'We expect to come out of the ground in January'

Buckingham VP Scott Travis talks about major Midtown project

Scott Travis is vice president of development of Buckingham Companies, the Indianapolis-based developer that announced last week a Kimpton Hotel would anchor its massive $100 million mixed-use project slated for Midtown (read more here). Post Managing Editor William Williams caught up with Travis to gauge his take on the project.

When will full-scale work begin and what is the timeline for construction of Buckingham Midtown?

We expect to come out of the ground in January. We're expecting the retail component could be open in fall 2016, with the hotel to open in late 2016. The residential element will open in phases, with the first in fall 2016 and the second in spring 2017.

Kimpton is a big deal, as the San Francisco-based company oversees the largest chain of boutique hotels in the United States. What does this symbolize for your project?

Kimpton was selected based on their national brand awareness, their extensive experience with the development and operation of high-end boutique hotels and their high level of creativity. Consistent with our selection of retail tenants, we are looking for innovative concepts that are distinct to Nashville or new to the market. Kimpton meets these criteria.

Did you ever consider office space or condos for the project?

First and foremost, multifamily residential, commercial retail and hospitality are Buckingham’s core business development platforms. Our market analysis proved strong demand for all three uses at this location. We never considered condos.

On the retail space theme, you are looking to possibly land a grocery store. Thoughts?

An urban grocery would fit our list of potential retail tenants, but we are open to other retail and restaurant concepts that meet our criteria of innovative concepts that are distinct to Nashville or new to the market.

Given you have limited space (no more than 18,000 square feet) for a grocery, does the Dollar General grocery concept intrigue you?

I don’t know if one name brand qualifies better than the rest.

The hotel component will offer a contemporary exterior design, with the retail and residential element using neo-traditional exterior forms. Some might argue this is a strong move with interesting contrast, while others might say it could yield buildings that looks disconnected. Your thoughts?

The architectural team took great care in treating the scale and skin of the building with regard to existing context. Specifically, the massing of the building was reduced in scale and is set back on the upper floors on the south side, adjacent to Vanderbilt campus. This section of the building also took on a more traditional architecture in respect to the campus architectural style.  In contrast the taller and more contemporary architecture was employed on the section of the building adjacent to the Adelicia and facing downtown Nashville.

The start of the project has been significantly delayed. Originally, you wanted to start by July 2013 and, now, it will likely be January. What caused the delay and have you have a previous project for which the start was so delayed?

Large complicated projects take time.

When will the remaining four buildings on the site be razed?

The majority, if not all, of the existing structures will be razed within the next 45 days.

Related to that question, I am a fan of pre-World War-II-constructed masonry buildings. Most of those type structures in Nashville have been demolished over the years and you are about to demo two more. Though I acknowledge your project will be huge in terms of job creation, tax revenue generation, "big-city-ness," and scale appropriateness for such an urban site, I must ask if you feel a bit of remorse to take down old-school brick and stone buildings that lend a certain charm to our city and that we, sadly, continue to lose?

Trained as an architect, I can respect your desire to retain structures whenever appropriate. In this case, despite the challenges of incorporating the structures into the design or relocating them, neither option is truly viable due to the current condition of the buildings. In addition, these structures have been isolated over time to no longer be contextual.

How many feet tall will the hotel tower be? And the residential piece?

The north tower is 17 stores and approximately 190 feet tall. The south tower is 14 stories and approximately 160 feet tall.

I've heard that some Adelicia residents have expressed concern that they will lose their views of the Vanderbilt campus courtesy of your building (while, perhaps ironically and conveniently, likely failing to realize and/or acknowledge that people living in nearby buildings lost some of their views when Adelicia was built). How do you respond?

As with the majority of the parcels along Broadway and West End, the site has been zoned for high-rise construction for some time.

What will the exterior building materials be? The renderings suggest for the retail/residential component stucco with the ubiquitous (and often bland and suburban in look and feel) cream/neutral/light tan color. Your thoughts?

We feel that the materials and the colors are an appropriate response to the surrounding context. At the street level, we expect significant variation in colors and materials to be explored as our retail tenants are on-boarded.

The residential building’s south wall features, based on one of the images, a mural-like component. How would you describe it?

It has yet to be designed but we are approved for images and/or signage on that side of the building. It would be difficult if not impossible to have windows on that side of the building

What is your take as to Metro improving the convergence of 21st Avenue, Broadway and Division Street?

Regardless of the impact to our site, the intersection improvements can only be perceived as an improvement to public safety.

Is Buckingham looking at other Nashville sites and, if so, can you ID the areas of the city?

We are exploring options throughout the MSA and surrounding communities.

What are the, say, top three areas of the city in which a project would work best for your company?

We have a variety of product types from complex, urban mixed-use projects like this to suburban garden-style apartments. We are opportunistic and decisions about areas of the city would be based on market demand.