Sunday, January 09, 2011

Slashed down to just enough of a green roof for symbolic sustainability at the Music City Center

Naked Eyes lyrics come to mind when seeing the original green promises:
"You make me promises promises you knew you'd never keep."
Back in early 2009, when convention center construction boosters tried to convince Nashville that Music City Center would be good for everyone, they showcased a huge green roof to lure sustainability advocates into the fold. Part of their campaign was to float some ambitious--some might call them idealistic--claims that were doubted by those of us jaded by past pie-in-the-sky developer concepts: "the roof will be green with colorful tiered plantings featured across most of its surface as requested by Nashvillians". We understood that part about being requested by the local community as the biggest strike against its chances.

Our suspicions were confirmed almost a year later when Mayor Karl Dean defended Music City Center construction against critical analysis during the recession by indicating that the green roof had been an optional feature all along. Too bad the marketing wizards who airbrushed that inspirational video promoting Music City Center neglected to tell us that those tiered plantings requested by Nashvillians were in fact not as integral to the project as they claimed. Sometimes the buyers' remorse is caused by the wiliness of the sellers.

Seems more than 28%
To no huge surprise, the Tennessean announced today the constriction of the "green roof" to just 28% of Downtown's new big box. Note that there are no sketches of the constricted green roof at the newspaper, which would be a lot less inspiring that the original sketches from 2009. The project's primary architect, TVS Design still seems to have the original green roof displayed on their website, which seems like false advertising if only 28% of the roof is projected at this point to be green. And the question remains: will the green shrink even more with rising costs over time?

The boosters marketed this facility with appeals to the boldness of Nashville's current convention center. But the Music City Center seems to be amounting to a conventional center with sustainable aspects more symbol than substance. Many of have been warning that the more progressive aspects of this build would be first to fall away. For such prescient realism before the project was approved, critics were labeled as "negative" by boosters. If past patterns hold, when and if critics start lambasting the unrealized benefits of this project, they will be labelled as "unrealistic" even as they were not on the side last to rely on realism.

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