Nashville officials and residents weigh the pros and cons of taller, thinner skyscrapers

One developer proposes building a 38-story tower on a half-acre of land. 

September 02, 2015 |
Nashville officials and residents weigh the pros and cons of taller, thinner skyscrapers

The 38-story tower proposed for downtown Nashville. Image courtesy Buckingham Cos.

Municipalities and their residents can be fickle and unpredictable in their attitudes toward new construction. Objections about a building’s height or jobsite’s noise and traffic have been known to delay, and even halt, projects, which is why developers and AEC teams spend more time these days on community outreach.

A case in point can be found is Nashville, Tenn., one of the country’s hotter real estate markets, where developers are looking to plant their flags and make an impression. Indianapolis-based Buckingham Cos., a development and property management company, has proposed building a 38-story, 300,000-sf residential skyscraper that would be 14 stories higher than current zoning allows.

Buckingham and its architect, New York-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, are trying to convince local officials and neighbors that a taller, narrower high rise would be better than a shorter building with the same square footage. Why? Because it would block less sunlight on pools of surrounding residential buildings, such as Terrazzo, a condo-office building next door to the half-acre parking lot on which Buckingham wants to erect its tower.

The Nashville Business Journal reports that the developer presented “sunlight studies” as part of its sales pitch to city officials during a Sept. 1 meeting. That same afternoon, the developer met with residents of several high rises near the proposed project, to ensure them that the new building wouldn’t unduly impede their balcony views or swimming experiences.  

(The tire maker Bridgestone, which is currently building its U.S. headquarters in Nashville, had to deal with similar issues with residents living in a shorter condo building next door to its proposed tower.)

The design review committee of Nashville’s Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency has already given its unanimous conceptual approval to Buckingham’s tower, pending an approval by the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals, which is scheduled to address the tower’s height variance request on Sept. 17. Doug Sloan, acting executive director of Nashville’s planning department, has also expressed concern about the materials this building will use and how it will look from the highway.

If all goes as planned, Buckingham and its building team expect to start construction on the 200-plus-room tower next year, and open the building by 2018.

However, developers are likely to find themselves playing defense in the future, as long as they keep trying to squeeze just one more building onto the tiniest of desirable urban spaces. In Chicago, BJB Partners, which owns an apartment building at Millennium Park Plaza, has proposed a 41-story residential/hotel tower on a plot of land that, according to Crain’s Chicago Business, is “smaller than a tennis court.” And CCTV America last month reported on the trend toward “skinny” luxury residential skyscrapers in New York, including one under construction that’s less than 60 feet wide.

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