Creating Places: Old, new mesh in Broadway Hotel

Monday, May 5, 2008 at 1:12am

(Second of two parts)

It’s not easy to meld the old with the new.

With architecture, the task is doubly difficult.

The buildings home to First Baptist Church (downtown), the YWCA of Middle Tennessee (Green Hills), Pinnacle Financial Partners (Midtown) and the Vanderbilt Institute for Imaging Science (VUMC campus), are among Nashville’s most high-profile projects melding contemporary additions to existing older structures.

Currently underway are 21st century addition to vintage jewels Belmont United Methodist Church (Hillsboro Village) and the fire stations on Holley Street and 21st Avenue.

Nashville is lucky, as these projects have yielded fairly attractive and functional buildings.

Now looms perhaps the ultimate opportunity, and challenge, for fusing old and new architecture.

Sage Hospitality Resources plans to soon begin work on its long-proposed Broadway Hotel, framed by Second and Third avenues, and Broadway downtown.

The Sage project is not without risks.

Some folks are apprehensive about a mid-sized tower looming over Broad.

And three vintage buildings (those home to Kelly’s Western Wear, Richards and Richards records storage, and the law firm of Higgins Himmelberg and Piliponis) will be demolished (along with a throw-away cinderblock structure home to Decades).

Over the years, downtown Nashville has lost more of these pedestrian-friendly buildings than the current versions of personnel-unrecognizable classic rock bands Foreigner, Journey and REO Speedwagon, collectively, have lost fans since their heydays.

Saying good-bye to these underrated little gems will be painful. But their replacement could result in a jewel of a different type.

As noted in this column last week, Sage wisely has changed design direction, now enlisting local firms Earl Swensson Associates Inc. (ESa) and Hawkins Partners Inc. Landscape Architects.

Here’s an overview courtesy of Kim Hawkins and ESa’s David Minnigan.

The main segment of the hotel will rise 186 feet (about 20 feet fewer than the nearby Encore), with a sleek exterior to combine brick, limestone, metal and glass.

In a nice touch, the primary pedestrian hotel entrance now will be located on Broadway. A secondary entrance on Second Avenue will provide garage access.

Hawkins says the industrial architectural vernacular found on Second (visualize building home to Big River) has influenced the design of Broadway Hotel’s segment that will face that street.

The facades of the new construction to front Broadway will pick up that street’s “more Victorian cadence,” she adds, but will not yield a “replica building.”

A renovated Trail West Building will offer a main-level restaurant and actual hotel rooms on the second and third floors. A green roof, to contribute toward possible LEED certification, is under consideration, as is a rooftop bar. The new small buildings on Broad will also feature hotel rooms, with retail space on the main floors. The surface lot at Second and Broad will be infilled — thankfully.

Minnigan says a key goal is to enliven Third by having the development effectively transition from Broadway’s historic buildings to the sleek Pinnacle at Symphony Place, currently being built one block south.

No doubt, ESa and Hawkins Partners are thinking “big picture.” They expect the project to incorporate interesting shapes, materials, massings and functions.

And we should expect Broadway Hotel to be possibly one of Nashville’s 10 most significant developments of this decade.

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

Filed under: City Business
By: PillowTalk4 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

From the rendering that were presented in a previous article, I think the Broadway Hotel should please all parties involved. Especially those that are making noise just becuase they think a highrise along Broadway would distract from the junk that is already there.I tip my hat to Sage for engaing an architectural firm that is very familiar with Nashville to redesign their hotel. While I'm not a big fan of ESa designs, I think they hit the nail on this redesign in creating traditional aspects within the contemporary design of the new hotel. From the sidewalk level visitors to the area will see a traditional facade that mimicks the buildings on 2nd avenue. This allows for the consistency in style that historical preservationists wanted. While the set-back of the tower portion of the hotel eliminates the tower from overbearing Broadway, which will satisfy those who like highrises and more modern structures. Persoanlly, I saw nothing wrong with the original design. But, understanding that Nashville is still full of people who still have this vision of downtown as a town square which has longed been gone, I can accept the new design. I just hope that Signature Tower will rise over Nashville, forever changing the skyline and projecting Nashville beyond the 1-30 story realm it has been in far too long.