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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Creating Places: Village variation

This old-school building in Hillsboro Village (the building home to Fido is barely seen on the left) is being altered, and I'm not sure why. I do recall the previous iteration of the building (home to a bridal shop) was ghastly, as it sported a wood shingled appendage that covered the cool Mills Bookstore signage portion of the facade. I also believe the brick portion of the face had been covered with stucco. To see the original brick exposed is very encouraging.

On the Mills Bookstore theme, I'm old enough to recall when Mills operated from the Village. However, the little bookstore last conducted business on the other side (the west side) of 21st Avenue. I once saw Roots author Alex Haley at that Mills. Impressed by the TV mini-series, I told Mr. Haley he did a fine job with the book -- despite my never having read it. To this day, I feel a bit guilty about that.

 If anybody has any info on this project, please let me know.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Creating Places: Core, DA|AD to team again

The good folks at Core Development and DA|AD are once again joining forces in preparation to deliver what should be a quality three-story apartment building on the northeastern fringe of Hillsboro Village.

This developer-designer duo has become as consistent as John Carson and Eddie McMahon and as dependable as Lee-Lifeson-The Professor. The good people at Core sincerely believe in Nashville's urban core (thus, the company name) and in infilling emerging districts like Germantown and 12South.

One thing I like about the DA|AD aesthetic is the always-tasteful brick and Hardie siding colors the architectural entity favors. In addition, the company has mastered the use of the contemporary clerestory (which will not be incorporated in this unnamed building) and the art of combining vertical and horizontal forms.

Check the story here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Creating Places: Random Tidbits

A few quick hits:

1. Demo Plus is handling the razing of the old Rock City Machine Co. building in SoBro. The structure is about half demolished, with the site to soon see the construction of a Hyatt Place hotel.

2. The outdated McDonald's building at 12th and Broadway (recall the structure suffered fire damage last holiday season) will be replaced by one of the corporation's sleek 21st century structures (visualize the Golden Arches locale at West End Avenue near Centennial Park).

3. I've been in touch recently with Chattanooga-based Vision Hospitality officials, and some drawings of the company's hotel planned for Division Street, and across from Yazoo Brewing Co., could be forthcoming.

4. I'm starting to wonder about the viability of the Bristol Development Group project proposed for the Music Row Roundabout and to be anchored, reportedly, by a Publix.

5. The new Cumberland Park on the river's east bank is quite impressive. Some views of downtown (particularly when standing under the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge) are very eye-catching.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Creating Places: The Southgate

Of all Nashville's post-2000-completed urban infill buildings with a primarily traditional design, the Southgate (located at 3821 West End Ave.) ranks in my top five (see ranking below). Just about every feature of this dignified building (materials, massing, proportionality, color contrast, etc.) is attractive — yet in an understated manner. I suppose you could quibble by contending the structure is a bit "window heavy" and perhaps lacks an extremely well-defined roof line. Still, the Southgate, developed by Rochford Realty and Construction Co., strikes a handsome presence on the city's west side. Much like the music of Widespread Panic, the underrated Southgate is tasteful and will age well.

My five favorite post-2000 infill buildings with strong nods to traditional design:

1. Schermerhorn Symphony Center
2. Covenant Presbyterian Church (except for all the surface parking surrounding it) (located in Green Hills) (check this photo)
3. "New" Jacksonian (located on West End Avenue and near The Southgate) (I acknowledge this high ranking is blasphemous, given the controversy involving the long-lamented and original Jack, to many built fabric aficionados.)
4. The Astoria (located in Bedford Commons in Green Hills)
5. The Southgate

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Creating Places: Vista Germantown assessment

A recent visit to Germantown revealed that construction of Vista Germantown, its north face notwithstanding, is almost completed. And I must say the opinions from locals will vary wildly. Some will contend the building, designed by Nashville-based Southeast Venture, is outlandishly designed, an odd hodgepodge of shapes, materials and colors. For example, the north side (seen in the photo on near left and with cars) and the east side both have surface areas (not including doors, windows, signage and railings) with eight different colors. I was not so OCD enough to count the total number of colors between the two sides but it must be at least 10. Critics likely will lambaste this feature.
(I can foresee the laughs: "It looks like somebody ate a bunch of crayons and vomited.") But somehow this multi-colored approach works for me, in part because there is no other building in Nashville with such a varied color palette. The colors alone render Vista Germantown truly eye-catching. Another interesting design feature involves the building's northeast and northwest corners. The former leads to a space that will soon house the restaurant Silo, while the latter (seen in the photo to the far left) takes the pedestrian into the leasing/marketing/management office. It's rare to see a Nashville building with two activated corners.

On a negative note, I'm a bit pessimistic about Vista Germantown's south side (which overlooks Jefferson Street), and the east side is noticeable for its parking garage entrance. Neither side shines. However, this big and bold building delivers nice height, massing and distinctiveness. And it will fill the streets of Germantown with young urbanites — a good thing. No doubt, Vista Germantown ranks among the most unusual of the city's post-2000 urban infill residential buildings.

Grade: B plus

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Creating Places: Another quality industrial building

The Amerisite Sixth Avenue Storage facility in SoBro is another example of cool contemporary industrial architecture design. The good folks at EOA masterfully handled the design effort. Check the info here.