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, March 6, 2013

Creating Places: Midtown's future

My recent City Paper piece on Midtown has spurred some folks to solicit my opinions of the area's future prospects. 

Here are some thoughts. (And check the stellar photo, seen below — click for enlarged view — courtesy of Nashville-based Aerial Innovations.)

I have a personal interest in Midtown in that 1. My father once worked in the building home to the Hutton Hotel; 2. I once worked in a building on 17th; and 3. I once lived on Louise (off Elliston Place and on the fringe of Midtown — though some would say in the heart of Midtown).

The article posited the hypothetical situation of some property owners having unrealistic views of their properties' worth and, as such, not being willing to sell. Yes, this could be a problem But I don't foresee property owners collectively thwarting Midtown's progress in that many will be offered very nice prices to sell their parcels and they won't be able to say "no." On this theme, XMi Commercial — as the article noted — is involved  in some manner with multiple Midtown parcels and the XMi team "gets it." That company will help lead the redevelopment effort. Overall, Midtown simply has too much potential to not grow rapidly — even if a few unrealistic, unmotivated or greedy landowners don't want to sell and/or develop their own sites. No doubt, WES will spur growth, as will the BRT line (if that materializes). 

I frequently drive (and sometimes walk) the Midtown streets to get a feel for how this reinvention could all unfold, and I have concluded the potential is very strong. The district has a gridded street pattern, more than enough quality retail shops, restaurants, white-collar operations, health care entities, etc., to give developers incentive to add to the mix. It also offers the type large tracts of land that are either empty or that can be assembled and that lend themselves to new development (e.g., WES and the Buckingham Cos. project) with on-site structured parking (critical to the district's long-term health).

I've spent a decent amount of time in Atlanta's Midtown, and there are some similarities in terms of function (not form, obviously, as Midtown Atlanta might as well be Manhattan compared to Midtown Nashville). Midtown Atlanta transformed from about 1980 to 2000. 

In 15 to 20 years, I believe Midtown Nashville will do likewise.


  1. I think Church St. and Hayes St. will both see a lot of development spillover from the West End Summit. I hope eventually that the two huge automobile dealerships along Broadway (Beaman and Downtown Subaru- Hyundai) will see development as auto dealerships so close to downtown is not the best use for such land. The area between Church and Charlotte, just east of the St. Thomas Health/Baptist Hospital campus, is another area where a lot of residential would seem natural. Nice photo of midtown, btw.

  2. The area where Jim Reed's building sits vacated on Church St is a big eyesore, as well as the area directly behind it. Looks like an industrial wasteland. Hopefully that will get done soon. On a side note....Is there any news on the empty lot on Woodland St across from East Park? That looks to be a PRIME piece of property for some residential. So many people want to live over there but the rentals are few and far between.

  3. Yes, the property of the former Jim Reed Chevrolet dealership (now Downtown Hyundai-Subaru) is in very bad shape. Some of the buildings that still carry the Jim Reed name look like they've been abandoned. Prime property like this should not be in such a condition in the middle of a booming city.

  4. 703-705 Woodland is about to be developed. You can see the rendering on under the East Nashville section.

    Midtown over the next 20 years will explode like Atlanta did from 1980-2000, but it will take less regulation from Metro and MDHA. Currently local government including the Metro Council have local developers in a choke hold.

  5. Midtown Nashville has such great potential for both residential and office/commercial development. I just hope that developers will in fact think upwards not outwards with the buildings they build. Midtown should be dense and made to feel like a truly walkable area from Charlotte to Division, I-40 to 21st. There needs to be restaurants, bars, highrise apartment/condo/office buildings and there needs to be infill buildings such as grocery stores with parking garages, retail, furniture. I also think blocks of row home style housing can be incorporated into the area as well.

    Too bad that the homes that used to be along Patterson Street and others have mostly disappeared, they would have added to the ecletic make-up of the area.

    No one has mentioned this maybe due to being unaware or fear of being labled, but I think gay community should continue to grow in the area. Yes, it's time for Nashville to work with its growing and more openly gay community. Creating a couple of blocks in the area with a focus gay friendly businesses will add to livelihood of the area. Some of the buildings in the area could serve as wonderful bars/clubs gay or straight.

  6. Friends,

    Excellent posts. I always appreciate when readers add to the dialogue.


  7. My grandfather grew up on Hayes St. The first house was in the 1600 block and the second was at the corner of 21st. That house was torn down for the Loews Hotel. He said the homes in the area were grand, even more so than those in Edgefield. Such a pity it is largely a barren wasteland now. The few houses that remain, which are now businesses, are some of the smaller ones. I look forward to the area's transformation. It will never be filled with stately homes as it was before; but, perhaps it will be filled with new urban residents who take pride in their neighborhood.

    1. Well said, AMous. I hope your vision is realized.


  8. Totally agree, PillowTalk....high rises are in order for Midtown, not mid-rise or low-rise buildiings. We have enough of those! Tall, sleek modern structures are needed instead.