Sage shows sage move enlisting local companies

Monday, April 28, 2008 at 2:07am

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Sage Hospitality Resources has embraced this axiom as it attempts once more to develop a hotel on Lower Broadway.

Putting the failed Westin project behind it, Sage is now on target to deliver historic Broadway a 21st century hotel, sleek and modern yet framed by street-fronting segments that respect the dignity of the district’s vintage building stock.

Of note, local companies Earl Swensson Associates Inc. (ESa) and Hawkins Partners Inc. Landscape Architects are now involved.

The Westin fiasco, where the tension between supporters and opponents of the project bordered on nasty at times, will not be repeated with this group.

Gone is The Barber Group, a smallish Arkansas-based developer that originally teamed with Sage and likely had no more business tackling a project of this significance than overrated Rascal Flatts singer Gary LeVox would have attempting to nail a vocal role in La Boheme.

Also out of the picture is JG Johnson Architects, which delivers quality design work but has no history or presence in Nashville.

With a clean slate and renewed vigor, Sage is determined to make Broadway Hotel a reality.

Last week, Metro Planning Commission voted 8-1 to approve Sage’s request for an amendment to its specific plan. The redesigned hotel, to sit between Second and Third avenues and simply be called Broadway Hotel at this point, will have 475 rooms, instead of the originally planned 375 rooms and 48 condos.

Sage knows its stuff. True, a quick tour of the SHR Web site reveals most of the Colorado-based hospitality development company’s new construction is no more interesting than an Applebee’s menu. But in fairness, Sage has overseen some fine retrofits of historic buildings and also created The Curtis, a quirky boutique hotel in downtown Denver. No doubt Sage boasts industry pull, as the company’s various projects have lured Hilton, Holiday Inn, Marriott and Sheraton.

The key, however, is the involvement of ESa and Hawkins Partners, as the duo will allow Sage to assume a more “behind-the-scenes” presence.

The fine folks at ESa and Hawkins understand the historical significance of Lower Broadway and have relationships with Metro Planning and Metro Historical department officials who are squeamish about a glass tower sharing space with Broadway’s diminutive brick and stone structures. When the masculine Richards & Richards Building eventually is razed to make room for the new hotel, always-pleasant Kim Hawkins can comfort a saddened Ann Roberts, the classy Historic Commission leader who cherishes stately old buildings like they were her children.

On that old building theme, the new smaller buildings ESa is designing to front Broadway (the Trail West Building, as in the earlier plan, will remain and be rehabbed) will not suggest they were constructed 100 years ago. Good. Replica architecture typically looks disingenuous at best and cartoonish at worst.

“From an exterior standpoint, we have worked extensively with both Metro Historical and Planning to create something that we believe respects the existing historic buildings without recreating them,” says David Minnigan, one of ESa’s leaders on the project.

Next week, we will take a look at the specific appearance and function of the development.

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

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

Looks a lot like the other towers that were recently built in downtown Nashville.