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.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Creating Places: T-Truck To the Gulch

The Gulch is poised for a major coup, as the Turnip Truck is slated to open by October.

Earlier this week, the announcement hit and those of us who both relish natural foods and thrill to watching urban districts evolve just toasted some organic vanilla soy milk.

No doubt, this is big coup for the Gulch and all of dowtown. Hey, I dig Trader Joe's but to support a mom-and-pop... Stellar.

The lovely and vivacious Michele Trueba, one of Nashville's main proponents of urban living, told me this when I informed her of the news:

“12th Avenue South from Terrazzo to Whiskey Kitchen is like an traditional main street for the Gulch, and the Turnip Truck will help anchor and revitalize the mid-section of that street,” said Trueba, a Lipman Group/Sotheby’s realtor who deftly handles multiple Gulch properties. “The Turnip Truck is not like a Kroger or a Publix. It’s tactile. You’ve got organics, children’s art on the walls and great soup.”

Great soup, indeed.

Turnip Truck Urban Fare (the actual name, so we'll call it TTUF) will join the established Casablanca Coffee, Yazoo Brewing Co. and BB&T to give the Gulch a grocery, a cafĂ©, a pub and a bank — four key elements many place-making experts contend are critical to the long-term stability of clearly defined urban pockets.

Kudos to Gulch master developer MarketStreet Enterprises for convincing T-Truck founder John Dyke to open another grocery (his original locale in East Nashville's Five Points just celebrated nine years of operation).

For a story for The City Paper, I talked to Brian Vanneman, principal with Portland, Ore.-based Leland Consulting Group and an expert on urban retail. Vanneman told me grocery stores often serve as the “anchor tenants” of mixed-use neighborhoods.

Vanneman knows his stuff. He co-wrote an article with Mark Hinshaw, a Seattle-based architect influential in that city’s office of the American Institute of Architects, titled “The Supermarket as a Neighborhood Building Block.” The piece ran in the March 2010 AIA Planning magazine.

“Retail creates ‘urban theater,’” Vanneman said during the interview.

TTUF will be located at 311 12th Ave. S. in a 1960s-built structure most recently used for industrial purposes (I seem to recall the biz was Tennessee Air-Gas). The grocery will occupy about 9,200 square feet (by comparison, the East Nashville Turnip Truck covers about 4,500 square feet), with Powell Design Studio handling the architectural retrofit. Once finished, the mixed-use building will contain about 5,500 square feet of additional space for up to three other retail businesses. The rendering (see above) suggests an attractive design.

The Gulch has long needed a grocery store. And the Truck will roll through with an organic purpose.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Creating Places: Gulch Lands Grocery

The Gulch will soon have a Turnip Truck grocery store. The addition, expected to be finalized by October, will impact future growth on the district. Within the next day, I will offer a blog post regarding this matter.