Creating Places: Delivering a hit among the misses

Monday, June 16, 2008 at 12:03am
Nashville-based retrofit specialist Steve Asbury is overseeing CHARLOTTE2300 Professional Center. Rendering courtesy of Norris Architects

Legendary musicians Neil Young and Elvis Costello are known for following a brilliant album with one that borders on bafflingly mediocre in quality and thrust.

Likewise, Nashville’s Charlotte Avenue continues to see a series of developments that are “hit or miss.”

The recent addition of the fairly handsome buildings home to the American Cancer Society proved Charlotte is capable of allowing new construction to provide some positive visual pop.

But most of the commercial street’s post-1990 redevelopment between the inner-interstate loop and I-440 has, from a design perspective, yielded some suburban-themed nastiness: Walgreen’s, Sonic, two self-storage facilities (Abbott and StorPlace) and the building home to Alive Hospice (I almost feel uneasy about mentioning such a wonderful organization in a negative context, but the facility, from an architectural standpoint, is more bland than the complete song catalogue of pop country band Little Big Town.)

It’s interesting that the best “newish buildings” on Charlotte Avenue are actually old buildings that have recently undergone updates.

For example, XMi Commerical Real Estate is putting the finishing touches on a superb adaptive reuse project, transitioning the former “Duck Head warehouse” to house office condominiums in what is called Midtown Millworks. Likewise, David Cannon and Ned Horton did a marvelous job reinventing a vintage building, called Charlotte 21, at 346 21st Ave. N.

No doubt, the effort to recreate Charlotte, particularly the street’s north side, has been a challenge.

“There has been a psychological border at Charlotte,” says XMi’s Stan Snipes. “People have been hesitant to come across the street.”

Some developers and prospective office tenants contend the excessively wide, interstate-like Charlotte is hampered by vehicular intensity, a hodgepodge of unrelated and disconnected structures, and pockets of dead space.

Some are unfazed. Including Steve Asbury. Asbury’s Commercial Industrial Real Estate Associates of Nashville oversaw both the rehab project at the XO Communications Building in downtown’s SoBro and an adaptive reuse “minor masterpiece”: Edgehill Village. No-nonsense and focused, Asbury knows his stuff. He can massage a funky old building to the point that it sings.

Currently, Asbury’s giving voice lessons to CHARLOTTE2300 Professional Center. You’ve seen it. Built in the 1930s. Looks like an odd version of the Alamo. So ugly it’s beautiful. Sort of.

Asbury relishes the retrofit, valued at $5 million.

“It’s more mentally challenging to go into a funny-looking hodgepodge building,” he explains, “take someone’s vision from 50 years ago – there were no Codes inspectors back then – and capture the essence of that thinking.”

The new essence of CHARLOTTE2300 will be office space with soaring, 28-foot-tall ceilings. Once finished, financial management firm Flood Bumstead McCready & McCarthy (to occupy 45 percent of the structure) can impress celebrity clients from its private 2,700-square-foot open courtyard.

“In rehab, you take what’s there and make something else out of it,” Asbury says. “You have to improvise.”

William Williams is a citizen observer of Nashville’s manmade environment. Contact him at bill37206@yahoo.com

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By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Wow,they really are rehabbing that ugly tow-in lot building! Now they just need to knock down the ugly metal garage next to it and figure out what to do with that multi-surface TDOT building designed by Frank Lloyd Wrong.