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, June 30, 2013

Creating Places: A few thoughts

After having just returned from enjoying at Dan McGuinness the underrated Molly Ramone perform a solid version The Pogues' classic Irish sing-alone "Sally MacLennane," I ask the following:

* Is it necessary for AT&T to have with its soon-to-open building at 19th and West End avenues both a pole sign and signs affixed to the south and east walls? This is "signage overkill" at its most glaring.

* Did the fine folks at White Lodging ever stop to think that, before they had their Hyatt Place hotel designed for SoBro, a neutral stucco would look horrendous?

* Does the person who continues to tag the Demonbreun Viaduct and various buildings in The Gulch realize that committing a crime for which there is no monetary gain is the ultimate in idiocy? And if this social deviant is 18 or older (which, sadly, might very well be the case), his level of dumbassery is staggering.

* Do you cringe when you walk, bike or drive pass the Comfort Inn near the Music Row Roundabout — courtesy of the building's pathetic looking fiddles adoring the exterior walls?

* How many Nashvillians are extremely concerned about the possible loss of the Edwin Keeble-designed United Methodist Publishing House building located at the southwest corner of the Eight Avenue South and Demonbreun Street intersection in SoBro? Learn more here about the man who was arguably this city's greatest architect.

* Should I be uncomfortable admitting I'm enjoying the latest Black Sabbath album?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Creating Place: Printers Alley update

First, let me apologize for not promptly responding to some questions some of you had in a previous post. I appreciate your patience. Sometimes I am no more on tops of things with this blog site as I am attentive to my ever-expanding waistline. (Whiskey and Indian buffets can be rough on the gut.)

That said, yesterday I noticed some tasteful changes at Printers Alley.

First, somebody hit on genius, thinking to paint the trash receptacles in the alley with old-school country music artists' names as the theme. I saw Johnny Trash, Dolly Carton and Loretta Bin. You would think this might be hokey but the effect is strong. (See the photos below.) Also, the aging parking garage (see below) that fronts Third Avenue and backs up to Hotel Indigo is being given a nice facelift. In addition, the vertical black banner for the Brass Stables has finally been reaffixed to its surface and looks vastly better. Lastly, multi-colored balloons welcome visitors into the alley. The overall effect is quite nice.

There is something about quirky, gritty and/or smallish public spaces — and Printers Alley is a fine example — that I have always found fascinating. Another nice example is Ryman Alley that runs along the back side of some Lower Broadway establishments, including the stellar Robert's Western World.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Creating Places: Street banner observation

Only a few weeks after the Avenue of the Arts streetscape improvement project was concluded on the segment of Fifth Avenue North between Church and Union streets, one of the original seven light pole banners has been removed. And at least two others are frayed at their lower segments (see an example with the lower right corner of the banner pictured below). Why? Because apparently Metro simply doesn't get it. You cannot affix street light polls with banners using a cross bar on the top only and a loop on the bottom. If you do, when strong winds hit, the banners get ripped from the flimsy bottom attachment. I continue to be baffled that the city doesn't understand this. The approach is simple: If for whatever reason Metro chooses to not use street poles with two cross bars, then no banners should be included. Either attached the banners properly or don't attach them at all.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Creating Places: A few quick hits

It's late Thursday night and — for some odd reason — instead of listening to some soothing music to lull myself to sleep, I am sampling the latest Black Sabbath album, 13, courtesy of Spotify. Slightly invigorated by the plodding and sinister sound, I offer some tidbits:

* Last weekend, I checked the lobby of Elliston 23. Very tasteful. I do wish the Elliston face of the structure did not sport a garage entrance but, overall, that part of the building's exterior is quite attractive. The other three sides, clearly, are lacking. Elliston 23 strikes a commanding presence on the street for which it is named. A strong addition.

* Relatedly, fencing is up for  I & G Elliston's 2110 Elliston project located a few blocks west of Elliston 23.

* And on the fencing theme ... fencing has been installed at the site that will be home to the Metro Police Department Central Precinct project.  

* The more I view it, the more I like Demetria Kalodimos' The Filming Station building (located near the MCC Roundabout). Check some nice photos, courtesy of Bob Parks realtor Justin Holder, here.

* I've been told there is some interesting art work on what is the west side of the Church Street building last home to Performance Studios (across from the NES Building). I plan to soon check, get some photos and post for the readers (modest in numbers though they may be) of this blogsite.

* I've always been a fan of Stanford Place, the handsome condo building located at 4040 Woodlawn Drive and seen below in a photo courtesy of Google Streetview. I seem to recall the building was completed in the late 1990s, but I could easily be wrong. If anybody has details (particularly the architect), please share.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Creating Places: 12South rehab

The 12South building once to Harb's Oriental Rug Service is being given a very tasteful update. Unfortunately, the building's new-found attractiveness renders the adjacent structure (seen only partially on the right in this photo) even uglier than it originally had been (if that's possible). It is almost mind-boggling to think that folks in the 1960s and 1970s thought that buildings with with asphalt caps and multiple brick colors (I counted no fewer than five on the pathetic little structure) were actually attractive. But, in fairness, I thought I looked stylish, circa 1986, sporting pleated light-blue jeans, bulky all-white athletic shoes and a mullet. The lesson is simple: Buildings (and men) will always age well if given timeless exterior treatments.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Creating Places: Random tidbits

I offer a few quick hits after having just learned that the underrated Lane Motor Museum, located on Murfreesboro Road, has more Czech-made cars than any other facility located outside the former Czechoslovakia...

* Ray Hensler's tower is out of the ground and the flooring for level two is being created. Within the next three weeks, the building should be at least 30 feet tall and assuming some nice definition.

* Similarly, a segment of 1505 Demonbreun is out of the ground.

* Next door to 1505, the nondescript Comfort Inn is getting a major facelift. We can only hope that as part of the improvement, the tacky fiddles that pockmark some of the building's exterior will be removed.

* The Avenue of the Arts streetscape update is finished. I find the light poles to be of an attractive design and scale. Unfortunately, the poles don't include a lower cross arm to keep banners secured. As such, two (of the seven) banners were flapping wildly this past Saturday. When will Metro learn this makeshift approach to banner display simply does not work?

* A stat of note: There are approximately 12 buildings of 75 feet or taller currently under construction within no more than three miles of the heart of downtown.

* The Homewood Suites being built on the former FYE site has the potential to look much nicer than I had anticipated.

* The new Regions sign atop One Nashville Place looks very nice when lit at night. Not so much during the day.

* I'm not a fan of the two brick segments of the otherwise non-brick facade of Pine Street Flats in The Gulch.

* Full-scale work is now underway on the building that will be home to the future Metropolitan Bank Nashville headquarters. The former home to Bill Hudson & Associates is located on West End and across from the rising West End Summit. See photo below courtesy of Google Streetview.