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, 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.