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.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Creating Places: ULI awards

I've never been a member of the Urban Land Institute. But I surely respect this organization, as it expertly emphasizes the importance of an attractive and functional built form for our society. These folks are dedicated to the manmade fabric — and they also know how to throw a party.

Last night, and looming over downtown Nashville on the 21st floor of the stellar The Pinnacle at Symphony Place, the ULI's Nashville District Council held its annual Excellence in Development Awards. Lots of architects, engineers and builders were in attendance, enjoying wine, beer, finger foods and good chat. Somehow I crashed the bash and quaffed a few Yazoos.

For the awards, Council Chairman Ed Owens, he of MDHA  fame, spoke, as did Mac Pirkle, a respected supporter of the local arts scene. Both did fine job.

But Richard "Rick" M. Rosan, president of the Urban Land Institute Foundation and previously CEO of ULI Worldwide, had the greatest impact (in an understated way), as he delivered the keynote address, "Weaving the Urban Fabric: The Threads of Infill, Adaptive Reuse and Public/Partnerships." The Washington, D.C.-based Rosan noted he has assessed, while visiting the city, about 40 Nashville buildings completed during the past two years. Unlike some outsiders who speak in broad terms when they visit Nashville (in the process, revealing they, understandably, know very little about the city), Rosan actually showed some specific knowledge of Nashville. He stressed riverfront development, a progressive Karl Dean administration and the importance of Generation Y. 

Here are the winners:

Astoria, in Green Hills’ Bedford Avenue mixed-use development. Development team includes: Ewing Properties; Southeast Venture; T.W. Frierson; Barge Cauthen Associates; Enfinity Engineering; EMC Structural Engineers, PC.

I am a major fan of this building. It offers a subtle touch of neo-art deco. Classy and tasteful, Astoria will age nicely.

Franklin Theatre, on historic Main Street in Franklin. Development team includes: The Heritage Foundation; Franklin Theatre; Hastings Architecture Associates; Batten & Shaw Inc.; EMC Structural Engineers, PC; Westlake Reed Leskosky; Clair Brothers

I’ve yet to go inside but the exterior update is stellar.

McCabe Park Community Center, Nashville’s first LEED-certified regional community center.
Development team includes: Metro Board of Parks and Recreation; Metro Government of Nashville and Davidson County; Hastings Architecture Associates, LLC; R.G. Anderson Company, Inc.; Littlejohn Engineering Associates, Inc.; EMC Structural Engineers, PC; Hawkins Partners, Inc.; Power Management Corporation; greenSTUDIO

My second-favorite (behind EO’s East Park Community Center) of the Metro Park Department’s recently unveiled community centers. Lots of interesting shapes and materials.

Nance Place, a 109-unit workforce housing apartment in Rolling Mill Hill. Development team includes: MDHA, Moody Nolan, DA/AD, Bomar Construction Company, Littlejohn Engineering Associates, Inc.; EMC Structural Engineers, PC; iDesign Services, Inc.; Ashworth Environmental Design; Olert Engineering, Inc.

This is a quality building but it is my least favorite of the DA|AD-designed structures that have  infilled the city during the past 10 years. The side that fronts Hermitage Avenue is a bit bland and the color scheme could be better. Still, Nance Place is a strong building.

Room In The Inn, Center for Human Development
Development team includes: Campus for Human Development; Oxford Architecture; American Constructors, Inc.; Dale & Associates; EMC Structural Engineers, PC; Devita & Associate, Inc.; DesiGNllc.

A top-notch building. The only negative: It does not address a street and, instead, is surrounded by other buildings and surface parking.

Ruby, new event center in Hillsboro Village
Development team includes: Cook-Land, LLC; Polifilo Architects; Fry Construction; EMC Structural Engineers, PC; Live Oak Co.; Penland Studio; Village Real Estate Services; Insbank

A superb effort. Wonderful both inside and out.

This year’s award applicants also included the following: Ameriplex at Elm Hill, GSA Nashville, Marathon Music Work, Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant, Ruby, Vanderbilt University Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center and the West Police Precinct. 

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