A Window to a Park
McCabe Park Community Center in Nashville, Tenn.
By Rick Dandes
The opening of Nashville's sparkling multi-use McCabe Park Community Center, in October 2011, was the culmination of 10 years of master planning by the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Parks and Recreation, which called for the development and upgrading of the Nashville Metro Park facilities. That plan, which was approved in 2002 and revised in 2008, recommended eight new regional community centers countywide, since the Nashville metro area is a city-county government covering the city of Nashville and Davidson County. Besides the regional community centers, a number of smaller neighborhood centers would also receive upgrades.
The McCabe Community Center had been a community hub since the 1960s, but it had space limitations, and was simply at the end of its life, said Tim Netsch, the Assistant Director of the Metropolitan Board of Parks & Recreation. The master plan called for it to be replaced with a new, 26,000-square-foot facility, which would offer enhanced amenities and programs, as well as extended hours.
It was the building's orientation on the site that most challenged Hastings Architecture Associates, the Nashville-based firm that won the bid to design the $3.2 million regional center.
Chuck Ganaway, an associate with Hastings, was the project manager. "Here's what we were faced with," he said. "Metro wanted a good-sized community center with an indoor gymnasium, track, fitness center multipurpose room and game room." There is also an arts and crafts room, and a Wi-Fi lounge. Locker rooms, including a more private family locker room, staff work room and staff office provide support space for all building functions.
"The city-county also wanted space for a future indoor swimming pool," Ganaway said. "So we had to master-plan all that as part of the overall design. The other challenge was to integrate the building itself with everything that was going on around it; to integrate all these sometimes disparate elements into the overall design plan. We had to figure out how do reconcile and address all these forces."
The constraints and characteristics of this site were unique to the park system, Ganaway noted. The McCabe Center was located on a sloping hillside with large, existing trees. It was hemmed in by an existing street on one side, a historic WPA entrance to the park on the other side, which organizers did not want to touch. A third side had a playground that remained in place, and on the fourth side was an existing youth baseball field that was also not touched. The building sits on the edge of an existing residential neighborhood and a pedestrian-friendly entry is provided at the street. That was particularly important, Ganaway said.
"The community center had to be designed to accentuate the visual appeal of the park," he added, "rather than just being unobtrusive. Pedestrians on the street have clear views through the building and into the park beyond."
But there was something even more important that Netsch and his colleagues at the Parks and Recreation department wanted to create. "A more urban presence, a pedestrian presence if you will. The McCabe lies at a little commercial node in the Sylvan Park neighborhood and so we wanted to make sure that the community center set a precedent, in terms of relationships to the street and sidewalk, and was consistent both with a long-term vision for that small commercial area while at the same time being compatible with the adjacent single-family residential, mostly historic, houses.