First Southern Neighborhood in the U.S. Receives LEED ND Silver Certification

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate Editor  Nashville, Tenn.—The Gulch, developed by MarketStreet Enterprises and planned by Looney Ricks Kiss Architects Inc., is the first neighborhood in the South to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Neighborhood Development Silver certification. The Gulch is one of the first fourteen neighborhoods internationally to become LEED ND-certified in this pilot program. “The Gulch is representative of a new generation of higher-density multifamily and mixed-use communities, particularly in the South, where it is somewhat of a new phenomenon,” notes Paige Close, principal at Looney Ricks Kiss Architects, adding, “there has traditionally been a suburban growth model in most major metro markets in the South and Southeast.” The redevelopment project, which began 10 years ago and is anticipated to cost between $350 and $450 million, comprises 70 acres of land—30 of which MarketStreet Enterprises now owns—including nine acres formerly owned by CSX Railroad, which was “a piece of property near downtown Nashville in an area that had been forgotten. At the time, it didn’t have a commuter rail, light rail or Amtrak, but we saw the potential, ultimately, for The Gulch to be the hub for passenger rail in Nashville,” says Hunter Gee, director of community planning at Looney Ricks Kiss and the lead master planner for The Gulch. Looney Ricks Kiss’ original client, Armistead Barkley—which was later acquired by Crosland—created a partnership with MarketStreet and has developed several of the projects on site. Together, “they did a lot of work with the city in expanding the redevelopment district, which they did with tax increment financing capabilities. This area was off the radar screen in terms of development,” Gee tells MHN. The Gulch is currently slated to include 4,500 multifamily units—both rental and for-sale, ranging from luxury to affordable—465,000 sq. ft. of retail, 1.5 million sq. ft. of office space and 384 hotel rooms at build-out. Gee notes, however, that the plan has evolved over time and that it is possible that the final product will include more units and retail space.The Gulch received a number of LEED ND credits for the adaptive reuse of obsolete buildings. In fact, about 90 percent of the existing buildings that were originally on the site have been adaptively reused, oftentimes by building vertically on top of an existing project, notes Gee. “I think that what’s so encouraging about The Gulch is that it feels so authentic because so many existing projects were redeveloped,” Close tells MHN. A transit-oriented development, The Gulch also earned high marks in the “Smart Location & Linkage” category. Nashville and Davidson County’s Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) completed a $7.5 million infrastructure improvement program.“Too often we want to build streets that are primarily designed for the automobile. We emphasized the importance of designing the street to accommodate automobiles and pedestrians,” explains Gee.Located in close proximity to Music Row and the heart of the Central Business District, as well as four blocks from the site of what will be a new $600 million convention center, the neighborhood has 1,132 daily bus stops within a quarter-mile area and scored high for reduced automobile dependence.The community also scored high because of its proximity to housing and jobs. There are currently 6,500 jobs within a half-mile of the site, which “represents 140 percent of total number of dwelling units in The Gulch,” says Gee. This number does not include any jobs that are created as a result of the new community. The Gulch also received high scores in the areas of diversity of uses and housing types, as well as walkable streets.According to Gee, approximately 600 residential units have been completed thus far. This includes Mercury View Lofts, a 32-unit luxury rental community; a 48-unit affordable housing community developed by the Nashville Housing Fund; Crosland’s Terrazzo, a 109-unit mixed-unit community; and Bristol Development Group’s Icon (pictured), a 412-unit, 22-story condominium designed by KA Architects, 20 percent of which is set aside for affordable housing. In addition, Bristol is currently developing Velocity, 264 units that are currently planned as condos and 20 percent of which will also be reserved for affordable housing.