markhollin

Paramount Tower, 65-68 stories, approx. 750', 200 units, $240 million, Church Street Park

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On 12/15/2018 at 10:10 AM, Vrtigo said:

The more I think about this park and compare it to the many great public outdoor spaces I've seen, the more I am in favor of keeping it. Granted, Tony is right that the park in its current iteration is an absolute travesty, but I firmly believe the right design, effort, and continued investment would easily correct that.

A tower can go almost anywhere and there must be a dozen equal or greater sized lots within a few blocks of this location that would be perfectly suitable. This park, on the other hand, happens to be in a prime location for a public space, given its proximity to and synergy with the library (another of our city's primary public spaces), as well as a great mix of retail, office, and residential, in what happens to be a very pedestrian-friendly district. Unlike nearby Commerce, for instance, which has more car lanes with higher speeds, a glut of surface parking, and almost no street-level activation, this area of Church (the obvious homeless problem aside) is one of the best pedestrian experiences we have in Nashville. For a local example, my mind goes to the recent revitalization of Market Square in Knoxville. Filling this space with another tower would have a negative effect on the pedestrian experience and turn what could be the epicenter of this area into just another high-rise streetcorner.

Again, Tony is no doubt correct in his judgment that efforts to improve and reinvent this park have been tried before and have obviously failed, but Nashville is a vastly different place than it was at any time during those twenty years past. I suggest the past failures were due to a lack of continued energy and investment, but things would be very different now. The NCDC submissions are clear evidence supporting this statement and I'm sure there are many others who would like to see the same. 

A tower can’t go almost anywhere though. The conditions to pull together the right spot ain’t easy. I think if the tower has activation on ground floor it can be a tremendous improvement to the street and the library facility.

I just don’t buy this Park ever gets better as long as you have the public restrooms at the library right there which will never deny them service as well as several Churches right there (while bless them for doing what they can to help) only ultimately further attract them to the Park during the day.

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5 minutes ago, troyboytn said:

While I understand your concern,  as a current Knoxville resident and former resident of Nashville, I can promise you that there is absolutely no comparison to Market Square and this park....none whatsoever.

Completely agree.

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17 hours ago, PruneTracy said:

A compromise (albeit one that doesn't address the concerns about the homeless) would be to build Paramount on the park space, but convert Anne Dallas Dudley Boulevard to a pedestrian mall as shown in the NCDC concepts. This would link Church Street and the library to the ample open space at War Memorial Plaza and also sets up some nice terminating vistas of the capitol and the library entrance.

Image result for original idea gif

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Knoxville's Market Square started as a farmer's market. For over 100 years, people have been going there with a purpose. I can't think of any reason why I would go to a new park where bums used to pee in the fountain. Unless, they put a Shake Shack or Hopdoddy there. I think I'd still get take-out. Some images never leave your memory. 

While I sort of like the idea of having a Market Square type street-mall with the Capitol as backdrop, I do think the location of this park actually works against the notion it could be a pleasant gathering spot for people who don't sleep there and use its "facilities". 

Edited by MLBrumby

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One significant issue to be resolved if Capitol Blvd/ADD Blvd were to be converted to a pedestrian only zone is that the loading dock for the Sheraton is on that side of the building. Not sure how they could reconfigure their back of house operations to facilitate a move of that dock.

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2 hours ago, Vrtigo said:

Granted we do not have several blocks worth of space to work with, but we could easily have our own L-shaped miniature version if the desire was there. Market Square in the 60's was a giant car park with open streets lining each side, yet somehow that problem was solved in its own time. Similarly, Knoxville had its own share of blank walls and boarded-up storefronts for many years, but they solved that one too. 

My response is not related to Nashville, but thanks for sharing this, Vrtigo! If it's cool with you, I may repost that photo on the Knox board.

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While I do like a nice park, I just feel like this one, at this particular location, is not going to work, no matter how it is re-invented/re-oriented/etc. 

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The size of it is also an issue. how many people can take advantage of an area this small? And do so without having to share a bench with someone sleeping on it and/or keeping all of their belongings on it? If we're concerned about outdoor space, Nashville Yards will have a much larger green space. I just feel this space can be used by more Nashvillians with more benefit to the overall city than a pocket park that will always have a homeless problem. Not to mention that the land swap includes building actual housing for the homeless.  

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@Vrtigo, I applaud your focus on the pedestrian street aspect to this project. I washed over it too quickly in my "rant" late last week, but I think you are right in that it would be a great compromise!

1 hour ago, satalac said:

While I do like a nice park, I just feel like this one, at this particular location, is not going to work, no matter how it is re-invented/re-oriented/etc. 

The size of it is also an issue. how many people can take advantage of an area this small? And do so without having to share a bench with someone sleeping on it and/or keeping all of their belongings on it? If we're concerned about outdoor space, Nashville Yards will have a much larger green space. I just feel this space can be used by more Nashvillians with more benefit to the overall city than a pocket park that will always have a homeless problem. Not to mention that the land swap includes building actual housing for the homeless.  

It has failed because Urban understanding was failing during the times this park was originally designed and then re-designed. The first problem that has to be asked is why did this park "fail"? It did not fail because the homeless population uses it constantly. It ultimately failed because it does not connect to anything enough. Parks succeed when they connect people and places, and the two designs of this park have failed to do that.

The second question we must ask is how do make a re-envisioned park succeed? The simple answer would be get the homeless out and that is short-sighted. This park should be connected to all that surrounds it. Turn Anne Dallas Dudley into pedestrian only to create a "park" feel that connects up to the State Capital and Bicentennial and develop Church into a more walkable street to connect over to Nashville Yards. Nashville Yards is not a replacement park, it is a continuing development of the green space in Nashville. This notion that we are adding some green space over here so we can afford to remove green space over there is deplorable from an urban design standpoint. Provide a place that is connected to the city and workers from the countless office buildings will use it. Case in point: PO Square in Boston. It's bigger than church street park, but this place is PACKED every nice day with people eating, yoga classes, park games and it is a perfect precedent to this issue. A group similar to the downtown group puts out chairs that get packed up every day. 

Image result for PO Square Boston

The last point is the idea that the transitional housing building is getting built because of this development. It was pointed out in the CityLab article posted up thread that the city had already secured 15 million in bonds for that building. Whether this building happens or not that building would eventually get built. I have said from the beginning that the new location of the housing is awful as well. Let's highlight the fact that our city is taking charge of the homeless epidemic here and build a quality building that helps people and let's show off that building for all to see. Put it back where it was originally planned. A park along James Robertson will fail worse then the Church Street Park. 

Edited by Bos2Nash
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7 hours ago, Vrtigo said:

You (@nashville_bound) mention sinking too much money into our park and that nothing has worked. Can you give me some recent examples? I'm not being argumentative--I'm honestly curious, because I am not aware of anything that has been done in recent time.

I did not realize you were comparing the 'after' Church Street Park to Market Sq. in Town. Yes, adding and converting the Anne Dudley street space to a pedestrian mall would get us closer.

There are numerous articles detailing the park's troubles. This one from The Nashville Scene in '07 is the most comprehensive..... reading it gives one serious deja vu ..... and not the strip club kind.

https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/article/13015232/church-street-follies

 

Quote

Church Street Follies

How to resurrect a failed downtown pocket park that will attract workers and residents—and not just the homeless and starlings

 SEP 20, 2007 4 AM

The pocket park on Church Street was never great civic space. So there have been no tears among Nashville’s urban designers since Metro Parks scraped it down to raw earth—except for the still-spouting fountain—late last month. But the future of the site between Sixth Avenue North and Capitol Boulevard has many urban watchers curious.

What’s next is “just a renovation,” with a budget of $22,400 for an open lawn, small bushes and plants, new benches and irrigation, says Metro parks director Roy Wilson. “There will be perimeter trees, but they won’t be the maples that attracted the birds,” says Wilson, alluding to the “critical issue” prompting the makeover. He offers photos of starling doo coating just about every stationary object in the pre-scraped park as evidence that the winged critters had made the space unpleasant for non-winged visitors. Moreover, the droppings are a health problem because they can harbor a fungus that causes histoplasmosis, a disease affecting the lungs. 

Another factor in Wilson’s decision to start over: what witnesses called “rats as big as cats.” He says he’s also received some complaints about the homeless who hung out in the park but insists that the issue didn’t precipitate the bulldozing and won’t “guide us” in renovation. “I’m a parks professional, but I’m a human being too,” Wilson says. “Our goal is to make the park more sanitary and user-friendly for everybody.”

Ben Bahil, vice president of downtown’s Urban Residents Association, lives in the Bennie Dillon building on Church Street and works in the Nashville City Center at Sixth Avenue and Union Street, so he’s familiar with park conditions. Bahil agrees that the starlings were a problem but says that the behavior of some of the homeless frequenting the park—intoxication, public urination and defecation, bathing in the fountain, aggressive panhandling—also “made workers and residents uncomfortable spending time there. And there was drug dealing. Somebody living in the Cumberland actually filmed some from his balcony.” Bahil adds, “The Urban Residents Association wants the laws on the book [prohibiting such activity] enforced. And we’d like the new park to have police security cameras. We want a place that people would feel comfortable pushing a stroller through.”

Given the extreme denaturing of the park, for Wilson to call the project a “renovation” recalls the American major in 1968 Vietnam who famously told a reporter, “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.” But in the case of this park, destruction could begin the path to salvation.

Church Street Park failed because it was designed to. Not deliberately, of course. But the structure discouraged civic behavior. The park was geared to individual use and not collective gathering. It was all circulation and offered very little space—or reason—to pause there. 

The site is bordered by sidewalks on three sides, a ready-made pedestrian system. Yet the design featured a maze of brick paths. There was too much landscaping—bushes and flowers—and not enough open space. The fountain was—and is—too small, a glorified drinking fountain that cannot provide sufficient sibilance to soften street noise. And placing the fountain smack in the middle, rather than against the wall to the north, ate up central space for people. 

The paths were relatively narrow—6 feet wide—bordered by benches and raised planters, causing users to sit in a line like pigeons on a wire. Such a layout hindered conversation and forced those strolling through to “walk the line” like cadets in review. There were no areas—or movable furniture—for friends to pull up chairs around a table and have some face-to-face over brown bags. The raised planters also served to block sightlines from the street and concealed uncivil actions—such as drug dealing. The result was a space for those who had no better place to go. 

To understand how we got to park as ghetto, a little history: the Church Street Master Plan, a 1996 script for kick-starting Church Street redevelopment, suggested the park location. It was a time of desperation. Church Street Centre, the downtown shopping mall on the site now occupied by the library, was faltering. The last remaining department store had closed. Vacant storefronts and surface parking were endemic. 

“We felt we had to have a park,” recalls Seab Tuck, a member of the master plan team. “Everyone was complaining that there was no green space downtown except for Riverfront Park. The idea was to encourage residential development—there was almost none downtown at that time.”

Metro Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) paid $1 million for the land and close to another half-million to demolish the two buildings on the site and for design and construction. Rather than request proposals from a variety of landscape architects, MDHA opted to give the design job to HNTB, a firm that had a standing contract with Metro to do relatively low-budget projects. 

“We wanted to get something out of the ground as soon as possible,” then-MDHA executive director Gerald Nicely explained at the time. The design team was headed by a civil engineer whose specialty was bridges and highways. When HNTB’s plan was unveiled, the Scene recommended putting it “in the landfill” and starting over. A decade later, that’s exactly what the city’s doing.

Design can manage, but not solve, the issue of the homeless. And it’s important to acknowledge that those without a room of their own are merely being logical when they congregate near the public library, which is warm in winter, cool in summer, has clean rest rooms and offers free reading material. 

“The city had legitimate public health concerns” in bulldozing the park, says Matt Leber, coordinator of the Nashville Homeless Power Project. But he criticizes city officials for a lack of “engagement with the homeless users” before removing “a place for people to get some shade.” Leber says he hopes that the new design for the park “takes the entire public into account. Any place that’s universally used, whether it’s a clinic or a park, has better services for all and that’s good for poor people.”

So how to design for all citizens who agree to mind their manners? For starters, rather than rushing to get another “something out of the ground as soon as possible,” Metro parks should look carefully at successful examples of small urban parks. One of the most famous is Manhattan’s Paley Park. It’s enclosed on three sides by buildings, and a wall of water gushes down the rear side. This water wall is Paley Park’s one expensive feature. Otherwise, it consists of little more than shade trees, stone pavers and lots of movable chairs and tables. It’s an outdoor living room that works for 100—or for two.

Another resource Wilson might tap is the Nashville Street Life Project. This group, composed of about a dozen urban residents, business owners, students, architects and landscape architects, is dedicated to what it calls “place making” and has researched the principles of good urban spaces. Member Randy Morgan says they’ve found that all successful public spaces have flexible design, so that the space can be used in a variety of ways. And programming—everything from newsstands and food vendors to concerts and book discussions—is also key. They’ve also found that in spaces with more non-homeless users, “some homeless can blend into the crowd” and those who are into “drinking and urinating” won’t hang out “because they want to congregate among themselves.”

The Street Life group has spent a year-and-a-half studying why Church Street Park has not succeeded and how it could. “Given the location, with the library and lots of eating places nearby, and the number of residents in the area, that park could and should be the heart of the community,” Morgan says. Members conducted surveys on the park’s pros and cons as well as behavioral mapping—photos and logs—of how people actually used the park. They staged a public visioning session to determine what people wanted to do there and who was interested in working together to make it happen.

Wilson says he recently met with representatives of the Street Life project, “got a synopsis of what they’re attempting and I liked what I saw. But they got a step ahead in planning for the park without going through the Parks Board.” When asked if he intends any other form of community outreach in planning for the park, Wilson says that will happen “when we finish the park and we start to program it.”

The problem is that programming is dependent on design, as the history of Church Street Park so glaringly demonstrates. That’s because design is not merely a matter of aesthetics, but provides a structure for human behavior. Last time around we got picturesque horticulture, bad urbanism and another example of one-step-forward, one-step-back initiatives that have plagued so much downtown development. This time, let’s just take one small, sadder-but-wiser step forward.

 

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rather than rushing to get another “something out of the ground as soon as possible, Metro parks should look carefully at successful examples of small urban parks

This would be wise....

When asked if he intends any other form of community outreach in planning for the park, Wilson says that will happen “when we finish the park and we start to program it.”

It is imperative to success of any design to incorporate any program into the whole design. If you don't, it fails from the get go. 

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21 hours ago, Bos2Nash said:

@Vrtigo, I applaud your focus on the pedestrian street aspect to this project. I washed over it too quickly in my "rant" late last week, but I think you are right in that it would be a great compromise!

It has failed because Urban understanding was failing during the times this park was originally designed and then re-designed. The first problem that has to be asked is why did this park "fail"? It did not fail because the homeless population uses it constantly. It ultimately failed because it does not connect to anything enough. Parks succeed when they connect people and places, and the two designs of this park have failed to do that.

The second question we must ask is how do make a re-envisioned park succeed? The simple answer would be get the homeless out and that is short-sighted. This park should be connected to all that surrounds it. Turn Anne Dallas Dudley into pedestrian only to create a "park" feel that connects up to the State Capital and Bicentennial and develop Church into a more walkable street to connect over to Nashville Yards. Nashville Yards is not a replacement park, it is a continuing development of the green space in Nashville. This notion that we are adding some green space over here so we can afford to remove green space over there is deplorable from an urban design standpoint. Provide a place that is connected to the city and workers from the countless office buildings will use it. Case in point: PO Square in Boston. It's bigger than church street park, but this place is PACKED every nice day with people eating, yoga classes, park games and it is a perfect precedent to this issue. A group similar to the downtown group puts out chairs that get packed up every day. 

Image result for PO Square Boston

The last point is the idea that the transitional housing building is getting built because of this development. It was pointed out in the CityLab article posted up thread that the city had already secured 15 million in bonds for that building. Whether this building happens or not that building would eventually get built. I have said from the beginning that the new location of the housing is awful as well. Let's highlight the fact that our city is taking charge of the homeless epidemic here and build a quality building that helps people and let's show off that building for all to see. Put it back where it was originally planned. A park along James Robertson will fail worse then the Church Street Park. 

Why not have the tower AND shut off Anne Dallas Dudley to traffic? We'd expand our usable green space, and still have a tower to bring more people living downtown (people with a lot of money who will drive more retail downtown)? What can really be done with this small space, even connected to a pedestrian boulevard? I don't see the homeless situation changing as it will still be a park right next to a building with public bathroom access. While I don't want to make things harder on the homeless, I don't see keeping this park as a benefit to them, or to downtown. If this was a better park, then yes, I would have an issue with it being removed, but it's location and size simply isn't a good one, at least not to be used as it is intended. I'm not advocating replacing a park simply because another green space is being opened nearby. I'm advocating getting rid of a park that has failed for something more beneficial to the downtown core, and the green space nearby that will be built at Nashville Yards can help absorb the need for outdoor space. 

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49 minutes ago, satalac said:

Why not have the tower AND shut off Anne Dallas Dudley to traffic? We'd expand our usable green space, and still have a tower to bring more people living downtown (people with a lot of money who will drive more retail downtown)? What can really be done with this small space, even connected to a pedestrian boulevard? I don't see the homeless situation changing as it will still be a park right next to a building with public bathroom access. While I don't want to make things harder on the homeless, I don't see keeping this park as a benefit to them, or to downtown. If this was a better park, then yes, I would have an issue with it being removed, but it's location and size simply isn't a good one, at least not to be used as it is intended. I'm not advocating replacing a park simply because another green space is being opened nearby. I'm advocating getting rid of a park that has failed for something more beneficial to the downtown core, and the green space nearby that will be built at Nashville Yards can help absorb the need for outdoor space. 

The Hermitage Hotel and the Sheraton currently both use Dudley/Capitol Blvd as a loading/service entrance.      Not that those uses should forever have priority, but I'm sure both would object to the street being closed to traffic.      

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