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.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Creating Places: The Sheds on Charlotte

Last week's announcement regarding the planned The Sheds on Charlotte gave reason to be pleased. The deteriorating warehouses, located within the 2200 block of Charlotte Avenue, need new life, and this project (read more here) will provide just that.

On a sobering note, the street will lose the quirky and gritty modernist structure (see below in the right half of the photo courtesy of Google Maps) once home to the former Tennessee Department of Highways and Public Works (now TDOT), which the developer and its engineers contend is structurally unsound.

The reality today is that we may have to accept the fact that adaptive reuse of some buildings will involve their partial demolition (or, in this case, the razing of an adjacent structure). On this theme, I was hoping Alex S. Palmer & Co. could have saved the now-gone handsome masonic lodge and incorporated it within the West End Summit project.

In contrast, Ed Fulcher and his development team are fusing the former Melrose Theater strip center with new residential construction, thus showing such adaptive reuse can be done with certain projects.

Another example of sparing at least a segment of a historic building while adding new construction can be found in Midtown Memphis on Union Avenue. Specifically, a portion of the exterior of a vintage church building (in bottom photo courtesy of Google Maps) was kept, nicely concealing some surface parking that accommodates the fast food eatery. (I'll refrain from taking pen to paper and slamming a society that allows for a grand church building to be razed so that an environmentally unfriendly asphalt surface parking lot can be paved for motorists lustily desirous of feasting on fat-laden junk.)

Much like with the Memphis project, it would have been cool if Sheds on Charlotte developer Holladay Properties could have at least saved the facade of the TDOT building. Still, the developer is to be commended for its fascinating reuse of the warehouses. With a loss comes a victory.









16 comments:

  1. Hospitals treat the "structurally unsound" every day.

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  2. Interesting that the God fearing, hate-driven, fast food chain in Memphis is a Chik-Fil-A. This chain always serves homophobia along with their grease laden waffle fries and "praise music" piped in on the in-store stereo. Perfect symmetry!

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    1. The owner of any company can have an opinion. Big deal if he is anti gay. First Amend. rights !

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    2. Both of you see below: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shane-l-windmeyer/dan-cathy-chick-fil-a_b_2564379.html

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    3. We always refuse to eat at Chick-Fil-A, not only because of their shameful record of discrimination against gay people, but also because there are so few people of color working there, except in the kitchens doing the menial labor.

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    4. I'm making a special trip to Chik-Fil-A today, in remeberance of the Anons here.

      I'll eat triple for you.

      Then, I'll go to Church.

      Bless your heart.

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  3. I like the concept and proposed redesign for the sheds on Charlotte. It appears they will be quite unique.

    I'm not at all sorry to see the gritty,modernist old TDOT building go. It's always been an ugly eyesore along Charlotte.

    With this redevelopment, along with several others planned in this area near the new connector, this will be a huge improvement.

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    1. AMous,

      Many agree with you regarding the TDOT building. But I like it and will miss it.

      WW

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  4. The Chick Fil A pic looks really odd. I don't see anything architecturally significant about saving a church wall when the church itself doesn't appear to be that old. Must have been some sort of tie in with that fast food company and its right wing religious slant.

    The Sheds on Charlotte look very cool in the rendering.

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    1. AMous,

      The church was, indeed, old and quite attractive. I remember it from back in the day. Purists would say saving the one wall is a joke and I understand that. But I like the concept.

      WW

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  5. The Sheds project look great. I won't miss the DOT brick building with all the broken windows one bit. Isn't the new Metro Nashville Public Health Dept. under construction nearby?

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  6. ├ůmous,

    Yes it is. About three blocks west of the Sheds.

    WW

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  7. I am horrified by the impending demolition of the DOT building. The Cordell Hull Building, the Jestonlike tower at St. Thomas, and now this. Boggles the mind that we would stand aside while Nashville's Modern-era cultural history is smashed, especially when we are so quick to shame earlier generations for being so demolition-addicted themselves.

    We have lost a lot of buildings lately, fellow citizen of Nashville, much like that 6-million-member agglomeration of urbanless stupidity down the road in Georgia. Any thoughts on why our city invests its "historical" resources into systematically sucking the creativity out of brand new homes in dubiously zoned historic districts while all of this rich and unique history is turned to rubble and erased from memory? Surely we should give some critical thought to the prevailing preservation priorities.

    Thank heaven for the future coffee table books that will depict these modernist structures in cheerless black and white photos so that we can apologize to our progeny for the shortsightedness and lack of architectural awareness we demonstrated when we scraped away our city.

    (Incidentally, this apology will come at about the same time we tell our kids how sorry we are for bankrupting them in order to ensure we can enjoy life as nursing home vegetables for as long as pills, machines, and government-backed insurance plans will carry us. [The word "plans" is used loosely here.])

    I don't know the developer for this "shed" project (Yes, the sheds are great, and I'm glad they won't suffer the same.), but both he and the architects should feel a profound sense of misconduct followed by a quite lengthy period of remorse and contrition. We should all feel guilty, too, for being Philistines with no more collective cultural awareness than a wrecking ball.

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    1. AMous,

      I trust you were not in Nashville in 1998 when it was announced The Jacksonian would be demolished. Given your passion for historic architecture, I'm not sure you could have stomached it. I barely could.

      Thanks for the outstanding post.

      WW

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    2. It is very easy for you to judge the decisions of others in this context. The TDOT building is very old and no doubt has asbestos and a very irregular structural layout. If the engineers say it is not recommended to save it due to these factors, then it is a group decision.
      I like historical architecture and love adaptive reuse of buildings whenever possible, but I know that a development of this caliber is a complex mixture of compromises. The sad simple truth is that the TDOT building is a nightmare of a building based on egress and fire code issues, and even if the structure was large and expansive like the adjacent Sheds it would still be difficult to fix. The building is small and has a tight layout that would never attract people for office spaces once developed. The building was built to serve a very specific purpose a half century ago, and now it will be difficult to find people who will want it now. Its like putting a barber's chair in your bathroom...it makes sense to you maybe, but the next owner may not want something that specific in their bathroom. Today we repurpose buildings much better than we ever have in the past. A recent cultural shift has made popular the nostalgia and history related to the adaptive reuse of structures from all different backgrounds. I hope that more can be done in the city in the future in this respect. I just want you to take to heart the old saying "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar". If you are negative of every project that tears down an existing building of any type of architectural merit, without weighing all the reasons or outside factors as to why that decision may have been made, then you will paint a bad image of all future development in the city.
      I agree with you that frivolous development leads to cookie cutter neighborhoods with no culutural image like those found in areas of Atlanta, but developments like The Sheds are not this type of architecture.
      Ask yourself this. Would you rather the TDOT site sit vacant for years to come and attract homeless people and detract property values, or sacrifice one of the buildings on the site for the ability to preserve a piece of its history and spur future development?

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  8. With the new Public Health Department being built, any idea what will become of the current building?

    Also, on an unrelated matter, any idea when the big redesign of Centennial Park will begin? The "Master Plan" for the park's overhaul came out several years ago, and it doesn't seem any work has yet been done.

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