Since 1957, international real estate firm Hines has been developing landmark real estate projects that deliver lasting value to investors and communities. The company had been exploring new opportunities in Nashville’s booming commercial real estate market for several years and sought to capitalize on downtown Nashville’s popular and evolving SoBro neighborhood just south of Broadway.
In the fall of 2014, Hines selected GS&P to provide architecture and interior design services for a new 390,000-square-foot, 25-floor mixed-use tower at 222 Second Avenue South that offered sweeping views of the Cumberland River and West Riverfront Park. The development comprised 25,000 square feet of ground-level retail and restaurant space and 360,000 square feet of Class-A office space situated above a 10-story, 1,100-space parking garage.
“This project was very much a collaboration between Hines and GS&P,” explains senior architect and principal Jeff Kuhnhenn. “They are a very sophisticated client who develops these building types all over the world and at different price points. While they had a certain vision for the end product and its place in this particular market, they were also very interested in what GS&P brought to the table. And there was much we had to do and consider as a team to create a building that was right for the market.
“Just by virtue of its location, this building brings a lot of interest. You couldn’t ask for a more prominent site in the city with its special relationship to the Cumberland River and West Riverfront Park, and its high visibility from Ascend Amphitheater, nearby freeways and Nissan Stadium.”
Maximizing the Site
Hines’ development sits atop a 25,527-square-foot floor plate situated between downtown’s First and Second avenues. The design team was challenged by the constraints this presented, as well as a small, old warehouse building that prevented the development from covering the entire block.
“Getting the program to fit and operate a certain way while maximizing the available retail area was akin to a jigsaw puzzle,” says Kuhnhenn. “One of the biggest factors was how to accommodate parking. Downtown Nashville is close to land-rich suburbs that tend to offer more parking. So we needed to provide a certain ratio of parking to office space to remain competitive.”
To achieve this, the design team stacked 10 floors with 1,100 available parking spaces on top of the allotted retail tenant space.
“After we’d determined how to stack the parking garage, we had to figure out how the parking would distribute itself onto two different roadways so that traffic was diffused into the downtown environment,” says Kuhnhenn. “We made the circulation work by designing the internal ramps to distribute traffic through two separate entrances and exits on First and Second avenues.”
Topping out the building massing, a 14-story glass office tower that rises above the parking floors will provide 26,500 rentable square feet per floor. A subtle pattern of offset pairs of bright, white mullions animate the tower’s glass curtain-wall facade.
“We designed a pattern for the glazing that was orderly but not a standard grid,” says senior architect Eric Bearden. “So it sets itself apart from what you typically see on other office buildings in the Nashville area.”
A Class-A Creative Design
While designing a Class-A building, GS&P aimed to strike a balance between the distinctive attributes of this building type and something a little less traditional. Jack Weber, senior vice president of GS&P's Nashville Design Studio explains:
“The client desired something slightly different from your typical Class-A space. They wanted it to be more ‘Nashville,’ and a bit more playful and lively. So we arrived at a natural stone tile in the lobby that’s slightly more subdued than some of Hines’ other lobby areas. We then added an internally illuminated feature wall that gives warmth to an otherwise crisp, white space, and provides a little more grit rather than polish.”
“In the office world, there are terms for aesthetic approaches to buildings,” notes Kuhnhenn. “We typically use ‘Class A’ to refer to a very corporate feel that’s accented by high-end finishes and a fairly conservative design. On the other end of the spectrum is the ‘Creative’ office, which often incorporates street art and more urban qualities on the inside. This building attempts to keep a foot in both worlds. It has an element of ‘Creative’ office, but it’s a Class-A office building. So it’s essentially ‘Class-A Creative.’”
Beyond its variety of aesthetic forms and textures, the office tower’s amenities are what make the building a truly exceptional draw on the market.
“The 12th floor of the building, which is the floor above the parking structure, incorporates several different amenities that will support the tenants,” says Weber. “This level features a work café with Wi-Fi that will be open to all tenants as an alternative work area so they won’t have to leave the building. The space provides multiple variations of seating that will support small meetings, group interactions or social functions, and offer food and beverage options that include healthier choices. There’s also a large, shared conference room just off the work café that is extremely flexible in how it can be arranged and used.”
The 12th floor also includes a 2,272-square-foot, club-quality fitness center appointed with lockers and showers, which will be available to all tenants.
On the outside of this amenity space, a 3,653-square-foot green roof terrace will offer stunning views of the Cumberland River. A rooftop bar, fire pits, a variety of outdoor seating, and grassy spaces for games and activities are all features of this unique outdoor amenity.
“The rooftop terrace is one of the defining characteristics of this development,” says architect Danny Ruberg. “It faces east toward Ascend Amphitheater and West Riverfront Park, and will be a prime viewing spot for festivals and fireworks. What’s really great about this terrace is that it will extend the use of the building beyond a workplace into a magnet for after-work and weekend events.”
A Pedestrian-Friendly Streetscape
During the early stages of design, GS&P worked with the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency Design Review Committee to enhance the area’s pedestrian focus. The design team also worked closely with key stakeholders to maximize active ground-floor uses and design a generous, pedestrian-friendly streetscape, with a goal of creating the most vibrant retail block in the SoBro district.
“One of our biggest contributions to downtown Nashville was providing sidewalks around the building that are equal to or bigger than the city’s street plan,” says Kuhnhenn. “Considering its relationship to First and Second avenues and the hundreds, if not thousands, of events that will take place in the downtown area over the next 20 to 30 years, this design will create a synergy between the pedestrian experience and local activities.
“Although the whole area is rocketing skyward, people will still remain engaged at the pedestrian level through the streetscape and sidewalks, and the quality of retail offerings planned for that level.”
A Better-Performing Building
Pre-certified LEED Silver, sustainability goals were a key driver in the office tower’s design.
“We set a target that 20 percent of the value of building materials would consist of recycled content and regional materials,” explains senior architect Ann McGee. “To increase energy efficiency and occupant comfort, we used high-performance glass on the skin of the building. A key sustainability feature of the design is the green roof outdoor terrace area with its turf lawn and plantings. Using bright colors along with the white roof membrane, the heat of the sun is not absorbed and the building won't contribute to the heat-island effect of the urban environment. Through the various sustainable design strategies we’ve incorporated into the project, the building will be 14 percent more efficient than other buildings of its type and size.”
Further contributing to a sustainable building, the design team developed a set of tenant guidelines to help future occupants achieve LEED certification.
“By virtue of our building being a LEED Silver certified core and shell, tenants will have a much better opportunity of achieving LEED for commercial interiors,” notes McGee.
Setting a Precedent
Creating a unique environment that will attract and serve target tenants while contributing to the pedestrian experience at street level, GS&P’s design solution neatly stacks and integrates the required uses into a clean and efficient design. Set to transform the city’s skyline and the SoBro neighborhood, the state-of-the-art building is slated to open in 2017.
“This project really has a home-grown, Nashville vibe to it,” says McGee. “It sets a precedent for what Class-A office space in Nashville is evolving into in terms of its amenities and how it contributes to the urban fabric.”
“What makes this project stand out from other mixed-use buildings is the degree of efficiency it will offer tenants, which will allow them to be more flexible and to do more with their space over time,” concludes Kuhnhenn. “It will also provide a collection of amenities that you really can’t find anywhere else downtown. It’s something that’s incredibly unique for the market.”