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, 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?


  1. You heard it first right here, folks! "The Decade of Nashville"! It is amazing the potential amount of building that is happening. Developers are really paying attention and responding to the market. As cities across the country are struggling, Nashville is using its momentum to catch up to some of the larger markets. I can't wait to see what it will look like at the end of the decade!

  2. This is great to see. I really wish some of the area's in east Nashville (Main Street, Gallatin Rd...) would see more revitalization, but the neighborhoods are still improving despite this economy. I'm afraid the woes of 5th and Main might have put it back a few years. While they are great units, perhaps this is an example of trying to force revitalization rather than letting a more natural course of development happen first (extending out closer to Five Points or starting slowly like Riverside Village)? Anyway, this is an ecxiting time to be living in Nashville and I agree with your friend, it's actually becoming a landing spot for young graduates and professionals. Hopefully we'll retain more of the Vandy, Fisk, Belmont and other local grads.