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.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
This is no prediction. It is, rather, the reality. Indeed, I've had discussions the last few days with folks close to the situation and Hull's future looks grim. The State of Tennessee still must determine what it will cost to raze the clean-lined modernist structure, but the wrecking ball awaits.
Given various factors, it is almost unfathomable that this will happen. This city already has lost too many wonderful buildings. Plus, you would think the state would have properly maintained the structure to avoid its deterioration. The Hull building (see the previous post for an aerial photo) may be no Hume-Fogg High School or Union Station, but it is a very attractive civic building. As important, it comprises a quartet of structures that beautifully frames the grand Tennessee State Capitol. Once Hull is gone, the effect will be much like that of an otherwise attractive person who is missing a tooth.
Placing some phone calls to determine what might happen, I learned that it is all but certain Hull will not be saved so as to house, for example, the Tennessee State Museum. I also learned the state apparently plans to keep the land — with a green space the likely replacement for Hull.
At this point in the post, I could attempt to deliver a pithy comment or barbed zinger lambasting the state. But I'll refrain. I just don't have it in me. Maybe I should not be so upset about something most folks would contend is trivial in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps I should focus my emotional energy upon interests for which I have more control. Some might say I need "to get a life." But my passion for places and place-making began more than 40 years ago and I can't simply ignore this fact. In short, I cherish attractive cities, and stately civic buildings are a key to that attractiveness.
During the past 50 years or so, downtown Nashville has lost so many of its fine-grained historic masonry buildings that what modest charm it still retains is based, in large part, on large-scale civic buildings like those found on Capitol Hill. Raze the Hull Building and not only will the Hill never be the same but another layer of downtown's already limited architectural appeal will be forever stripped away.
Monday, January 28, 2013
It is no secret four state office buildings (including the art deco John Sevier State Office Building next to Hull) face very tentative futures. Check this Chattanooga Times Free Press story for a nice overview. However, many folks are now wondering if those buildings actually might be razed.
I'm cautiously optimistic neither Hull nor Sevier will face the wrecking ball. Were such a drastic move announced, the outcry would be deafening, as the two architectural gems beautifully frame the east side of Capitol Hill. Both represent the type timeless civic structures that, sadly, we don't see constructed much nowadays. To lose either would be tragic.
I'll keep you posted as I learn more.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Saturday, January 12, 2013
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Sunday, January 6, 2013
* I am greatly anticipating SWH Residential Partners' releasing of a rendering for the apartment building it plans to develop at Rolling Mill Hill (read more here). If the building is to offer some neo-art deco touches (as SWH has considered), it could be a stellar addition to the Hill. SWH Managing Partner John Tirrill is a class gentleman who lives in Atlanta but spends a good bit of time in Nashville, in which he grew up. Interestingly, Tirrill's grandfather years ago worked at the old Metro General Hospital, two former buildings for which are now residential structures (the Victorian and the Art Deco) at RMH.
* Southern Land's proposed mixed use project to anchor the southeast corner of the Hillsboro and Richard Jones roads T-intersection is slated to start by mid-year. The project should be the most urban — in its orientation, height, massing and mixture of uses — Green Hills has ever seen (even more so that the nicely executed Hill Center). Nashville Ledger has an interesting cover story about the project in this week's edition. Click here to read.
* A few folks have asked me recently if I think H.G. Hill Realty Co. will announce a major project for its site at Charlotte and 40th avenues (currently home to a car wash and a lot of dead space). I don't foresee it. The company will be very busy with its 12South Flats development and projects in Brentwood, Hillsboro Village and Midtown (with the building formerly home to The Great Escape).
* There remains continued speculation Alex S. Palmer & Co. will land InterContinental Hotel for its twin-tower West End Summit site, thus necessitating a third high-rise. The two parties signed a deal in 2006 but much has changed since then. This one seems 50-50.
* Lastly, I predict the Metro Art Commission will select Christian Moeller to handle the massive art piece that eventually will punctuate the KVB Roundabout. I have no insider info, so this is just a hunch. Check Moeller's work here.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
* This could be the "year of the hotel." Currently being built and within no more than two miles from the central business district are, listed alphabetically, Fairfield Inn (the Gulch), Hyatt Place (SoBro), Homewood Suites (West End Corridor), Omni (SoBro) and two Marriott hotels (Midtown). Soon to start is a Hilton Garden Inn in SoBro, In addition, and just outside the I-440 loop, another Marriott is under construction in Bedford Commons in Green Hills. On tap to start by mid-year is hotel (the brand has yet to be announced) at the Buckingham Cos. site in Midtown. That's nine hotels. If my woeful memory serves me, never will urban Nashville have had this number of hotels under construction at any given time during the last 20 years.
* On the hotel theme, I exchanged an email today with Rob Schaedle of Chartwell Hospitality, the developer of the Bedford Commons Marriott and the Hilton Garden Inn planned for SoBro. He wrote that demolition should begin very soon on the SoBro site.
* And continuing the hotel theme, many of us continue to wonder if Swerdling Associates will start work this year on a hotel at the Lower Broad site for which a Westin was planned years ago. Similarly, some have asked my thoughts regarding the hotel Giarratana Development would like to build at Molloy and Fourth in SoBro. I suppose the chances of the former starting this year are 50-50 (at best), while the chances of the latter doing likewise are much less certain. Having said that, I would truly like to see Tony Giarratana develop a hotel on the proposed site, which is currently home to a surface parking lot that Giarratana's Premier Parking operates.
* One of the best "neo-traditional" building to be completed in years within this city is the Randall and Sadie Baskin Law Center (see here), which opened earlier this year on the Belmont University campus. I predict the equivalent academic building (in terms of quality materials, workmanship and timeless aesthetic) that will open in 2013 will be the Kissam College Halls.
* Lastly, a major project that will take shape this year within the I-440 loop and about which I am only modestly excited: the Lentz Public Health Clinic (read more here). The building itself should look nice enough but it will be surrounded by a sea of nothingness. Also, I will lament the loss of the existing Lentz facility, which I consider a fine example of modernist architecture.
More to follow as we continue to look at what awaits in 2013 ...
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
* With the opening of Vista Germantown, the near completion of both Sixth & Garfield and The Square at Fourth and Madison (see image below), and the opening of Rolf & Daughters in a rehabbed space in Werthan Lofts, we might look back in a few years and say 2012 was the year Germantown/Salemtown began to zoom past Five Points and 12South as the city's second-most construction-intense mixed-use urban district (trailing only the Gulch). And more new infill is on the way, including Evergreen's project at Eighth and Hume (read more here), SWH's massive development at the Werthan site (read more here), Jim Creason's project at Fifth and Monroe (read more here), and Robin York's five-unit residential building slated for the southeast corner of Sixth and Garfield (read about here).
* West End Park continues to be transformed in an almost stunning manner. However, none of the infill structures of the past 10 years (I count at least 12 residential buildings of at least five units or more have been built) offers office or retail space. The district remains fully residential — and that is a bit disappointing. Word has it a retail space was planned for the under-construction West End Village (read more here). Obviously, that failed to materialize.
* With two major projects having started in late 2012, Eight Avenue South/Franklin Road continues to take shape. However, if the street is ever to be vibrant with pedestrians, it will need the following: 1. mixed-use buildings; 2. an "epicenter" of sorts (I supposed the so-called Antique District anchored by Zanies could be that center); and 3. sidewalks from the street's segment spanning the roughly one-half-mile stretch from Craighead to Gale.
* On the Eighth Avenue theme, the facade of 700 Wedgewood Park, which Peggy Krebs has developed at Wedgewood and Interstate 65 one block east of Eighth (read more here), is fairly attractive. But the sides and back are painfully bland. Seemingly, the building is almost finished.
* One of the most underrated developments of 2012 is Shoppes on Fatherland located in the general Five Points area. Very nicely done.
Next up: A look at what is to come in 2013.