Siteseeing: NashvilleJoAnn Greco • Photography courtesy of 21c Museum Hotels and renderings courtesy of Celano Design Studio, JW Marriott, Dream Hotel Group, and Preferred Hotels & Resorts • February 28, 2018
With a much-ballyhooed 100 people a day moving into town (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), a popular eponymous TV show, and an exploding restaurant scene, Nashville is hotter than ever. In 2016, 13.9 million people flocked to the city, and hotel development continues to be on the rise with 116 projects and 15,793 rooms in the pipeline, which marks a 6 percent increase in room count year over year, according to Lodging Econometrics.
Joining the likes of the Gensler-designed Kimpton Aertson Hotel and the Thompson Nashville from New York firm Parts and Labor Design, major hotel companies and developers are itching to get into Music City: Marriott has a number of hotels on the boards; the 204-room new-build Graduate is pegged to enter the Midtown/Vanderbilt neighborhood; and a 240-room Virgin property is planned for Music Row next year, a perfect marriage for the brand, “especially with music being such an influential component of our DNA,” says Virgin Hotels CEO Raul Leal. Proving Nashville is also a cultural destination, 21c Museum Hotels opened in the historic Gray & Dudley building with an industrial, yet inviting design by longtime collaborator New York-based Deborah Berke Partners. Nashville is a market with a “hunger for thought-provoking contemporary art, and the city’s arts and music scene is like no other,” says Craig Greenberg, CEO of 21c Museum Hotels. “The city’s DNA matches perfectly with our brand ethos.”
Historically, full-service and high-end hotels were reluctant to enter Nashville because Opryland with its size (nearly 3,000 rooms) controlled rates and opportunities in the market, explains Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation. “With the 2013 opening of the convention center, downtown became a self-reliant destination.” It started with a dining scene that continues to add depth to Nashville’s cultural offerings. Take Strategic Hospitality’s Henrietta Red, which opened in Germantown last March. Los Angeles firm Kathryn Lager Design Studio outfitted the space in warm blue and green tones with white accents. Meanwhile, Design, Bitches, another LA firm, spearheaded Little Octopus, a richly textured restaurant in the Gulch that is inspired by “old school Miami and the Carribean—the curves of Art Deco, the colors of the beach at sunset, the shifting line where waves meet the sand,” says firm cofounder Rebecca Rudolph. “The [convention] center begot dining enhancements, and now hotels are the last part of our hard work on the brand,” Spyridon adds.
Nowhere is the hotel boom more apparent than on Fourth Street, where a quartet of adaptive-reuse properties just two blocks from downtown’s celebrated row of honky tonk bars will be unveiled in the coming months. The 224-key Noelle, from operator Makeready and parent company Rockbridge, and part of Marriott’s Tribute Portfolio, just opened in a 1920s-era hotel and office building, where designer Nick Dryden of Nashville-based DAAD took advantage of original terrazzo floors, pink granite and green marble walls, and brass hardware. With an outlet of local coffee bar Drug Store Coffee, a lobby shop stuffed with merchandise from hometown designers and artisans, a below-ground restaurant, and a rooftop bar, the Noelle promises to bring new life to a once-thriving retail strip. “There’s a vibrant and diverse creative community here,” says Dryden, “and we wanted to incorporate those elements into the hotel.”
Just down the block in the famed Printers Alley, the 169-room Dream Nashville, crafted by New York-based Meyer Davis, will comprise four buildings: the Utopia Hotel (the notorious gambling hall, whiskey saloon, and brothel was built in 1891 and is known for its iconic stone interior); the 1867-era Climax Saloon, with a preserved steel stamp façade; and two smaller buildings. Traditional black and white tilework will complement artisan glasswork, exotic stones, wood paneling, brass details, bespoke furnishings, bold colors, and curated artwork. “It’s a playful juxtaposition between historic and modern, using form, color, and materials to craft a timeless visual and evocative experience,” explains Dream Hotel Group CEO Jay Stein.
A short walk south brings visitors to the trendy SoBro neighborhood, where, alongside the recently opened 255-room Cambria Hotel Nashville from Choice Hotels International, Marriott is making a major commitment. When the 168-room Moxy Downtown opens in late 2018, much of the design from New York firm Celano Design Studio will be recycled components from its former use as records management company Richards & Richards, including a reclaimed brick wall, updated concrete flooring, and repurposed windows. To dial into Nashville’s music roots, there will also be a live stage and a record storage library, “creating that connectivity to what Nashville is about,” says firm founder and principal Vincent Celano. In addition, Marriott is introducing the new-build Joseph Nashville, an art-centric 297-room Pizzuti-developed Luxury Collection hotel, and a new triple-branded property (the first for Marriott) with a 209-room AC Hotel by Lindsay Pope Brayfield & Associates and Design Continuum in one wing, and a combined SpringHill Suites (125 rooms) and Residence Inn in the other (136 rooms).
Nearby, the upcoming 144-key Bobby, from local development group Castlerock and part of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, is the handiwork of David Mexico Design Group, the New York firm that also crafted the closeby Westin. Retro will meet the traditional throughout, with steel, titanium, and chain details juxtaposing exotic woods, marble columns, and bronze fixtures, while a 1956 Greyhound bus is repurposed as a rooftop bar. Across the street, the 81-room Fairlane from Oliver Hospitality will offer two restaurants and a cool ’70s vibe, courtesy of New York’s Reunion Goods & Services.
In downtown Nashville, HRI Properties’ 191-room Holston House, part of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection, opened in December. New York’s Stonehill Taylor handled the interiors for this adaptive reuse of a landmarked Art Deco hotel, complete with restaurant and bar concepts from Apicii restaurant group. “The layers of the hotel got us thinking about what Nashville is and how it’s formed in people’s minds,” says principal Mike Suomi. “We like the patina and sense of craft—that stripped-down, well-executed aesthetic that you see in the music of Johnny Cash and Jack White.” Stonehill Taylor is also behind the design of the nearby upcoming 533-room new-build JW Marriott from Turnberry Associates (Miami firm Arquitectonica in collaboration with Atlanta-based SRSSA are responsible for the 33-story elliptical-shaped glass façade), infusing the spaces with blackened steel and cognac leather details as nods to the city’s history of ironwork and success in the leather goods industry.
Further afield are several highly anticipated arrivals. Near Music Row, a 540-key HKS Hospitality Group-designed Hyatt Regency is planned for 2020 as part of the $1 billion, 15-acre mixed-use development Nashville Yards. Expect the hip Gulch neighborhood to continue trending. Not far from where the Thompson opened last year, a 250-room new-build W from New York firm Rockwell Group is also promised.