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.

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."