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.

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.