construction and living. Williams began his Creating Places column with The City Paper in February 2005. The column in its original form was discontinued in September 2008 and reinvented via this blog in November 2008. Creating Places can be found on the home page of the website of The City Paper, at which Williams has worked in various capacities since October 2000.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Updates, Updates, Updates

I took a quick drive today to check on some projects. Here's what I found:

* Work has resumed on 30North Office Condos, the four-story structure near Centennial Park and being developed by the Graymont Group (which did the 2222 Building in 12South). The big hole sat empty for what might have been a year, but now the building is out of the ground and I saw lots of equipment there today. Like 2222 (and disturbingly), some of the first-level entrance seems "above sidewalk grade," a model for which I am not a fan. However, 30North is being sited to the sidewalk, so that's encouraging.

* Work on The Maxwell in West End Park is in its final stages. I drive by about once every three weeks and from what I saw recently, seemingly no exterior progress has been made since my last drive-by. However, I did re-check a few days later and men were on the site.

* Also in West End Park, Artesia nears completion, while The Acropolis looks about 50-60 percent finished. The two buildings offer radically different exterior designs, and I'm not sure which I prefer. Artesia is very 21st century, with handsome dark brick and the type green metal roofing that will age gracefully. But some of the elements (including a handful of circular windows and some curved shapes) are questionable. In contrast, The Acropolis is stately and traditional, but excessively replica. Neither hits a home run regarding exterior design. But both are acceptable, solid additions to the general West End district.

* Velocity is showing some "1980s-popular colors" (maroon and medium olive) that look horrid. Also, the futuristic caps topping the two entrance columns — though of a sharp design — appear very impermanent and flimsy. On a positive note, Velocity offers interesting exterior shapes and definition.

* 12 & Paris (next to the Cypress Building) is out of the ground, while work on Gale Loft Apartments and Jefferson Street Lofts (between Third and Fourth) has started, too. Core Development is the developer of all three. I predict 12 & Paris will be a great addition to the city based on various factors. I'm not, however, as optimistic about the other two, as they border no buildings specifically and are sited within overall "built-fabric contexts" that are lacking (at best). Perhaps GLA and JSL will serve, over time, will spur quality growth in their two respective areas.

* The verdict is in: The exterior of the new Downtown YMCA rates a 9 to 9.5. Excellent work from Allard Ward Architects.

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