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.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Creating Places: Ratings game

Following is one man's rating of Nashville's five best mixed-use, walkable urban districts. Note: For this exercise, I excluded those districts within "downtown" (SoBro, The Gulch, Rolling Mill Hill/Rutledge Hill and the central business district).

Here we go:

1. Hillsboro Village
2. Five Points
3. Elliston Place (seen here)
4. Germantown
5. 12South

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Creating Places: 12South newcomer

Hill Realty and Southeast Venture are joining forces to develop this building, slated to rise next to 12South Taproom.

I like it. Has a well defined base, midsection and cap. Nice forms, color and materials (looks to be charcoal brick, panels or tiles of some sort, lots of glass and some metal). Very contemporary. Nice.

Of note, Southeast Venture designed Bell Midtown (formerly 1700 Midtown), an industrial-themed apartment building on State Street. Most people I've talked to regarding Bell Midtown either thoroughly like or dislike its design. Place me in the camp of the former. I predict Southeast Venture will do well with the unnamed 12South structure.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Creating Places: Med Mart musings

Yesterday I bumped into a local architect who remains cautiously optimistic about the Nashville Medical Trade Center. The architect, whom I will not name but will note is not a member of the Gresham Smith & Partners team (GS&P is designing the mart), said the facility could be a game-changer for downtown on various levels. I agree.

I see the chances of the NMTC materializing as 50-50.

Creating Places: Shining with Seanachie

The rehabbing of the building formerly home to Seanachie Irish pub (located on the southeast corner of the Broadway and Fourth Avenue intersection and seen here before renovation began) is taking shape nicely. I like the choice of windows. This is a large structure at a very prominent location. It needs to shine.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Creating Places: Austin mulls mass transit

Click here for an interesting read regarding Austin and its efforts to land a modern streetcar.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Creating Places: Color coordinated?

The new elevator shaft that will allow folks on the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge to access the soon-to-be-finished Cumberland Park is sheathed in a very cool green glass. In contrast, and on the other side of the bridge, the historic NaBriCo Building has a back-side appendage that, though of an interesting shape and material, is an anything-but attractive maroon/rust. The juxtaposition is a bit jarring but nothing compared to the hideous color collision seen with the nearby Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks. The severed-segment-of-a-roller-coaster-like public art piece combines a brownish-crimson with a fire engine red in what ranks as one of the most grotesque color combos found in the city.

No doubt: Color is a key element of our built environment.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Creating Places: Midtown musings

I remain very bullish on Midtown and feel the Bristol Development Group project, which could include a Publix, on the Music Row Roundabout would be a major driver of additional infill. In many respects, Midtown has more potential than SoBro — if anything because it covers a vastly larger geographic area. Why more development is not happening in Midtown borders on baffling. To date, the only two major project underway are Elliston 23 and Hilton Home2 Suites, with Park 25, the aforementioned Bristol project, the hotel at FYE (which I think will happen) and the mixed-used Marriott project at 18th and West End (which seems 50-50) the most high-profile others that cold start in 2012. I suppose some developers might be waiting to see what the city wants to do with mass transit, with a Midtown component likely, before they move forward.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Creating Places: Random Tidbits

A few quick items as I prep to retire for the evening:

1. The Hampton Inn on Elliston Place is getting a new exterior paint job, and I will post a photo soon. The building should look better but will still rank among the most generic of the city's structures in the seven- to 10-story range.

2. The newish sidewalk segment along the west side of Wilson Boulevard (courtesy of MBA) is very attractive.

3. I attended last week's Nashville Civic Design Center meeting and caught the last 30 minutes of the presentation regarding OneC1TY. Very impressive. Work on the first two buildings (of at least six) is slated to begin in 2012. Developer Health Care REIT plans office, retail and residential space.

4. The two-block stretch of Portland Avenue between 21st Avenue South on the east and Convent Place on the west ranks among Nashville's most urban in form and feel. If you've never done so, take some time this Thanksgiving break to walk Portland.

5. The elevator shaft for Core Development's Midtown Place on 18th Avenue South is topped. Based on the shaft, this should be a building with some decent height.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Creating Places: The Astoria

Work on The Astoria (located in Green Hills' Bedford Commons) is nearing completion. This is a very attractive building. Very nice materials (primarily stone and metal), massing and color scheme. The symmetry as displayed by the windows and doors shows nice balance. In short, the exterior of The Astoria shows a 21st century aesthetic with a nice nod to the traditional. Well done.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Creating Places: Five Points addition

This photo shows the right half of the new building (not sure the structure has an official name yet) in East Nashville's Five Points. My photography skills are, admittedly, modest (of note, I struggled to capture the entire building with my smart phone camera option), but this shot does offer a basic feel for the building, including height, materials and color scheme. Overall, I find the structure acceptable (particularly the contrasting gray and brown). However, I'm not too keen on the "brick cap" seen here. Seems out of scale. However, and on a somewhat positive note, the cap does show contrasting horizontally and vertically placed brick and features a trio of indented horizontal forms. The Hardie siding works well enough and, again, I do like the gray. On a minor criticism: The light fixtures on either side of the entrance are cool but perhaps a tad smallish. Lastly, the building plays rather nicely off the post office next door. Grade: B-minus to B.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Creating Places: The mid-2000s — all over again

We all fondly recall the mid-2000s, during which Nashville's urban core was infilled with what seemed like countless projects. By the end of the decade, and with the recession brutalizing the city (and many others), the cranes were gone, new condo towers sat all but empty and a prolonged slump seemed likely. Fast forward to 2011. Though no major skyscrapers are being built, the Omni Nashville Hotel will push 300 feet. The Music City Center is a widescraper of major note. Riverfront redevelopment has commenced. Rolling Mill Hill is actually become a defined place. Germantown is fire hot with various projects. The Gulch is poised. Work has started on the 28th Avenue Connector. And those condos...most are now 75 percent or more sold (albeit some via auction and vast discounts). Indeed, all around the city, numerous quality infill projects are redefining various districts. And even if only half of the high-profile projects announced in the past few months are actually built, Nashville will assume a very different look and function by 2016 or so.

A defining moment of this recent flurry of activity came today as I chatted with a veteran local developer who is not known for being particularly optimistic about the city's chances of enjoying a major boom. The man (he'll go unnamed as I wouldn't want his lovably crusty persona to be viewed any differently) was quite sunny in his thoughts on the city's long-term future. He thinks the hundreds of apartment units under construction in the city will fill rather easily. He sees college students finishing their studies in Nashville — and staying right here. He envisions the city's fast-changing, yet still disconnected, districts fusing — sooner rather than later. Indeed, this man — an old-timer who has always displayed a healthy dose of cynicism — is bullish on Nashville.

Yes, the mid-2000s and that era's rising towers may be gone. But a new decade is upon us. Could this be The Decade of Nashville?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Creating Places: SoBro tower time?

Attached is a rendering (on the near left) of one of the three buildings Giarratana Development is proposing for downtown Nashville. The tower, unnamed at this point, reminds me ever so slightly of a contemporary version of the 1973-opened Legg Mason Building in Baltimore see in the photo on the far left. The architect for the SoBro tower is Solomon Cordwell Buenz, a Chicago-based firm whose website shows 21 multi-unit high-rise residential building projects. Of note, all but five are located in Chicago. And most, I must say, are quite attractive skyscrapers. No doubt, it would be a nice feather in Nashville's — and Tony Giarratana's — development cap to have SCB make its mark on our skyline.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Creating Places: Sign of the church times

I see Woodmont Baptist Church is getting an attractive new sign — located at the northeast corner of Woodmont Boulevard and Hillsboro Road. The materials and design play nicely off the church building itself. In contrast, the previous sign was ugly, its color scheme, shape and materials showing no context in relation to the grand church. Good to see church leaders finally came around and "saw the light."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Creating Places: Hyatt set for SoBro

Here's a rendering of the proposed Hyatt hotel slated for SoBro and to replace the gritty Rock City Machine Co. Building next to Sole Mio on Third Avenue South). Of note, the building is set for 13 stories, so it should stand about 150 feet at its zenith. That's a strong height for the structure's somewhat modest footprint. It will also "hug" Encore, creating a canyon-like effect for those traveling the two-lane, and tight, Molloy Street between Third and Fourth avenues south. This could be rather interesting. I would prefer the Hyatt to be constructed on an empty lot — of which downtown has an excessive number. Still, this should be a solid project. The design (and renderings can be misleading) is seemingly acceptable. I like the blue glass and the corner entrance at the southwest corner of Molloy and Third. There is word (and from a reliable source) that officials with the Hampton Inn & Suites want their building to "jump" Almond Street alley, in the process replacing a cinder-block building owned by C.B. Ragland. Were this to happen (and I believe the tiny building home to Sole Mio would remain in this hypothetical scenario), we're looking at some decent built-fabric density in this little node of SoBro. Of course, the massive surface parking lot between Second, Third, KVB and Molloy needs development. And that should happen within five years.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Creating Places: Looking at the urban core

Met with some chums today to discuss various built environment matters and just shared some basic thoughts with one via email. This is regarding long-term growth in Nashville's urban core. Here is what I wrote (and my opinion could change tomorrow):

I actually think the Vanderbilt/West End corridor has the brightest future of all the districts. I'm afraid the Central Business District is limited for future growth as the parcels available are small, expensive (and thus raise the question of cost-effectiveness for redevelopment) and lucrative as surface parking lots. SoBro south of Peabody Street is a MAJOR question mark. I'm not as high on SoBro's long-term growth as perhaps are others (with maybe the general Rolling Mill Hill area being an exception). Crossland and the North Gulch could be 10 years away minimum. I don't have much hope for that district in the immediate future, although Eleven North will help. I do like the potential of the Gulch proper for various reasons. The proposed 1.5 million in office and retail space is intriguing — not to mention highly ambitious. North Capitol is a wildcard. If no Sounds stadium or African-American museum are forthcoming, who knows. Germantown has strong long-term potential.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Creating Places: Elliston23 site from on high

Courtesy of the fine folks at Southern Land Co., this photo gives us an idea of the scale of this project. Should be massive. Note the strip center across from E23. Unfortunate with the setback. The building was constructed prior to Metro instituting its urban zoning overlay in late 2000 and ranks as one of the ugliest in all of the West End corridor. In comparison, the bland and generic Hampton Inn (to the right of the construction site) is a masterpiece. Would that the old Father Ryan High School building had been saved and converted to condos.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Creating Places: Nashville vs. ?????

I've decided to begin a series of comparisons between Nashville and other mid-size U.S. cities. Not sure with which city I'll start. Leaning toward Charlotte.

More to follow soon ...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Creating Places: Ryman Lofts

Ryman Lofts has me excited. Note the various shapes, material and colors. With a contemporary design, RL should offer nice massing and height. I also like the balance of windows. Smith Gee Studio designed RLofts and deserves credit for a job well done. Infill Rolling Mill Hill with multiple buildings of this type and that district will hum with vibrancy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Creating Places: A Foursome of Note

I rarely blog about realtors and property managers, but the new four-women team of Nashville Condo Collection is worth a mention. This quartet of classy and cosmopolitan ladies — Michelle Maldonado, Missy Harris, Michele Trueba and Nichole Holmes (comprising the Sotheby’s International Realty sales team) — will do a stellar job with their new venture, announced today. The foursome will focus on Nashville’s burgeoning resale condo market, with the women collectively experienced with Adelicia, Viridian, Encore, Bennie Dillon and Enclave. The team’s combined sales experience exceeds 20 years, and the women have sold in the Nashville market more than 700 condos valued at approximately $200 million.

Congrats, ladies. I would take you out and buy you all drinks but for you to be seen in public and in my company could prove harmful to your stellar reputations.

Creating Places: Crane Up

The first tower crane for the massive Omni Hotel and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum project is being erected as I type. I awoke this morning to see the bulk of the tower portion thrusting proudly, at least 100 feet tall. Returning home for lunch at 2:30 today, I noticed two more vertical segments had been added, with the arm portion of the crane being assembled.

From what I can determine, no fewer than two more cranes will be erected on the site.

Exciting times, indeed, for those of us who thrill to the sight of high-profile construction.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Creating Places: Neon and off

A quick post as I listen to Halloween music ...

What's up with the green neon light topping the soon-to-be-finished NABRICO Building? On some nights it is on and on others it is not. It's a cool touch and I trust it will be permanent.

Creating Places: Random Tidbits

A quick late-night post as the soulful sounds of Miles Davis drift through my tiny condo...

The old Beaman sign that once loomed over Broadway is now affixed to the east side of the dealership's building at 14th and McGavock. A nice touch.

I wonder if the green light at the top of the NABRICO Building will remain once the project is finished. I like it.

Not sure what to think of the under-construction building in Five Points. It is not completed so I'll reserve comments but there are both positives and negatives at this point.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Creating Places: Oooey Chuy

Typically, I prefer to wait until a building's construction is completed before I offer an opinion. But I simply cannot refrain from posting about the soon-to-be-finished future Midtown home of Chuy's. One word: Hideous. And let's throw in horrid, horrendous and horrific. Where to start? The color scheme of both the signage and structure suggests 100 hungry Chuy's patrons consumed untold pounds of refried beans, Mexican rice, corn, salsa and guacamole, were hoisted on high and then vomited all over the building. The materials look cheap (and likely are), as does the main entrance door. The structure's west wall (running along 19th) is stark. It's not an exaggeration to say the building ranks among the bottom 10 percent of those urban Nashville has gotten since 2000. At least Chuy's doesn't have asphalt surrounding it — and that is about the only positive note I can strike. I'll give the Chuy's Building one more shot (once its finished) but I'm not optimistic. It's clear what happened: the head honchos in Austin simply used a generic Chuy's building design template courtesy of an architect who was not given any creative license (nor the chance to check the surrounding building designs) and here's what we get. Well at least I hear the food is tasty.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Creating Places: Pine Street Lofts Part 4

Earlier this week, I saw MarketStreet's Dirk Melton — as I feasted on a vegetarian meal at The Turnip Truck. The ever gracious Melton noted on-site work on Pine Street Lofts is still slated to begin by year's end. He also said MarketStreet is considering a name other than Pine Street Lofts. A couple requests, Dirk: 1. Please don't use "Lofts" in the name. That designation has been both overused and inaccurately used in the local urban housing market. 2. "Pine" (given the 11th Avenue South and Pine Street location) could work in some manner but would be a bit predictable. That said, Pine11, for example, might be OK.

So, a few recommendations (some, admittedly, pretentiously presented):

Rail Yard Apartments

Flat Yard Flats

Industry (A play on the nearby one-name residential buildings Velocity, Icon and Terrazzo while giving a nod to the heavy industry theme of rail sector)

The Ballast

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Creating Places: Cranes on Omni site

The Omni Hotel/Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum construction site now shows four crane segments, with three seemingly being base pieces (a three-crane setup looming?). On this theme, Omni Hotel might represent the only building of 10 floors or more to be constructed in Nashville during the next two years. I surely hope that does not end up being the case as some of my skyscraper geek friends my need psychological counseling if so.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Creating Places: The West End — an update

I learned today that of The West End's 72 units, only 12 remain. This is encouraging news as The West End (check this site for photos: is a highly unusual condo building for Nashville. The building, located next to Walgreens at 31st and West End avenues, combines height (the structure rises about 140 feet) with a predominantly brick cladding (rare for post-1960-constructed local buildings of seven floors or more) and very traditional units. Indeed, The West End is vastly unlike the city's six other multi-unit condo towers of 10 floors or more and that have been constructed since 2000. Given the distinctiveness of the building and a 2009 auction, there were some questions as to the long-term viability of The West End. With only 12 units remaining, those questions now seem to be answered.

Interestingly, I was lukewarm regarding the building when it opened, finding it a bit too understated (particularly with its exterior color scheme). Since then, I've toured the building's interior (very elegant) and taken time on numerous occasions to observe its exterior features. I'm increasingly liking the luxury condo tower's interesting exterior forms and shapes — and even its light brick color has grown on me. Overall, The West End has earned my respect.

It's also good to see John Coleman Hayes, the lead developer of the project, is seeing his vision being realized. There are few developers in the city as likable and classy.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Creating Places: Mazda dealership

Overall, the retrofitted building home to the new Mazda dealership (and located between 12 and 13th avenues on Broadway) looks solid. I like the metal elements, sharp-angled forms and even the lime touches. Not sure, however, why the orange window frames were used.

Creating Places: Vista Germantown

Drove by V-Germantown today and saw two brick colors: a dark brown and a tan. I like the contrast. On this theme, why do developers sometimes use brick with a faint pinkish hue? I've never understood it. Such color emasculates a building.

Creating Places: Pine Street Lofts Part III

Forgot to mention in an earlier post that Pine Street Lofts (on which work is slated to begin by year's end) will be about 75 feet tall at it zenith. That's a nice height for building in the Gulch.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Creating Places: Pine Street Lofts Part II

During a recent chat with MarketStreet's Dirk Melton, we touched on the architect for the soon-to-break-ground Pine Street Lofts. Dirk says Birmingham-based Davis Architects has significant experience designing buildings of this type. Unfortunately, the firm's website offers few images. What the site does show are some very understated (some would argue "bland") designs. So I am a bit skeptical about PSL. I do hope Davis proves me wrong. The Gulch needs that dead space infilled.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Creating Places: Random Tidbits

Very briefly as it's late and the chocolate soy milk has sedated me...

1. I had a nice phone chat recently with Dirk Melton of MarketStreet. Dirk filled me in on a few basic exterior design details regarding the soon-to-begin Pine Street Lofts in The Gulch. More on that in an upcoming post.

2. The Music City Center is seemingly only a few weeks (if that) from being fully framed.

3. I am curious to see how the new building in Five Points (to be anchored by a vet) will look upon completion. Only one level but somehow manages to present a decent height. Materials are a question. DA|AD is the designer and does (as I've noted in past posts) quality work. Should be, at the minimum, a solid addition. Relatedly, I like the little modular buildings comprising The Five Points Collaborative. Very tasteful.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Creating Places: A Journey to Detroit Part II

Having been back a week following my trip to Detroit, following are some positive and negative characteristics of the built environment of one of this country's five most important, arguably, old-school cities:

The Good

1. Stellar vintage architecture of all types (residential, commercial, civic and industrial).

2. Three large, well-defined and fairly vibrant big-city districts: Downtown, Midtown and New Center.

3. An outstanding collection of pre-World War-II-built skyscrapers (the Guardian Building is likely my favorite, with the lobby nothing short of breathtaking).

4. A nice collection of civic spaces (Campus Martius Park, Grand Circus Park, the Market Sheds in Eastern Market, Detroit Riverwalk and Lafayette Park/Dequindre Cut Greenway.

5. A distinctive downtown street layout, which allows for interesting vistas for walkers.

The Bad

1. An almost disturbingly modest number of striking 21st century buildings (a few exceptions include the Downtown YMCA, the Compuware Building and the Greektown Hotel).

2. A good bit of "dead space" (surface parking, empty residential lots, abandoned buildings, etc.), which limits pedestrian vibrancy.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I rank Detroit's manmade fabric a 7.5. Once the city is infilled with cutting-edge contemporary buildings — and assuming the bulk of the great traditional stuff is maintained — the ranking could shoot to a 9. This transformation will require at least 20 years and I might be dead, but perhaps my two nephews, 10 and 7 respectively, will be able to enjoy, along with the then-residents of what will remain a proud city.

Next the wonderful people of Detroit make the Motor City a special place.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Creating Places: Elliston 23

Ground breaks Aug. 30. Here's what I found out talking to Southern Land (the developer) officials Michael McNally, vice president, and Mike Hathaway, senior commercial architecture. SLC Commercial Architecture is designing the building exterior to primarily include stucco and brick. Brick color will offer a deep red to contrast with lighter stucco. (I don't like the sound of that color scheme.) Some stone elements will be included too. Elliston 23 will be about 80 feet tall at its zenith -- a nice height. Retail space will span the Elliston elevation. Restaurants will bookend both Hampton Inn side and 23rd and Ellison corner. Six stories. Shooting for silver LEED.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Creating Places: A Journey to Detroit

I just returned from a two-days, three-nights stay in one of the nation's most important - and misunderstood - cities: Detroit. Overall, I was very pleased to see that the Motor City, though having suffered horrendously for years, remains resilient, its citizens determined to move the Rust Belt city forward. Of note, Detroit has seen some very impressive infill development(both in its downtown and near Wayne State University), although the number of projects has been limited for a city of this size (a result, no doubt, of Detroit's struggles). I will be posting about Detroit during the next week.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Creating Places: TMP delivers

Congrats to local architecture firm Thomas Miller & Partners (TMP), as the design company's Upper Cumberland Regional Health Facility in Cookeville has been awarded LEED platinum certification. The $9.8 million, 50,700-square-foot building is the state's first structure to earn LEED platinum designation. Relatedly, Nashville-based Hardaway Construction served as the project's general contractor. I often fail to include TMP in my blog posts, as the architectural company is located in Brentwood and handles a good bit of non-local work. In short, it's easy to overlook the firm. But that is unfortunate as TMP does quality work. And a shout-out to my man J.P. Cowan, who toils quietly yet productively at the firm.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Creating Places: A Fine Future Vista

Of all the recently released renderings for the expanded Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, this image perhaps most caught my attention. Nashville — with its hilly terrain, river and some distinctive large buildings — offers a respectable number of interesting vistas from afar. But for the pedestrian, the up-close street-level vista offerings are modest, the result of an urban core that lacks street blocks along which both sides are lined with buildings. There are some exceptions, including both Fourth and Fifth avenues between Church and Union streets, and Church Street spanning two blocks (Fifth to Fourth to Third avenues). Sadly, however, far too many blocks in both Downtown and Midtown have "missing teeth" — gaps in blocks that typically feature surface parking or, in a few cases, simply empty lots. As such, the above rendering makes me all the more excited to know that eventually the block of Fifth Avenue South from KVB to Demonbreun Street will be "filled in" by the Music City Center on the west side of the street and the Omni Hotel/CMHofFM on the east side. This "wall" of built fabric could prove to be one of Nashville most impressive.

Creating Places: Elliston 23

Within the next few days, I will offer a blog post with details of Elliston 23, the large (with significant massing and to hit a 70-foot zenith), mixed-use building slated for the site formerly home to the handsome Father Ryan High School building. I recently talked to two Southern Land Co. officials (the company's architecture division is handling the design) and learned of some interesting specifics. More to follow...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Creating Places: Bad West End Design Part 8

From the building home to the Extended Stay America, we conclude our tour of West End Avenue with the one-two punch of West End Square and the adjacent building home to Tenno. The former houses, among others, Dairy Queen and Wolf Camera. By the standards of typical suburban strip retail centers, WES is decent in that it offers a second level, thus minimizing full-fledged horizontal sprawl. But beyond that, the building is generic, seemingly of cheap materials and marred by various unsightly signs. Next door the "Tenno Building" looks like a roof masquerading as a building. In fact, the lack of roof-to-overall-building-proportionality is almost shocking at first glance. Visualize a 2-year-old child donning a magician's top hat. Very odd. And very ugly.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Creating Places: Hilton's Home2Suites Part II

Has anybody noticed the almost stunningly small footprint of the Hilton Home2Suites Hilton that will front Division Street and be sited on the east side of Bristol on Broadway? I'm not certain of the square footage but it will rank among the most modest of any the city has seen for a hotel. Of note, this could render a very distinctive building, due to its height (seven stories) related to its footprint.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Creating Places: Bad West End Design Part 7

From the Stoney River Legendary Steaks structure, we now visit the building home to the Extended Stay America. I like the height and massing, but the colors, forms and positioning of the building are poorly executed. The north face of the building (that is, the side that fronts West End Avenue) is not well suited for addressing a major street. On a positive note, there is no surface parking separating the building from the sidewalk. I do think it's cool we have an extended stay hotel in this part of the city. But it simply seems the architect worked from a template from which multiple Extended Stay America designs are derived. Very generic.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Creating Places: Bad West End Design Part 6

From the windowless stucco box that accommodates Electronic Express, we move next to the Stoney River Legendary Steaks structure. First, any business that uses "legendary" in its name and does not do so with tongue in cheek... This building suggests some sort of Rocky Mountain lodge — and that's problem. This is Nashville and not Denver. Buildings designed to represent something they clearly are not, very simply, are "fake" buildings. Indeed, the materials and craftsmanship for the Stoney River structure may be of top quality. But the building simply assumes an almost theme park-like presence given its odd geographical theme. The fact that I am an elitist vegetarian motivates me even more so than otherwise to avoid patronizing a business whose top brass think that such architecture is appropriate.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Creating Places: Bad West End Design Part 5

From the 1980s-era brick structure next to FYE that houses, among others, Schlotzsky's Deli, we move next to what may as well be a high-quality cardboard box masquerading as a building that is home to Electronic Express. Typically, I can find at least one positive element — both out of respect for the architect and simply because it's evident — of a building. Not so with this pitiful piece of junk. In fact, you could relocate this building to the most hideous run-down suburban commercial area in America and it would be the ugliest among the ugly. That such garbage is located within close proximity to the grand Parthenon and the lush Centennial Park borders on blasphemy.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Creating Places: Bad West End Design Part 4

From the crumbling strip center located within the 2300 block of West End Avenue and anchored by Office Depot, we move to the 1980s-era brick building next to FYE that houses, among other, Schlotzsky's Deli. A key unattractive element of this building is its windows — both the shapes and tints. There is also a second level of retail space that both looks and functions in a somewhat odd manner. I do like the brick color and the fact that a portion of the building straddles the sidewalk. Still, this building represents a strong example of the type suburban-influenced design given to multiple buildings within Nashville's old urban core spanning the 1960s to the 1990s. A surface parking lot severs the building from the street, signage is excessively large and inconsistent in style, and there likely was no consideration given to including a residential component.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Creating Places: Bad West End Design Part 3

From the Courtyard by Marriott building and geographically moving west, we next visit the handsome strip center located within the 2300 block of West End Avenue and anchored by Office Depot. (Do recall the theme of this exercise is to skip all freestanding buildings home to fast-food joints; otherwise, I would have to spend too much time in this post lambasting the buildings home to, among others, Checkers, Jack In The Box, Taco Bell and Qdoba).

For the strip center, notwithstanding the below-level parking (which effectively minimizes some surface parking needs) and the eye-catching exterior for Pinkberry, this structure could have been the creation of a group of preschoolers. Absolutely hideous. The scary thing is that — if I recall correctly — this flimsy excuse for a building is an improvement compared to the previous collection of structures the site once accommodated (I clearly remember a Burger King building). I don't anticipate the strip center (which dates to the early 1990s, I think) to stand five more years. The exterior alone suggests a elderly person in poor health. Plus, the general area is in line for some upscale development, perhaps providing incentive for the owner to redevelop or sell for redevelopment.

With the strip center's looming death, a replacement would nicely complement the adjacent, and attractive, building home to Pinnacle. We must hope.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Creating Places: Bad West End Design Part 2

From the Wells Fargo building, we move west along West End Avenue and, next, to the Courtyard by Marriott. The overall color scheme is horrid, with a brownish-orange stucco skin and a cheesy green metal roof (commonly found topping structures that offer a simple and safe design). The building's window forms seem designed as an afterthought. In fact, the Marriott building makes the somewhat similarly designed Hampton Inn only a block away appear to be a strong member of West End Avenue — if anything because the Hampton's metal roof is charcoal (which always works better than the goofy green, red and blue metal roofs you see dotting countless generic suburban buildings). What's really sad is that the nearby Hutton Hotel, which clearly will not win any design awards, is vastly more attractive than either the Hampton or Marriott.

As I prep to write Part III, do remember that I am not including any buildings home to fast food fry pits. The pathetic little rats' nest from which cholesterol-laden Pizza Hut pie is picked up and delivered (and located across from the Marriott) would simply be too easy a target. I would almost feel as if I were picking on a 10-year-old were I to be critical of it or any of the other crap buildings from which fast food is sold.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Creating Places: Bad West End architecture

During a recent drive along West End Avenue — and after mentioning the nastiness of the building home to Electronic Express in an earlier post — I took notes regarding buildings that mar what is Nashville's most high-profile street. My apologies to any motorists or pedestrians I may have endangered while doing so. The stretch of West End upon which I focused spans 16th Avenue on the east to I-440 on the west.

We'll start at West End's east edge and focus on one per blog entry.

Here we go:

The building home to Wells Fargo and near the West End/Broadway split. This structure is oriented with its south wall (sans windows, no less) blankly staring at the street. The building's signage is both out of proportion and ugly (the frankfurter red and mustard yellow combine to suggest somebody upchucked a hotdog). Some fairly attractive landscaping helps soften the hideous vibe, but the building offers a suburban feel and uninspired design. Too often, bankers opt for conservative designs for their buildings. The Wells Fargo West End is a classic example.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Creating Places: Omni Groundbreaking

It's official. A groundbreaking ceremony for SoBro's long-awaited Omni Hotel is slated for Thursday, June 16, at 10 a.m.

The site of the event — which is dubbed The Key to Music City — is the site on which the approximately 285-foot-tall building will rise.

I rarely attend such cliched festivities but might check this one just to see if some Omni bigwig notes, as happened when the company first announced it was coming to Nashville, that Omni Inc. "really is the best company in this industry" (or something along those predictable lines).

My cynicism aside, I am looking forward to seeing this project start and hope that renderings of the future hotel — images that suggest a very understated and uninspired exterior design — prove inaccurate and that Nashville receives, instead, an unexpectedly attractive tower.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Creating Places: Green Hills Sidewalk

On a positive note for those of us who want to see more sidewalks throughout Nashville, the Metro Public Works Department is installing a sidewalk in Green Hills on the north side of Glen Echo Road between Benham Avenue (visualize the library) on the west and Belmont Boulevard on the east. Currently, right-of-way is being cleared to make room for a retaining wall, with stormwater infrastructure to follow. Actual work on the sidewalk should begin in about six weeks and require another six weeks to complete. The price tag is $1 million. Of note, a segment of this stretch of Glen Echo (and on the road's south side) features an unattractive and somewhat unsafe (given its minimal elevation) asphalt sidewalk that was likely constructed in the 1950s. I assume it will go and, we hope, be replaced by a curb.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Creating Places: 28th Avenue Connector

Mayor Karl Dean and various civic movers and shakers held a formal groundbreaking today for the much-anticipated 28th Avenue Connector (aka the 28th/31st Avenue Connector) and I do trust the festivities were quite exciting. All sarcasm aside, the project is a big deal on various levels, including price tag ($18 million), connectivity (always good for place-making) and the potential for spurring development. With the latter, however, I don't anticipate "pedestrian-oriented" development such as boutique shops and speciality eateries. In the end, the connector likely will be used by motorists and eyed by those who develop office buildings for medical entities. That's not a bad thing – but for community leaders to predict expansive and varied infill, as they have the past two years, seems a bit overly optimistic.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Creating Places: West End buildings

Driving along West End Avenue yesterday during the early evening, I caught a quick glance at the hideous building home to Electronic Express and shuddered. The color scheme, lack of detail, excessively large (and jarringly red) signage and overall lack of quality materials render this building a piece of junk that has no business on the city's most high-profile street. In fact, the EE building might be West End's most foul structure. Another "fine" example of a nasty building on the street is the cheaply built strip center across from Vanderbilt University and home to Office Depot (on a positive note, the Pinkberry signage has nicely enlivened the east side of the building). With this in mind, I am going to soon create a ranking of the five to 10 ugliest buildings — those that most need to be razed and replaced — on West End between 17th Avenue and Interstate 440. I will not include the structures that house fast food eateries as all — save for, perhaps, the new-look McDonald's — are no more attractive than the human excrement that results from the consumption of the poison these places serve.

More to follow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Creating Places: Random Observations

A few quick hits as I watch the Oklahoma City Thunder pound the Memphis Grizzlies — clearly deflated and disheartened after their three-overtime loss Monday night in the Bluff City:

* On-site work on Southern Land Co.'s 2300 Elliston Place is slated to begin by July. And a new name and rendering are forthcoming.

* The new gymnasium at Christ the King on Belmont Boulevard is looking very attractive. Conversely, the building to be home to Nordstrom (similar to the gym in that its exterior is essentially void of windows) is very bland.

* I'm very impressed with the exterior materials, shapes, colors and signage for Kayne Prime in the Gulch. Very tasteful.

* The lawn and garden lot in 12South now sports a sign for a proposed building. I spotted for the first time today and, given I was driving, did not get the details. The sign image suggested the building, if it materializes, will be mixed-use.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Creating Places: Westin Part II

Word on the street is that Denver-based Sage Hospitality Resources is looking at SoBro for its long-proposed Westin Hotel project, previously slated for Broadway between Second and Third avenues.

More to follow.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Creating Places: Germantown update

The past three or four times I've driven past the work site for The Square at Fourth and Madison, I've seen no construction activity. If anybody has an update, please provide.

Here is the project's website:

Creating Places: Polar Cold Storage Buiding

Demolition has officially started, as Atlanta-based TriBridge is prepping the site for Eleven North. The company says the first building (the two will house 302 apartments) will be ready for occupancy in April 2012. I can't see that, but August of that year does seem reasonable.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Creating Places: Hilton's Home2Suites

Midtown is slated for yet another hotel, as Hilton will construct a Home2Suites that will front Division Street and be sited on the east side of Bristol on Broadway. Within that general area is a Hilton Garden Inn, a structured parking garage with which Home2Suites will share. The design, though not particularly distinctive, at least offers a contemporary feel and fairly masculine color scheme. One characteristic of note: The main entrance seems very underwhelming based on the rendering. At least, however, that entrance, will address a sidewalk — and not a surface parking lot. Motorists seemingly will access the building on its west side (much like the HGInn's east side offers an interior motor court). With construction to start soon, we must wonder if the two Marriott hotels slated for 18th and West End avenues will now be built.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Creating Places: Harding House

I recently noticed the Harding House Condominiums building has been given a bit of a facelift with some new black exterior paint elements. Very cool. The building, which I would think was built in the 1960s, is located at 4807 Harding, across from MBA. I can't find a photo.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Creating Places: Sounds stadium

Here's an image created by a University of Tennessee architecture student and showing a version of a future Nashville Sounds stadium.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Creating Places: The Astoria

I see The Astoria — a two-story office building in Green Hills' Bedford Commons — has been fully framed. Based on an image on the construction site signage, the building should be quite attractive.

Nashville-based Southeast Venture is handling architectural work, with the company having skillfully excecuted design work for two of my favorite Nashville-area structures completed within the past few years: 1700 Midtown (an industrial looking apartment building) and Gateway at Armory Oaks (home to Nashville School of Law).

Ewing Properties is the developer of The Astoria, the colors and shapes for which suggest a very contemporary and masculine building.

The Astoria should be a fine addition (although I do wish it were three stories) to Bedford Commons.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Creating Places: Polar Ice Storage Building

The Nashville Business Journal reported today that Tony Giarratana has sold his Polar Ice Storage Building at 11th and Charlotte avenues (in the North Gulch) to Eleven North LLC for $4.5 million.

Reportedly, EN LLC wants to develop a 302-unit apartment building on the site.

One of the Eleven North partners is TriBridge LLC, a Georgia-based entity with a website that highlights countless generic suburban-style "garden apartment" complexes. I hate to stereotype, but this suggests the company knows no more about cutting-edge urban architecture than I know about the history of Brazilian fashion.

On a local note, TriBridge owns (or manages, or both — I can't determine and really don't care given the ho-hum design styles of the company's vanilla-looking properties) Wyndchase Aspen Grove in nearby Franklin. The name — likely pretentiously created by some bland marketing outfit and combining an alt-spelling of "wind" while referencing Colorado evergreens (please, no more of this absurdity) — is pitiful enough.

Perhaps TriBridge has somebody on the team that "gets it" regarding urban design and development. If not, I have major concerns. The North Gulch needs cutting-edge infill, and a Lakes of Bellevue-like "apartment community" would be no more welcomed for the district than my having a 4-inch fire-hot needle plunged into the hemorrhoids I suffer upon fretting about such matters.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Creating Places: Commune-ist Manifesto

Nashville resident Daniel "Dane" Forlines has penned what looks to be a very interesting book about places. Titled "Commune-ist Manifesto: A Declaration of Community," the book was released in 2010 and I'm just obtaining a copy. I plan to read and provide a review at this site. Of note, Forlines has visited 48 U.S. states and 30 other countries. Should be a fine read.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Creating Places: Omni Hotel

The recently released renderings of the Omni hotel give me modest reason for optimism. I do like, however, the Fifth Avenue face of the building, including the expansion piece for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. That side offers an interesting variety of shapes, colors and materials.

As to the tower, it looks to be very horizontal (in part, due to its L-shape). I don't foresee the building providing a sense of verticality, but it's massing could be impressive. I'm still not sure about the KVB face, but it's likely to deliver a certain unwanted level of vehicular intensity.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Creating Places: Velocity veers toward sale

Nashville Post reporter — and Renaissance man of note — J.R. Lind writes today that Velocity is about to be sold to Atlanta-based Pollack Partners. According to its website, the company owns generic suburban residential buildings only, so adding the Gulch-located, and somewhat design-edgy, Velocity would be an interesting move.

It will be interesting to see if Pollack converts Velocity, developed as a condo building, to a rental property and buys out those folks who bought.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Creating Places: Rolling Mill Hill

My good friend Shelby Smith has seen the interior of the units in the Deco, Victorian and Metro. He says they are very nice.

Here are two photos.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Creating Places: You know you're obsessed...

... with Nashville's manmade fabric when you notice the least imposing tower crane on the Music City Center work site being dismantled — and get a bit sentimental.

Wait a minute. I think I might be wrong about that crane. I've got a call into MCC spokeswoman Holly McCall. Will update soon.

O.K., I'm talking to Holly right now. Tower Crane No. 3 (of six) is being disassembled. And Tower Crane No. 5 (on the northwest corner of the site and near Eighth Avenue) will be removed in the next few weeks. The cranes are no longer needed because the concrete phase is tapering to a close.

Only four cranes will remain at that point.

I'll miss the cranes, but to see the steel skeleton take shape is joyous.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Creating Places: Beaman Automotive update

I noticed today the generic building that is located at Broadway and 17th Avenue South and that is part of the massive Beaman Automotive complex has been updated with a horizontal metal piece framing its top. The new-look structure looks better than it had — which is saying very little when one considers the previous iteration was no more architecturally attractive than, say, the building home to Circle K on Belmont Boulevard.

I suspect — and surely hope, given its hideous gray stucco exterior — the rest of the building will receive further improvements.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Creating Places: You know you're obsessed...

...with the manmade environment when you note the difference in attractiveness between types of cinderblock used for buildings' bases.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Creating Places: You know you're obsessed...

...with Nashville's built fabric when you fret over the outdated state (tired signage, lights failing to operate, cheap materials) of many of the buildings at the Jim Reed auto dealership on Broadway.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Creating Places: Where's the interstate night lighting?

Within the southwest segment of downtown Nashville's inner-interstate loop, I've counted no fewer than 15 overhead light fixtures that fail to function during the night — a major concern for motorists. This has been a problem for years and I'm not sure who is to blame: TDOT or NES or both. To visualize, this is the stretch of inner-interstate loop between the Division Street exit and the Fourth/Second avenues exit, and includes a bit of I-65 (running alongside the Adventure Science Museum and south to Wedgewood). The darkness is almost spooky — not to mention unsafe.

Creating Places: You know you're obsessed...

...with Nashville's built environment when you start observing the deteriorating condition of SoBro's wooden utility poles.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Creating Places: You know you're obsessed...

...with the manmade environment when the most exciting point of your weekend is your noticing a steel-framed extension of the east wall of the Music City Center convention facility.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Creating Places: 2011 Update

Here's a look into the 2011 "built fabric crystal ball" — with both hoped-for and expected projects. I wrote this quickly and likely have overlooked various projects, the result of minimal sleep after a New Year's Eve of staying up past my bed time.

First, some large-scale developments that have been announced as slated for a 2011 start date.

* Omni Hotel: 95 percent certain construction on this project will materialize.

* Ryman Lofts on Rolling Mill Hill: 80 percent certain.

* Southern Land project on Elliston: 75 percent certain.

* Hotel at FYE site: 60 percent certain.

* Patel project: 50-50. The project announced for the FYE building could impact the Patel effort.

* West End Summit Building I: 50-50.

* African-American Museum: 10-20 percent certain.

And for the smaller developments, I would like to see...

* ... The Square at Fourth and Madison (in Germantown) fully materialize. Some work has been done but it seems intermittent.

* ... start on the proposed LEED building in the Gulch on Division Street and "behind" Icon.

* ... start on a new Greyhound Bus terminal on Lafayette Street. Of course, a cutting-edge designed would be needed.

* ... the saving of the vintage brick gem that sits in the footprint of the future SoBro roundabout (I've been told the building could actually be moved.)