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, November 12, 2012

Creating Places: Which would you prefer?

My good friend John Mathieson is an unabashed fan of skyscrapers, not surprising given he has ancestors who lived in Manhattan and were in the business of constructing very tall buildings.

So I got to thinking if I would prefer that Nashville land a 750-foot-tall (or taller) high-rise or a building of some other type. Obviously, many factors would have to be considered. But for this hypothetical, I'll do the best I can. In all cases, the 750-tall or taller building would be located in the central business district and represents Choice A. Then I'll give a Choice B. And then my preference.

Choice A: A bland glass tower of 800 feet
Choice B: A stellar 300-footer with beautiful materials and forms, silver LEED certification and a cutting-edge design.

Choice B


Choice A: A soaring and majestic world-class tower of 1,000 feet and brilliant night lighting
Choice B: A fully infilled Gulch and North Gulch with no dead space, vibrant building and pedestrian density and an urban Publix, urban Target and movie theater

Choice B


Choice A: A soaring and majestic world-class tower of 1,000 feet and brilliant night lighting
Choice B: West Summit, Ray Hensler's tower and Tony Giarratana's SoBro (four buildings total)

Choice A


Choice A: A bland glass tower of 1,000 feet

Choice B: West Summit, Ray Hensler's tower and Tony Giarratana's SoBro (four buildings total)

Choice B



Choice A: A bland glass tower of 1,000 feet
Choice B: Bus rapid transit (as proposed)

Choice B


Choice A: A soaring and majestic world-class tower of 1,000 feet and brilliant night lighting
Choice B: Bus rapid transit (as proposed)

Choice B


Choice A: A bland glass tower of 1,000 feet
Choice B: An amphitheater on the old Thermal site

Choice A


Choice A: A bland glass tower of 800 feet
Choice B: An amphitheater on the old Thermal site

Choice A


Choice A: A bland glass tower of 800 feet
Choice B: A Hill Center-type mixed-use and fully building dense development on the old Thermal site

Choice B


Choice A: A bland glass tower of 800 feet
Choice B: OneCity

Choice B


Choice A: A soaring and majestic world-class tower of 1,000 feet and brilliant night lighting
Choice B: 10 Terrazzo's

Choice A


Choice A: A soaring and majestic world-class tower of 1,000 feet and brilliant night lighting

Choice B: 50 Terrazzo's spread throughout downtown and Midtown


Choice B


Choice A: A soaring and majestic world-class tower of 1,000 feet and brilliant night lighting
Choice B: An 800-foot art piece that would become an instant icon on the Nashville skyline and be recognized by folks worldwide (something like the Saint Louis Arch or the CNN Tower in Toronto)

Choice A (though this would be a very tough call)

15 comments:

  1. William.......this post is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to follow!!! Bizarre stuff flowing from your keyboard last night. Shocking.

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  2. WW -- I don't really get this either.

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  3. It's a built environment "would you rather." I get it.

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  4. It took me a while, LOL! But I think I now get what William is describing, eventhough the choices are pretty similar.

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  5. Friends,

    I have fumbled and bumbled on so many previous posts (misspelled names, inaccurate info, etc.). But this seemed (at least when I typed it last night) very clear. And I wasn't even having a whisky last night when I typed. Maybe I should have used "or" between the Choice A and Choice B.

    WW

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  6. I'd just hope to see all the project currently in the pipeline started and completed. Nashville has quite a lot going on right now....alas not yet a soaring and majestic world-class tower of 1,000 feet and brilliant night lighting.

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  7. It was perfectly easy to follow for me.

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  8. I want choice A and B. Well not the bland glass tower.

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  9. Great post WW! It's nice to see conversations about the built environment in Nashville evolve from skyscraper-envy to thoughtful consideration of whether we even want or need any more giants within our urban fabric. I'm an infill guy everyday of the week and twice on Tuesdays! For instance, I'd take three high-density, full-block, mixed-use, mid-height apartment buildings near the heart of Downtown over a soaring iconic tower.

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  10. Mr. I,

    I'm starting to strongly lean toward mid-sized buildings more so than high-rises. BUT I still enjoy, for just about any city, a majestic skyscraper here and there for accent.

    WW

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  11. While I enjoy your comments regarding buildings, the bus rapid transit choice is not a good one (of course, you compared it to a bland building).

    BRT, as proposed, will be a loser and make living and traveling along West End past 440 worse.

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  12. I like a balance of both. In the downtown and in midtown areas, I'd rather see high rises of varying heights. The core of downtown and SoBro are still probably the ideal locations for an iconic tower/towers. The Gulch (north/south) is probably ideal for infill as it is an area that is designed to be a living community. So, creating density should be a priority to make it a walkable area. Ideally the area should include a Whole Foods, Walgreens, sidewalk retailers. However, even with density, there is no assurance that it will become a pedetrian community. In the new part of Old Town Alexander, VA they have created density with low level to mid-level highrises. One building in particular is an apt/condo building that sits atop of a Whole Foods. There are restaurants in the area and a movie theater complex. During work hours, especially lunch time you see quite a few people out and about. But, other than a few people walking there dogs, the sidewalks remain empty for the most part. Granted the area could use more shopping. But, I think for now retailers may see it as too risky. I do think that the Gulch could support a multi-level mall like the Fashion Center at Pentagon in Arlington, VA or even its sister complex called Pentagon Row which is a combination of dinning, retail, grocery, drug store, gym and apartments above it all. They've created a place that is walkable and enjoyable. They even have ice skating outdoors in the winter. It offers a Harris Teeter, Bed Bath & Beyond, DSW, World Market and Rite Aid as the primary anchors, then you have smaller retail stores and a variety of restaurants to include mexican, pizza, asian, irish, smoothies, yogurt, ice cream, champion grille (sports bar) and there's a Bally's/LA Fitness gym. Across the street from Pentagon Row and the Fashion Center are highrise apartment and condo buildings which border neighborhoods with single family homes. Does that not sound like the Gulch???

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  13. the tower in Toronto is the cn tower ;)

    eric b

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  14. William, great observations and discussion! However my attitude is, why not strive for it ALL? We should be pursuing everything that is feasible. Besides, with Nashville's fear of heights, we should take that shiny tower whenever we can get it. By the way, some of your choices could be considered blasphemy in circles. :) I do want to thank you though for not using the term "human scale" in your comparisons. Say hello to the gang...

    Exiled Geek in Tampa

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