2007 MFE Awards
Project of the Year: High-Rise

Construction on the Viridian high-rise condominium building in downtown Nashville, Tenn., was, to put it lightly, tight. Set on a 1/2-acre-by-1/2-acre lot, the 31-story edifice sat just 6 inches from the historic Cohen Building on one side and the Life and Casualty Tower on the other. Clearly, construction techniques demanded some serious adjustments.

“Prior to groundbreaking, we were on the 22nd floor of a building across the street looking at the site, and I was hyperventilating, trying in my mind to determine how we were going to stage it,” recalls John Rowlett, senior vice president of building firm R.J. Griffin & Co. “There was a 30-foot square parking lot behind the Presbyterian Church next to the Cohen Building, and I looked at my development team and said, ‘I know you don't own that, but we need the rights to that space to build this building.'”

Thankfully, churchgoers were happy to use a temporary lot during construction (paid for by the development team), which amazingly was completed on budget and on schedule. The resulting building redefines the Nashville skyline as much as it reinvigorates the downtown core. Using one-way post-tensioned cable-and-beam, cast-in-place concrete construction, workers used completed floors to stage labor on subsequent levels. Movement was so tight that crane balls were covered with Styrofoam and deliveries were made by appointment only in a 15-foot-wide alleyway.

“It's urban infill taken to the next level,” Rowlett says. “On a job like Viridian, with so many challenges, you put the right team together on day one, you do your homework, and you develop a plan. Then, when all hell breaks loose, you adjust your plan, and you rely on the good people that you have.”

Owners of one of Viridian's 305 condos, including 60 affordable units, are likely enjoying the blood, sweat, and tears put into luxury amenities such as a two-level cocktail lounge, art gallery, rooftop infinity pool, and fitness room with an isolation slab floor for noise reduction. Within the units, finishes include hardwood and ceramic tile floors, granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances. And leaving no mixed-use stone unturned, the ground level features a 4,000-square-foot gourmet grocery store, the first grocery of any kind to open in downtown Nashville in more than 40 years.

“Viridian is really the first of its kind in Nashville,” Rowlett says. “There is some high-density multifamily, but nothing like this. We knew before we started the job that this was going to be a trendsetter.” Indeed, only 10 new downtown condos were on the market before Viridian began construction; now 1,500 units have been built, are under construction, or in design, vying for some elbow room in Viridian's shadow.

Fast Facts

  • Builder: R.J. Griffin & Co.
  • Developer: Novare Group and Giarratana Development
  • Architect: Smallwood Reynolds Stewart Stewart and Associates
  • Opened: November 2006
  • Unit Mix: One- and two-bedrooms and penthouses
  • Prices: $130,000s to mid-$400,000s

    Judge's Verdict

    “THE VIRIDIAN IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF EFFICIENT AND IMAGINATIVE PLANNING THAT PAID OFF IN MANY WAYS. THIS CREATIVE TEAM OF DEVELOPERS AND BUILDERS HAS TAKEN AN INCREDIBLY TIGHT, SMALL INFILL SITE AND MADE IT CONTRIBUTE POSITIVELY TO THE REDEVELOPMENT OF NASHVILLE'S DOWNTOWN, WHILE GIVING BOTH MARKET-RATE AND AFFORDABLE RESIDENTS A VARIETY OF UNIT TYPES, VIEWS, AND AMENITIES.”

    —K.C. Dutton, senior associate, Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects