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Plans for new $160 million Tennessee State Museum detailed

April 27th, 2016 | by Emmett Gienapp | Times Free Press

After operating for 35 years out of the basement of a downtown building in Nashville, the Tennessee State Museum will finally be transitioning several blocks away into a shiny, spacious home on the Bicentennial Mall, a new home with a price tag of $160 million.

Last year, Gov. Bill Haslam proposed and the Tennessee General Assembly approved a $120 million state appropriation for the construction of a new facility, and Haslam pledged to spearhead an effort to raise an additional $40 million through private investment this year.

Now curators, architects and consultants are eagerly planning the next steps, working from the ground up on a facility designed specifically for the eclectic collections of the museum. When the last piece of stone is laid and the doors open in late 2018, the project's leaders expect attendance to double from the 115,000 annual visitors the museum welcomes every year.

Emily Reynolds, a consultant from Kaegi Resources in Nashville, welcomed the development, saying, "We're past due time to bring this great museum into a free-standing, contemporary space of its own."

On Tuesday, Chattanooga residents were invited to a presentation at Chattanooga State to get a first-hand look at the designs of the building as part of the design team's statewide unveiling in several cities throughout Tennessee. Representatives from the museum and design firms tasked with imagining the space showed renderings of the building and explained what visitors can expect to experience when they come.

Limestone pillars, white oak beams and high glass walls will be featured prominently around the 137,000-square-foot building, which will also feature a 250-seat digital learning center, a children's educational suite, and a grand entrance hall that could serve as an event space. And that's just the bottom floor.

The second floor will house the lion's share of the museum's collections, which range in subject matter from a set of mastodon bones to Civil War battle flags. As it is designed now, museum-goers will be able to take a walk through the history of Tennessee like never before, moving from the geological formation of the area thousands of years ago to the first contact between indigenous Americans and Europeans up to the present day.

Michael Murdock, an architect who helped design the building, said, "Our biggest charge in the design of this building was to make it a stately building."

"The museum is not just presenting history, it's presenting art."

Those who attended the presentation applauded the design, saying it was beautiful.

"It's a useful addition to the Tennessee Bicentennial Mall. It's a long mall with a good view of the capitol," Dr. Gary McDonald, a mechanical engineering professor at UTC, said.

His wife, Shirley, agreed, saying it's a worthwhile investment on the part of the state.

"It's a nice thing for the state. Something the people of the state will be proud of," she said.

According to the museum's website, the state General Assembly created a museum in 1937 to house World War I mementos among other collections from the state and located that museum in the lower level of the war memorial building until it was moved to its current location, the James K. Polk Center, in 1981.

April groundbreaking set for Tennessee State Museum

From The Tennessean | Joey Garrison

State officials received approval Tuesday from Metro Nashville government for the conceptual design of a long-discussed new Tennessee State Museum, putting the project on course for an April 6 groundbreaking.

If all goes according to plan, the new state museum in North Nashville will open in 2018 as Republican Gov. Bill Haslam finishes his final year in office.

The Metro Development and Housing Agency’s Design Review Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the conceptual design of the facility — even though state officials still haven’t presented the Metro panel its elevation plans for the Jefferson Street and Rosa Parks Boulevard sides of the structure. The intent is to submit those details in the coming months.

Tuesday’s vote came after Nashville’s Metro Council two weeks ago approved an amended land lease between Metro and state that calls for the demolition of the two northern sheds at the adjacent Nashville Farmers’ Market, which sits on state-owned property. Their removal will allow the state to build a 160-space surface parking lot to accommodate activity at the museum.

Project leaders have also formally requested for a grading permit with Metro Public Works that would allow work on the site to begin.

The state museum, cleared by the state legislature last year, is expected to cost $160 million, with $120 million coming from state dollars and $40 million from private funds raised by Haslam and other supporters of the museum.

Sheila Dial-Barton, principal of Nashville-based EOA Architects, on Tuesday presented designs plans for a 137,000-square-foot museum that will include 49,000 square feet of exhibit space, as well as education space and an auditorium. The 50-foot tall building is designed to be around for the next century.

“The goal of the governor for this project is to be a 100-year-old building,” Dial-Barton said, adding that the building will be composed of 100-year materials such as limestone, granite, marble and bronze.

The south entrance of the museum is considered the building’s primary entrance, and it could include outdoor green space and an outdoor dining area that would be shared by the farmers market. State officials are discussing placing the unused Tennessee Fox Trot Carousel on the east side of the building, though it would require funding to begin operating again.

Architects for the project must still address two components of the building with MDHA’s Design Review Committee.

One is the western edge of the facility on Rosa Parks Boulevard that is to include ramps for bus arrivals. The other is the northern side, which will sit 245 feet from Jefferson Street. The plan calls for green space between the building and Jefferson Street with a potential for outdoor sculptures. This area has also been reserved for future expansion.

As a result, this side of the museum will not directly touch Jefferson Street, which has seen increasing development on the Germantown side of the corridor.

At Tuesday’s meeting, MDHA design review committee member Michael Owens said he still needs to see the design of the building on the north side, noting that it has not been made public.

“All the other sides look wonderful, but I haven’t seen anything for the north side."

Metro Councilman Freddie O’Connell, whose district includes the area, said it might take “a period of years” before the Jefferson Street-Rosa Parks Boulevard corner is activated by the museum. He said he hopes the public art on that side would “celebrate the intersection.”

“I’m always looking for great projects,” he said. “In this case, the state is making a $160 million investment in Nashville at that location, and my hope is that it appropriately incorporates the Jefferson Street corridor and fits the context of the urban environment on which this is being situated.”

In other business Tuesday, the MDHA’s Design Review Committee approved the conceptual plans for a new 16-story, mixed-use project in the Gulch neighborhood that is to include a 250-unit luxury W Hotels & Resorts and a 200-unit residential tower.

The project, proposed by Nashville-based Corner Partnership LLC and Magellan Development Group of Chicago, is planned for a 1.29-acre site that was previously planned for a project called Griffin Plaza.

Despite the approval, MDHA officials have asked project leaders to review three separate design modifications, including the entranceway for vehicles on 12th Avenue South.

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Compass Partners, LLC has been certified as a Small Business Enterprise (SBE) as defined in T.C.A. 12-3-801 et. seq. (State of Tennessee) as well as an SBE certification by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County and MDHA.