Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dig A Hole

Across Nashville are massive holes that are pending construction or are just holes much like the people here.   But with the unrelenting belief, bullshit and grandiose dreams the city seems to be planning to become the new Manhattan but without the sophistication, diversity and intellect that dominate the New York persona.  So when I read the thoughtful editorial by a local Architect I thought he was gracious but had a serious point about how the development of the city landscape is largely being determined by outside resources and forces that have the checks and the backing by again undetermined financial backers which LLC and REIT's allow.  

My favorite park in Nashville is Bicentennial Mall as it connects a once ignored and dilapidated area of town, Germantown, with the city core, the Farmer's Market runs along one side and soon will be joined by both the Tennessee State Museum and the Building of Records which will undoubtedly be remarkable as many public projects are.  

Now what also runs between the park and Germantown is Jefferson Street and that is the street that marks the area of town that defined North Nashville and what defines largely the African American/Black area of town.   This part of town has had an amazing history and has been sorely neglected if not again marginalized by the development of the highway that cuts through it and in turn led to the economic downturns for which it has yet to recover.  But now with more gentrifiers and outside money men passing through re branding and building this corridor is ripe for growth and that could have been accomplished by putting the African American History and Music Museum right there in the middle of the area that landmarks the location, is close to all the bells and whistles and would enable a thoroughfare to thrive as it leads to the TSU Campus and could enable others to explore the area where Fisk/Meharry is located and in turn build more for those long neglected. But hell to the no on that. Instead it appears it will sit in the middle of the Country fest across from Bridgestone Arena that eight short years ago was flooded.

This is not mentioned in his piece but from what I gather this Museum will sit on flood level and I am not sure any remediation is set into the building plan to accommodate any rush or flow of water into ostensibly what would be a collection of artifacts and pieces of value that could be ruined if per chance a flood would could occur in the future.   This is naturally a larger issue that faces the city and once again has been kicked down the road like a cheap beer can.  And one wonders how Nashville has made the list of worst run cities doesn't it?

The other insane projects that have come gone and not been mentioned again and those hard at work are not much different than this insane project at 5th and Broadway. The Nashville Yards is another and the Rolling Mill which is supposedly planned to have accessible greens space and walkability.  If they mean for the general public that is yet to be clear let alone who is occupying these spaces, residents with six figures to purchase the luxury units to tenants to pay top rents in spaces yet built.  On my walk today I passed three buildings totally empty and two others largely vacant and in need of occupants.  Who What Where is a game I play daily on my walkabouts in the city.   The speak of all the apartments, the housing and the buildings built but the real question is who is in them?  

But if they spoke to the people and actually listened to them we might be able to provide the answers and in turn actually make Nashville a city of its own design.  Ah fuck that we gots shit to build and money to burn. 

Broadway blunder; How Nashville leaders whiffed on a grand public plaza | Opinion
Kem Hinton, Guest Columnist Published The Tennessean July 17, 2018
Kem Hinton, a Nashville architect, was the lead designer of the Tennessee Bicentennial Capitol Mall.

Preparations are underway for the $10 million demolition and excavation of the old Nashville

A key local outfit proposed a unique public plaza to front the historic Ryman Auditorium.
The proposal was roundly ignored.

For the next few months, citizens and visitors in Music City will have a rare visual treat: an unobstructed view of one of Music City’s most symbolic and beloved buildings, the Ryman Auditorium.

In the early-1980s, government officials cared little about the then-aging Gothic Revival structure, and the new Nashville Convention Center was erected across Fifth Avenue with almost no acknowledgement of the adjacent auditorium.

Built in 1892 as a revival tabernacle, the Ryman had achieved its fame as home of the Grand Ole Opry, but when this popular country music show moved to a new facility at Opryland in 1974, its former location closed.

Fortunately, the Ryman’s assumed destruction was delayed by popular outcry over the increasing loss of historic buildings. The majestic structure was restored, reopening in 1994 to become one of the most celebrated performance venues in the nation.

Today, while construction is underway across Fifth Avenue, the edifice is fully visible. From a distance, the otherwise imposing Ryman appears almost delicate, striving to retain a respectful physical presence on the downtown skyline.

In 2005, the Nashville Civic Design Center proposed a large plaza facing the historic masterpiece. This public space would visually honor the Ryman while accommodating concerts, festivals, celebrations, broadcasts and civic gatherings.

In late 2013, the Metro Council received proposals for a public/private arrangement to transform the now-useless convention center property into something exciting and tax-generating.

Included in the winning mixed-use collection of retail, office, and entertainment components was the long-awaited National Museum of African American Music. This potentially awesome cultural destination was shown as a multi-level facility on Broadway. Although the developer knew of the Ryman plaza concept, it was ignored and not part of the presented plan.

In the spring of 2015, control of a major portion of the redevelopment was quietly transferred from local developers to a San Diego entity, OliverMcMillan. This group was known in the competitive national retail market, and with them came the West Coast office of the mammoth design firm Gensler.

The original layout, shown to the city when it bestowed the public dirt to the redevelopment team, was significantly altered by these new drivers. Asked again to incorporate a large plaza in the scheme, the developer brushed it aside.

The revised redevelopment plan contained a wide L-shape street bisecting the otherwise unified, multi-level urban form. When looking eastward from this internal road, the view would sideswipe the Ryman. The layout included a recessed area facing the landmark, but this and the new road entry created a lopsided spatial response to the symmetrical landmark.

Equally surprising in the revised plan was that the 55,000-square-foot music museum was now shown in a different position, with only a tepid entrance on the steep stretch of Fifth Avenue between Broadway and Commerce. Most the museum was now below grade with little visibility.

The lack of a large plaza facing the Ryman and this new museum location revealed the giant project’s greatest shortcoming for Nashville citizens: its freedom to proceed without public review or public approval.

A petition was signed in mid-2016 by 80 statewide architects and urban designers who recognized the impending urban design stumble. It urged the mayor and her smart team to encourage (or force) the developer to establish the public space championed by the Civic Design Center. The developer would not be moved.

Thus, the dream of a new public space fully exalting the Ryman simply died.

Concerns arose in 2016 from a group of black activists, artists, musicians and several council members over the music museum’s revised location and diminished visibility. At-large Council member Erica Gilmore and 36 others were worried about the city’s promised $10 million investment, and they presented a petition insisting on a full review.

Gilmore appeared to be pressured to drop her demand, but bravely did so only when the developer provided a modest, second museum entry on Broadway.

Yet who would get the best seats and exposure on the main drag? It was reportedly the hip clothing store H&M, which in mid-2018, is reportedly closing many locations and may be unraveling.

Music City will finally receive a new national cultural facility showcasing African American music. Long overdue, it should be fabulous.

The grand plaza opportunity is now dead, so wave goodbye to a generous view of the Mother Church.

Soon the facades of Fifth+Broad will rise to overwhelm the adjacent landmark.

It may be just fine, yet the failure to provide a spacious, engaging public plaza fully honoring the iconic Ryman Auditorium may rank as the worst urban design blunder in modern city history.

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