The Gulch Demonstrates What a LEED-Certified Neighborhood Looks Like

You’ve probably heard of LEED-Certified buildings, but what about an entire neighborhood?

Urban Outfitters and Lucchese Boots in Nashville

Urban Outfitters and Lucchese Boots in Nashville’s Gulch neighborhood.

The Gulch is a 60-acre neighborhood in Southeast Nashville dedicated to providing a low carbon, sustainable community area of the city. It is one of only a handful of LEED-certified neighborhoods in the U.S. and around 24 worldwide, including the Olympic Village in Beijing, China. LEED certification is based on a combination of factors, such as a smart location and linkage, neighborhood pattern and design, and green construction, technology, and innovation in design. It has been praised for its high density, mixed-use buildings, tree lined streets, and preservation and repurposing of historic buildings. For example, the Javanco/Farber building is now home to staples like Urban Outfitters and Watermark. The reuse of these buildings not only reduced the waste that would have been caused by demolition, it also reduced the materials required to build new businesses.

Sambuca Nashville Gulch

Restored historic building in Nashville’s Gulch neighborhood is now a mixed-use commercial space.

The entire area was first conceived around 2000 by MarketStreet Enterprises, a privately held real-estate investment and development firm, who are striving to combine the historic buildings of Nashville with sustainable development of the communities in the city. Since then it has become a dynamic home for community and urban living; it boasts a massive variety of restaurants (including the 404 Kitchen built inside a refurbished shipping container) and nightlife, with a diverse music scene ranging from bluegrass to jazz. It houses numerous local businesses and retail stores, including South Comm., the publishers of the Nashville Post.

The area is also known for its accessibility, not only because of its walkability, but because of its promotion of alternative transport. In 2015 they completed the 11th Avenue complete street project, a one mile stretch of road with on- and off-street bike paths alongside the pavements, and the area is connected into the ever-growing bike share network in Nashville through a local Bcycle station. The Gulch has also seen the completion of its very own stretch of greenway, which connects it to Nashville’s larger array of trails and park spaces, and as a result 58 percent of residences and businesses in the area are within a quarter-mile of a bike path or greenway trail.

Bcycle rental station in Nashville

Bcycle bicycle rental station in Nashville’s Gulch neighborhood.

There has been a concerted effort to make the Gulch green in every sense of the word, with tree planting remaining a top priority. It’s a city wide effort across the whole of Nashville, there are a number of firms dedicated to tree planting across the city and since 2002 they have held a “ReLeafing Day” for tree planting in the community. Trees help to reduce rainwater run-off and relieves strain on the city’s storm-water system, as well as helping to improve city temperatures in the summer and air quality all year round.

The entire area is testament to how city living should be designed, with walkability, sustainability, and resident-driven services. The area has evolved into somewhat of a green beacon for Nashville, embodying the sustainable projects and ideals found across the city in one concentrated blast. It could be seen as a glimpse into Nashville’s future!

Photos by Shawn Krise