Firm management

A developer/architect relationship forms on a neglected railyard

By AIA Contract Documents

The Gulch Crossing office building, which attained LEED Gold Certification, includes eight stories of Class A office space, totaling over 200,000 rentable square feet.

The 8-story Gulch Crossing in Nashville, Tennessee is more than Class A office space; it’s a key piece of a new era for Nashville’s southside and a tribute to days gone by. The building, completed in 2015, is among the first to be built along the once busy railyard in The Gulch, the first mixed-use LEED certified neighborhood in Tennessee and the South.

Designed by ESa (Earl Swensson Associates, Inc.), a nationally recognized architecture firm based in Nashville, the design celebrates the area’s railyard history through a contemporary boxcar interpretation with a modern open appeal.

The project was particularly personal for ESa because the firm planned to make the building and the neighborhood its new home. The subsequent partnership with the developer, MarketStreet Enterprises, set a foundation for a professional relationship built on common culture and contracts that today extends well beyond The Gulch.

A common language

In 2000, MarketStreet Enterprises, a privately held, full service real estate investment and development firm, began the development of the Gulch, an area of over 60 acres in the heart of downtown Nashville, with placemaking approach to public spaces. A year later in 2001, MarketStreet was designated the Master Developer of the Gulch by the city of Nashville, the only such designation in the city’s history. In 2009, The Gulch was recognized as the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) Certified green neighborhood in the South and the fourth Silver Certified neighborhood in the world.

In 2013, developer MarketStreet Enterprises had an idea for a new office building in the neighborhood and approached ESa to complete the design.

Tara Myers, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, EDAC, Principal at ESa, recalls, “At the time, we were looking to move into a new space. This seemed like a perfect fit for us. As designers, we actively work to conserve and improve the environment around us and achieve sustainable goals. We formed an incredible relationship beyond the Gulch Crossing project.”

For Myers, that relationship began with a common goal of sustainable design that was reinforced through shared risk management practices. She serves as the firm’s in-house risk manager and is a member of the AIA Documents Committee.

“As member of the committee, I’ve had the opportunity to understand and participate in the updates to AIA documents to address emerging industry trends and needs while balancing risk. At ESa, we start with these documents,” she adds.

Like many architects, engineers, and contractors, ESa doesn’t always get to choose the contract documents presented for a given project.

“Contracts can be very complex and onerous. For every proposal, we have a go / no-go process for an RFP. As risk manager, I’m looking specifically at the language. My experiences on the AIA Documents Committee help considerably, and I typically fall back on that language as it’s been well vetted by industry professionals in design, construction, law, and insurance.”

Beyond the build

For Gulch Crossing, ESa relied on a variety of AIA contracts as the starting point for not only the core/shell building, but also their own tenant buildout, including the B101-Owner/Architect agreement, as well as the A201SP-General Conditions Sustainable Project version*, C401-Architect/Consultant and A151-Owner/FF&E Vendor, plus several associated administrative G-Series forms.

Myers explains, “This is a very detail oriented and hands-on client—MarketStreet Enterprises was interested and directly involved in almost every design decision as was the owner’s representative who trained as an architect. It was not unusual for him to sketch ideas right alongside the design team. They were very open to discussions about balancing design concepts and cost.”

Once the design concept was in place, ESa worked with the developer to bring a contractor on board, and the owner selected JE Dunn Construction to build the project. Myers confirms, “We always recommend that our clients bring in the contractor as early in the design process as possible to provide constructability analysis and cost/schedule-related recommendations.”

The result was a sleek, modern office building that pays homage to the site’s railroad history including a contemporary, two-story metal “boxcar” entry lobby.  The building features over 200,000 of rentable square feet in a highly efficient building core that is virtually column-free with floor-to-ceiling glass that provides unobstructed views of the Gulch and downtown. The facility also includes a 750-space, six-level structured parking garage located above and below grade, and over 16,000 square feet of ground floor retail space along 11th Avenue South. For ESa and MarketStreet Enterprises, Gulch Crossing sets the standard for innovation and design for Class A office space. The building core was completed in 2015 as The Gulch’s first Class A office project and received LEED Gold Certification.

The two-story lobby, serving as the primary entrance and featuring 20’ structural glazing, represents this shift and celebrates the location’s history with a contemporary boxcar interpretation.

The second part of the Gulch project for ESa was the buildout of its office tenant space. ESa partnered with JE Dunn using the A101SP-Owner/Contractor-Stipulated Sum (*the Sustainable Projects version of the A101 has since retired and replaced by E204-Sustainable Projects Exhibit that can be attached to many AIA base contracts) to build out the top two floors of the office building and achieve LEED Platinum certification. The open office concept floors include a central staircase that the firm believes encourages physical activity and collaboration. ESa moved into the space in 2015.

ESa continues to work with MarketStreet Enterprises and JE Dunn on other projects and continues to rely on AIA documents to get projects started off on the right path.


About The Gulch

In 2009, The Gulch was recognized as the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) Certified green neighborhood in the South and the fourth Silver Certified neighborhood in the world. The Gulch is located on the southwest border of Nashville’s Central Business District just two blocks from Music City Center. Once the site of Nashville’s bustling railroad yard with origins dating to before the Civil War, the Gulch fell into neglect following World War II. After being sparsely occupied for nearly 50 years, MarketStreet Enterprise’s urban revitalization of the area began in the early 2000’s.. The Gulch Business Improvement District (GBID), spearheaded by MarketStreet Enterprises in 2006, focuses additional services in the area such as the Clean and Safe program for trash pickup and graffiti removal as well as additional landscaping and holiday decorations for the Gulch streetscape. Today, the Gulch is home to a dynamic mix of hospitality, local retailers, and restaurants that embody Nashville’s unique culture as well as first-to-market, national brands. The Gulch experience is further enhanced by regular art installations, events, and inventive ways to activate public spaces and build community. MarketStreet Enterprises and other development companies continue to transform the dynamic ever-changing landscape of the vibrant neighborhood.