City’s built fabric unfolds with surprises

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 3:33am
The segment of Broadway between 17th and 19th avenues is perhaps Midtown’s best example of building density. Matthew Williams/The City Paper

A third-rate stand-up comic, recently working a small audience from the Zanies Comedy Night Club stage, asked rhetorically, “What do you get when you mix an Embassy Suites, a Hilton Garden Inn and a Hotel Indigo in Midtown Nashville?”

The struggling funnyman, tugging on his tie, then quipped, “Some lodging industry building density.”

Three seconds of no laughter later, a crusty drummer forcefully delivered a Vaudeville-like “ba-doom-ching!” from his snare and cymbal, only then eliciting a faint chuckle from the smattering of puzzled attendees.

(Stay with me here as a focused column is forthcoming.)

Much like you missed the comedian at Zanies that night, you may not have noticed how the stretch of Broadway from 17th to 19th avenues is being “walled in.” The canyon-like effect is not unlike what you find in — dare I say — Chicago or New York. On a much less impressive scale, of course.

In addition to Embassy Suites and the rising Hilton Garden Inn, the two-block segment is fronted by the massive Bristol on Broadway, and the parking garages accommodating Embassy Suites, Hotel Indigo and the towering Palmer Plaza. Once Hilton Garden Inn (now on the fifth floor) is topped at nine stories, this Broadway segment will (if you count Palmer and Indigo) boast four buildings of 100 feet or more and two others of at least 50 feet, all within a crammed geographic space.

Not bad for a city that historically has viewed building height and density with the aversion a haughty fan of quirky songstress Regina Spektor would show clichéd country band Sugarland.

As Nashville’s built fabric continues its rapid changes, the “Broadway canyon” is an example of our construction/development scene that is worth noting.

How about these others:

• For the best “vehicle views” of Icon, Rhythm and Terrazzo, start at the Music Row Roundabout and drive a convertible, if possible, east on Demonbreun Street. Rhythm rises nicely on the left. Then access Interstate 40-65 at 205A and behold Terrazzo and Icon thrusting majestically overhead as you zip around the inner-loop. This writer has nearly caused a major interstate pileup while simultaneously motoring and gawking at the unfinished towers.

• On foot, ideally, and at the southeast intersection of Harding Road and Kenner Avenue, walk Kenner to view Belle Meade Court and, just behind it, the massive Belle Meade Town Center. Turn left on Ridgefield Drive and revel in the mass of concrete that is BMTC. “Density freaks” will be tempted to risk trespassing charges and continue the stroll along the retaining wall next to Regions. We’re talking major construction on what had long been a sea of asphalt surface parking. Sweet.

• Stand at the terminus of the West End Circle cul-de-sac (in front of the Ruby May condos), execute a deliberate 360-degree body turn, and behold the West End Corridor. Lush hills and trees mix with both established and recently built mid-rises in a mass of urbanity that lures you to wonder, albeit briefly, if you are viewing a first-tier American city.

William Williams is a citizen observer of Nashville’s manmade environment. Contact him at

Filed under: City Business
By: RTungsten on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Be sure to get all of your urban condo related stories in before the tenets start filing for foreclosure. Oh wait, it's already started.

By: klgmck on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I thought it interesting to have this article in the same issue as the article whining about the "cost" of "going green"