Continual challenges can’t stop the Element hotel project

Crain worker at construction site

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Neither delayed materials, workers out with the virus or a Christmas Day bombing could stop construction on Element Nashville Vanderbilt West End hotel.

There was a domino effect of continual challenges while Crain Construction was building the 175-room, 6-story hotel at oneC1TY. So, our team adapted and changed the construction process.

A LEED-certified hotel with ground-floor retail space, Element is located on a 1.4-acre brownfield site where a lumber yard once stood. Crain Construction crews are accustomed to working on tight sites and this one bumps up against 28th Avenue, which provides the only street access.

Faced with logistical constraints, the project team coordinated carefully with the businesses, residents and special events that are part of the vibrant oneC1TY community.

Site work included drilling 84 caissons down to solid rock, some 8-20 feet, to stabilize the soil. During the process, crews uncovered railroad ties from old train tracks buried six to seven feet underground.

The hotel is five floors of prefabricated stick framing on a concrete podium that bears on caissons. Anticipating price increases, Crain Construction purchased wood early, saving the client thousands of dollars. Prefabricated walls shaved a month off installation.

As the project was coming out of the ground COVID-19 arrived. Workers got sick, and factories closed, causing a multitude of material delays. The team kept the project moving by installing materials as they arrived.

“Whatever we could get first, we started on it even though it wasn’t in the typical order we would build,” said Chad Thomas, Crain Construction project manager. “We had seven different panel profiles, all coming from different factories and much of them were delayed.”

Paint coming from Italy was delayed so wood panels to be hand painted in Nashville were put in later instead of in the normal order. Pavers and roofing were already installed so swing stages were used along the 28th Avenue side while working on the exterior walls instead of the usual scaffolding and lifts.

The coronavirus slowed permitting and then the Christmas Day bombing kept inspectors busy reviewing buildings and elevators damaged on Second Avenue. To help speed the client approval process, Metro inspections were videotaped and sent to the client so they wouldn’t have to be onsite during the coronavirus.

“With the coronavirus, material delays and the Christmas Day bombing, it’s been the most challenging project I’ve had in 20 years,” said Thomas. “But the owners are happy, the building looks great, and guests are booking rooms.”

Element Nashville Vanderbilt West End is operated by Aimbridge Hospitality. Atlanta-based Noble Investment Group is the developer and Niles Bolton Associates, also headquartered in Atlanta, are the architects for the project.

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