Spotlight On: Kelly Cathey, Co-Managing Director, Gensler – Nashville

Spotlight On: Kelly Cathey, Co-Managing Director, Gensler – Nashville

2022-12-07T14:22:46-05:00December 7th, 2022|Education, Nashville, Real Estate & Construction, Spotlight On|

3 min read December 2022 — Nashville’s urban landscape is undergoing a major facelift. Kelly Cathey, co-managing director of Gensler’s Nashville operations, shared her insights with Invest: as to how this ongoing change is setting the stage for innovation and sustainability to be weaved into the area’s identity.

What are your goals for truly establishing Gensler in the Nashville market? 

Gensler is very intentional about how it opens offices. It is important for us to go where our clients are. That is typically what takes us places: our clients moving there, doing business there, as well as having projects in that location before planting a flag. We had more than 90 projects in Nashville before we physically opened an office. Clients were starting to invest their business here; all our relationships were pointing to one place, and it was time to be local. One of Gensler’s mission statements is you cannot be a global firm unless you are local first. To be truly local, it is important for us to have a presence in the community. That means opening an office, getting involved in the community and hiring locally, while leveraging our global resources to make a better world through the power of design. It is critical to what we do, and it is why we’re in Nashville. 

What are some of the most significant projects currently in the pipeline?  

Everybody knows and understands Fifth + Broadway, but it does not diminish the fact that it was an incredibly transformative project for downtown. Broadway has always been Broadway; it is still thriving and its energy is amazing. Fifth + Broadway is this notable example of being able to build a place, build a multi-use development that stitches into the fabric of Nashville and feels like it has always been there while and yet still able to provide a differentiated experience to an established part of downtown Nashville. Each part of the site addresses different components of downtown. The design of the project was transformative by saying we can expand it; we can continue this energy and vibrancy of our downtown without taking away from what is already there. It was an amazing problem to solve. 

In addition to Fifth + Broadway, we have all kinds of projects going on. While we still have a number of larger mixed-use projects that we are working on,  we are also doing projects of all scales. We are working on a project for Essex Development in Germantown, a residential-hotel, boutique project. We are also working on a number of workplace projects like Bass, Berry & Sims, and Bradley. There is a lot of retail infill coming in that we are looking at as well. Those projects are always exciting because they are so “high touch”. People are coming in, using, seeing and taking experiences away from them. 

What new developments are you seeing unfolding in Nashville regarding adaptive reuse? 

Sometimes it feels like we have been reconstructing the city over the last 10 years. There are several new developments coming online that will be formidable and transformative for the city. What we are going to start to see going forward is connecting these big megaprojects into the fabric of one entire city as things grow, added to smaller, in-between spaces popping up. That is going to be a catalyst for some adaptive reuse to preserve some of the existing fabric of the city to be able to transform it and use it as connectors for all these big master plans that are happening around the city. From a sustainability perspective, an urban and city fabric perspective, it is important to consider when repositioning is the right thing to do. We are going to see a lot more of that, there are several cool assets out there that have not seen the end of their life yet. 

How is the future of work concept influencing the design of upcoming office space? 

One of our fantastic data-collecting surveys is our Gensler City Pulse survey. We poll people across various cities in the US and take the temperature of which cities are doing well, who likes living where and why. One of the things that came out of the data is people who can work remotely are most likely to move to urban centers. At the beginning of the pandemic, people were able to work remotely, they were fleeing city centers and moving to the suburbs for more space. The flexibility was great, but the lack of connectivity was a detriment. Not wanting to be in an office does not necessarily equate to wanting to be in your home. People are coming to cities because they want the ability to work in those third places. They want to be able to go into the office, meet with their group, leave and go to a coffee shop, to the park, take a couple of calls then go to the gym and then come back to the office to meet with their boss. This idea of a flexible work environment also requires proximity of spaces and activities that allow you to move freely through these changing environments. They can occur within the office space, can be built into an office as an amenity, or they can be part of that community where the office exists. People’s flights back to urban centers may not be toward the extra-large ones. That is what is filling second and third-tier cities. It is extremely easy to move about these places and get to the coffee shop, the park, cool restaurants where you are going to meet your friends. Office developers are trying to recreate that idea within the building as much as they can. They are also recognizing that you may not be able to recreate all of that, that it is important to understand the amenities that are proximate to your building, understand that community, and make your office building part of that fabric. That is really what is going to attract people back to the office. 

What comes to mind on the sustainability and technological advancements side of building design? 

The awareness and the importance of truly designing for climate responsibility is more tangible now than ever. We have made tons of advancements. I think about how LEED certification and the process of tracking and rating building performance has driven all the building codes to become increasingly stringent. it has been built into the way we can all think about building design. This idea of resiliency is thinking about the whole picture, building something that can sustain long-term changes to that place or that community over time. That has so many spokes and hubs—energy efficiency, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, carbon neutrality, to name a few. There is a renewed focus on all of that, which is incredibly important. Building something flexible that is going to stand the test of time is something essential. Reusing things that are already there is also an important focus. There is also a focus on the bigger lifecycle of all the products that we are using to build these buildings. Gensler has an enormous focus on all our work, thinking and thought leadership has a positive impact on building resiliency and sustainability. 

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