At the terminus of Nashville’s past, present and future lies the Nashville Yards
Words by Christiana Roussel
Photos by Grand Hyatt and Emily Dorio
Primely situated on Broadway, across from the Frist Museum, there is a story and a magic to this location that deserves to be captured, bringing it forward and making it relevant once again. At the center of this nearly 18-acre project under development lies the Grand Hyatt hotel, which opened just last October. As part of the larger Nashville Yards development, the hotel sets the tone for what is to come—in hospitality, technology, and design—while paying homage to the history of this parcel of land.
Shepherding the project from a strategic design perspective is Joe Bucher (AIA) of Southwest Value Partners. The overarching vision is to create a mixed-use destination that will incorporate a variety of elements, attracting visitors as well as locals, industry titans, and eclectic individuals of all stripes. As an anchor for the site, the Grand Hyatt hotel lays the foundation for what is yet to come at the Yards which will ultimately include seven acres of privately-owned public space, an outdoor music venue, and an elevated pedestrian boulevard, much like the High Line in New York City which will run the length of the property above the park. The hotel itself operates as an urban resort with all of the amenities of a full-service luxury property. In addition to the 591-rooms and suites, the hotel has two dedicated floors of meeting spaces flooded with natural light; a 5th floor outdoor pool deck with views that stretch almost from Vanderbilt University to the Bridgestone Arena; a world-class spa with designated couples-only and VIP areas; a rooftop bar; and plenty of live entertainment, befitting the Music City.
Design elements at the hotel take their cues from the history of this site, which was once a transportation hub and rail yard, lumber yard, brick yard and stone yard (hence the moniker “Yards”). The overall feel is elegant and sophisticated but subtle enough to let visitors notice the transportation-themed details on their own terms. Texture and whimsy give way to a sensation of being someplace truly special. Repurposed railroad ties create a functional meeting point adjacent to the check-in counter, behind which oversized art represents the switch lines at a terminus. Undulating patterns in stone on a large lobby wall transport the guest on a journey, as they evoke a landscape rushing by from a club car window. A lobby alcove resembles what might be a 1920’s-era dining car or library, with cozy intimate clusters of seating. These design elements are even more understated in the guest rooms and suites which feel more like an extension of home. Wardrobe stations replace the traditional closet set-up while automated draperies and state-of-the-art lighting provide the proper glow, no matter the time of day.
Nashville has been called an “18-hour city,” acknowledging the blended fluidity of our work and social lives, all taking place inside city limits. The hotel certainly incorporates this aspect into its dining and bar offerings which total seven outposts. The Nashville Grange is a seated yet casual restaurant specializing in Tennessee to table elements intended to raise the profile of the purveyors. Hummingbird, named after a beloved train, is a coffee market featuring local roasters, Stay Golden. Solstice can be found on the 5th floor—or Lifestyle Level— where pool visitors and spa guests can dine al fresco. The rooftop bar on the 25th floor, lou/na, takes its name from the old rail line that connected Louisville to Nashville.
But perhaps the most anticipated of the hotel’s dining options is The Continental restaurant, the first hotel-based dining establishment in partnership with James Beard award-winning chef, Sean Brock. The opening of The Continental was delayed due to the pandemic, and only recently welcomed guests and locals alike. The menu marries Brock’s passion for American culinary history with the elegance of traditional hotel dining. The prix fixe dinner menu may feature a pâté en croute, oysters and caviar which beg to be savored, as if en route to a truly grand destination. Entrees like venison and Prime Rib feel indulgent yet, just right. Dessert is meant to be lingered over, wherein the word ‘degustation’ may be pondered. ‘Sumptuous’ is another word that comes to mind here. Brock has nailed it with his approach and diners will recognize that The Continental was indeed worth the wait.
Development of The Yards will continue for the foreseeable future, and plans are now set to include a full-blown restoration of the storied Union Station, immediately across Broadway from the Grand Hyatt hotel. If the developers of this area do it right—and all signs point to that being the case—there will come a time in Nashville’s future when downtown seamlessly blends into The Yards which ebbs into the Gulch. A new terminus will have been created; where trains and building materials once exchanged tracks, ideas and innovation will flow without impediment.