The Dell - Embracing the River
Building Type: Urban Plan
Location: Nashville, TN
Class: Hines Competition; University of Michigan
Advisor: Claudia Wigger
Date: Spring 2014

The Dell fosters a collaborative relationship between nature and city that maximizes community health. It creates a cohesive pedestrian-scaled neighborhood anchored by access to the Cumberland River. Maximizing public space and interaction, it frames tight-knit urban blocks with a new riverfront park and improved greenways. The Dell provides easy access to surrounding neighborhoods and downtown, but is itself the neighborhood that defines Nashville’s cultural moment. The Dell’s approach to community health is rooted in responsible urbanism. Physical activity is encouraged by a walkable, bike-friendly neighborhood core. Basic needs like groceries, as well as downtown employment opportunities, are accessible by foot and public transit. Local food systems are bolstered at all levels: food is produced in a vertical farm, purchased at the local farmers’ market, processed in artisan businesses, and consumed at local restaurants. Fruit trees spread throughout the site provide pedestrians a direct connection with healthy produce.

The Dell encourages active living and fitness through public spaces conducive to walking, biking, and other exercise. These public spaces work with natural systems to enhance resilience and environmental stewardship. A constructed wetland, earthen berm, and dry “river” channel defend against flooding. They also provide opportunities for public interaction with the waterfront. This increases enjoyment and appreciation for the health of local waterways. Green roofs enhance the aesthetic appeal of the neighborhood while reducing stress on stormwater infrastructure. Permeable pavements in parking areas, alleys, and pedestrian paths further manage runoff without impeding the flow of traffic, pedestrians, or city sanitation operations. Green roofs and high-albedo pavements also reduce Nashville’s urban heat island effect. The Dell encourages social interaction and a strong sense of community.

Access to Nashville’s waterfront and improvements to existing greenways allow for socializing, sport, or quiet reflection. A pedestrian corridor at the heart of the neighborhood emphasizes and strengthens the public realm. Mixed-use buildings and flexible retail spaces allow for small-scale private entrepreneurship. A variety of building typologies and provisions makes the community accessible across economic classes; its vitality makes it appealing across all age groups. Children grow up along the waterfront and their parents walk them along safe routes to the local school. Young adults and empty nesters enjoy the bars, restaurants, and cultural opportunities that define the urban experience. All come together to enjoy Saturdays at the farmers market and the camaraderie of a Nashville Sounds game.

The Dell’s development is feasible because of the construction of the New Nashville Ballpark, as well as surging real estate demand in other Nashville neighborhoods. Clustered residence, retail, and office opportunities build off the momentum created by the stadium and constitute the majority of first phase development. The second phase increases waterfront access and housing, while the third formalizes a pedestrian plaza to the river and key projects like an elementary school and a hotel. After completion, a cohesive community will boost real estate values, social capital, and environmental resilience.