Protecting The Bluebird Cafe’s Nest: How Firm Building a Nearby 22-Story Tower is Working with the Famed Cafe

Oct 23, 2023

This article originally appeared in the Nashville Business Journal.

A 22-story tower is quickly rising in Green Hills next to Nashville’s famed Bluebird Cafe.

Last year, Nashville-based Hoar Construction broke ground on Hillsboro Town Center, a 265-unit mixed-use development — one of the few projects of this scale in the Green Hills neighborhood.

To prepare for construction of the high-rise, three buildings had to be demolished, one of which was separated by a foot from the long-standing Bluebird Cafe.

The Bluebird Cafe has been operating in Green Hills since 1982. The legendary music venue has attracted major songwriters and artists over the years and has become well-known as the place where Taylor Swift was discovered.

“Bluebird was extremely nervous about demolition and then blasting when we first started it… There were certainly some concerns just because they’ve operated in the same fashion for 40 years. Now, all of a sudden, you’ve got a building being demoed right next to them,” Wheeler Jones, project manager at Hoar Construction, told the Business Journal.

More than 70,000 people visit the listening room each year. The cafe hosts nightly events including open mic nights, writers nights and concerts.

“From the very first time I was on this project, before we broke ground, it was a huge focus to try to engage Bluebird and make them feel comfortable with our team, keep them informed on what we’re doing on a daily basis, especially when it came to demo, what are our needs and methods of actually performing that, so that they are comfortable with it,” Jones said.

When Hoar Construction began work on the 565,000-square-foot mixed-use project, the construction team was meeting with team members at The Bluebird Cafe every Friday. Nearly halfway through the construction process, the two teams continue to meet every other week.

“The meetings are essentially touching base on deliveries, since there’s an alley that runs behind the job where they receive their deliveries, and making sure we’re not messing them up in that regard. Also, to the best of our ability, coordinating construction activities around their event schedule,” Jones said.

Wheeler has been involved in construction projects where his team has worked with nearby tenants, but he cannot recall a time where he has collaborated with a neighboring tenant so closely, calling the situation an “anomaly.”

The project’s proximity to The Bluebird was not the only challenge in the construction process.

“We build a lot downtown and thought ‘Hey, we can build in Green Hills, no problem.’ But there are certain nuances to being right next to a neighborhood, not only The Bluebird, that have presented some challenges,” Jones said.

The construction team has made changes to their usual construction routines to accommodate nearby residents such as only pouring concrete in the afternoon rather than at night.

“The logistics of working in Green Hills are a little challenging, especially when our only source of really feeding materials to the project is through an alley that The Bluebird uses… Hillsboro Pike is an extremely busy road, and you’re not going to get a lane closure there. Those type of things are a little more technical with the city in this area, but we’ve been able to work through it,” Jones said.

Houston-based Transwestern Development Co. is leading development of the Green Hills tower which is expected to be complete by the end of 2024.

Green Hills is one of Nashville’s most affluent neighborhoods and is known for its array of high-end retail brands, boutiques and office complexes.

Once complete, Hillsboro Town Center will be one of the tallest buildings in the neighborhood. Integrating with the existing neighborhood and The Bluebird Cafe are one of the top priorities for the development, according to Jones.

“Brookside was very intentional and still are about trying to tie the project in with The Bluebird. Once we get out of their hair, there will be easy access for all the tenants of the building to go to Bluebird on a daily basis,” Jones said. “We’ve been trying to navigate how to keep not just The Bluebird happy, but everybody else happy as well.”

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