The Maberta falls as 3102 rises

Wednesday, July 20, 2005 at 12:00am

Say goodbye to a dear old friend.

The Maberta, a handsome vintage apartment house that proudly held court on 31st Avenue, was slated to have been demolished (along with two homes) by press time.

After 80-plus years in West End Park, the stately lady was put to rest to make room for Midtown Lofts. To be developed by Brentwood-based CODA and tastefully designed by Hastings Architecture Associates LLC, the 44-unit Midtown Lofts will provide West End Park with needed residential density.

If Ms. Maberta must go down, better her replacement be Midtown Lofts than the generic stuff built recently in West End Park.

Still, the loss is painful.

Though not as grand as the area's former Jacksonian, the brick and stone Maberta was nonetheless a classic old-school apartment house. Buffalo and Baltimore are blessed with multiple Mabertas. In contrast, Nashville clings to a precious handful, having obliterated many to make room for architectural junk.

You may never have lived in The Maberta, but you know the vibe: Laundry room? Sorry. Pool? Please. Exercise facility, spacious kitchens or Jacuzzi bathtubs? No way. Just lots of charm, enough to render the apartment complexes in Bellevue and Brentwood drab housing compounds as inviting as the residential buildings of post-World War II Warsaw.

As to CODA, the company is developing heavily in the area, having recently built both West End Lofts I and II in the shadows of The Maberta. Knowing the building's history, CODA officials say they explored the possibility of saving it but were hamstrung by harsh economic realities.

"We realize that The Maberta is a beloved vintage apartment house," says Amy Smith, CODA chief financial officer. "However, practical considerations prevented us from saving it."

Cynics might scoff, contending CODA could have spared The Maberta - had it truly wanted to.

But in fairness, CODA bought The Maberta only recently and is not responsible for allowing the building to have deteriorated so drastically. CODA is not to be condemned, as this is a company composed of sincere people who do quality work.

On a positive note, a "new Maberta" looms, as David McGowan's Regent Homes will build 3102 West End Circle only yards away.

The 3102, a smallish, three-story condominium building, will feature numerous traditional elements and should, both in appearance and function, age gracefully - unlike this writer.

Of note, McGowan and Crossroads Architecture LLC partner Chris Wyatt studied the West End Park area, taking notes on design themes. And the pair listened closely to the recommendations of Keith Covington, director of the Metro Planning Department's design studio.

"Part of our responsibility was to interlace into the new building as many of the architectural components of the neighborhood that reflected a past era," says Wyatt, who studied architecture at the University of Cincinnati, a campus loaded with eye-catching buildings.

The result is encouraging. And although 3102 will not be sited on as prominent a lot as The Maberta - nor geared toward college kids looking for cheap rent - it will clearly be a fine addition to the area.

And, for a nice touch, McGowan says a Maberta-like name is being considered.

Make it happen, Dave.

"I think there are enough classic elements [with 3102] that it will have enduring architectural value," Wyatt says.

With the enduring Maberta no more, let's hope 3102 ably fills the void.

That's the Barbizon?

If it's been some time since you've seen Midtown's Barbizon Apartments building, you'll be stunned by its physical transformation.

We're talking a facelift, tummy tuck and breast augmentation by which any aging starlet would be impressed.

Formerly tan and tired, the three-story structure at 2006 Broadway has been painted and now boldly occupies its space.

Vanderbilt Real Estate Holdings Inc. owns Barbizon and wanted an update, according to Cliff Joyner, VU director of real estate.

The entity enlisted Colour Corps' Keith Lightsey, who, with flair, chose exterior colors "grizzly gray" for the building's bulk and "cyber space" for its accents.

The result? Impressive.

Joyner says the upgrades are part of Vanderbilt's evolving effort to reinvest in its real estate holdings and to elevate "the vibrancy" of the area.

Consider the effort a success.

William Williams writes about Nashville's man-made environment. He can be contacted at wwilliams@nashvillecitypaper.com.

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