Metropolitan Government of Nashville


Nashville, TN


Structural Engineering, Experiential Design and Wayfinding


2019 ASCE Nashville Outstanding Engineering Project

2019 ACEC Tennessee Honor Award

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The site where Nashville’s Main Library sits has a storied history. Located in the heart of downtown, the city block was once home to Nashville’s original synagogue before the Church Street Center shopping mall opened in 1990. Built before its time, the mall was eventually demolished but the stand-alone parking garage stayed, and the site became home to Nashville’s current public library in 2001.

To keep pace with Music City’s booming population growth and tourism demands, Metro Nashville and the Nashville Downtown Partnership called on Gresham Smith to expand parking at the library. Working with Centric Architecture, HWA Parking and Messer Construction, our team designed a three-story vertical expansion to the existing garage, adding 350 additional parking spaces for the growing city.

story expansion
additional parking spaces
street level
street view

Getting Over Site Hurdles

Thanks to the site’s long history and many uses, we didn’t have much to work with besides basic floor plans. We needed to learn all we could about the site’s structural condition before determining if a vertical expansion was even possible, so we worked with a local geotechnical firm to conduct forensic analysis. After a year of testing the site’s bedrock and the garage’s foundation and concrete, we had the information we needed to move forward with the design.

parking interior

Thinking Outside the Concrete Box

During our investigation we discovered there were at least three different existing structural systems for the garage. Since we were working with a variety of materials, on a tight, active urban site, we elected to use steel, rather than concrete, to frame the garage expansion. As a lighter weight material, steel didn’t require as much support from the foundation, and it also allowed us to work faster without the need for concrete formwork. We also used state-of-the-art steel frame connection technology, rather than traditional welding, to construct the additional levels efficiently.


Creating a Pleasant Parking Experience

Gresham Smith also improved the garage’s overall lighting, replaced the existing elevators and stairs, and installed new signage and wayfinding on the upper floors. Additionally, our team of structural engineers worked with the project architect to install large panels with angled fins on the exterior of the garage, blending the new steel structure and the existing concrete garage together seamlessly while encouraging natural ventilation. The brightly colored panels create an identifiable and iconic structure, making it virtually impossible to forget where you parked and restoring the site to the prominence it once enjoyed in its heyday.