Checking in on the Neuhoff adaptive reuse project

March 8, 2023

Massive project, historical significance, much-anticipated revitalization of a once downtrodden neighborhood… all sum up the Neuhoff adaptive reuse development project in a nutshell. Neuhoff encompasses four phases of construction over a 14-acre site overlooking the Cumberland River in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood. Blocks one and two of this project, set to be complete in the second quarter of 2023, will house a brewery, retail, and a 15-story office tower. The third and fourth blocks that are slated for completion in late 2024, will feature luxury residential living spaces. The project’s developer, New City Properties, is aiming to celebrate the building’s 100-year history by preserving much of its original structure. Yet, by adding state-of-the-art technology systems that will elevate the end user’s experience and bring the space up to current high-end standards, this built environment will be the epitome of old meets new.

“The reinvention of Neuhoff is a welcome contribution to our city,” said Aptitude East Region Operations Director John Cooper. “As a long-time Nashville resident, I’m proud to be a part of a development that takes pride in something historic yet is adding modern elements to create a space where people can work, live, and play with ease while that appreciation for the past is still evident throughout.”

Reinventing the Neuhoff site to include future-ready technology and systems that are seamlessly connected requires foresight and planning. As with any building that is truly smart, technology systems cannot be an afterthought. That said, Aptitude is working on site daily to coordinate the integration and installation of the project’s technology package. This includes working with the JE Dunn teams for each block and multiple trade partners to ensure that the owner’s connectivity goals are met and delivered on time and within budget.

Many hands don’t always make light work

As technology integrator, Aptitude is coordinating several systems: network infrastructure, closed circuit television (CCTV), three access control systems, area of refuge communications, emergency responder radio communication system (ERRCS), and fire alarm. With multiple blocks and multiple crews and trade partners, Aptitude Superintendent Joe Woodard said one of the biggest challenges of the project is keeping up with communication and coordination among separate groups.

“Each block is essentially a different job, so that requires keeping up with installation schedules and coordination pieces for each one, and a lot of times they schedule meetings at the same time, and we have to adapt to the different ways each job team does things, and the designs for each block vary somewhat,” Woodard said. “We have a good grasp on things now and have good relationships in place with each of the teams.”

Jeff Brown, Aptitude Project Manager, works closely with Woodard to oversee the Neuhoff project. He agrees that adapting to each job team’s processes has at times required juggling different file structures, expectations, and personalities, but says that the project has also been rewarding.

“Even though Neuhoff is thought of as one job, each block has its own team, and each block has separate design specifications,” said Brown. “It can be a lot to coordinate, but our experiences coming up with new solutions and forming some good partnerships will benefit future projects.”

Creative problem solving to overcome challenges

One of the challenges that often occurs on job sites is that lags in procuring equipment can interrupt timelines. This can lead to a domino effect of multiple disruptions in the flow of work and planned schedules. Neuhoff’s technology scope was not immune to procurement challenges. Yet, the Aptitude team was able to avert timeline problems and a potential ripple effect with a unique solution.

“It’s not for lack of trying on the trade partner’s part, but something we experienced here and have seen on many jobs is that procurement delays can stall the schedule and then we would be in the base team’s critical path causing more issues,” said Brown.

When procurement delays were going to derail network infrastructure installation, Brown, Woodard, and their team settled on a unique solution: install a temporary network. They determined that by using short-term materials they could install a network that would mimic the infrastructure design. When the permanent, enterprise level equipment arrives, the trade partner will be able to easily replace the temporary network with little to no rework.

Another opportunity for the Aptitude team to think outside the box came up when installing the emergency responder radio communication system. ERRCS tends to be an issue on many jobs as a result of not designing a floorplan to meet the required set up to support the ERRCS, said Brown. An industry standard is to use cable that meets a fire survivability standard of two hours. But if the floorplan is not conducive to keeping ERRCS pathways within two-hour rated cable, it can require the added cost of either purchasing unexpected equipment or going back to the architect to request telecom room location redesign.

“The issue comes out of design,” said Brown. “When it’s designed, they don’t necessarily design pathways for the system. When you go vertical in a building, it has to be in what they call a riser. The riser cable has to be in a two-hour space all the way up. The way it is typically solved best is if we can go through electrical rooms that are stacked. But this is not usually thought of ahead of time. The telecom rooms were not two-hour rated, so there would have been a huge expense to either adjust the telecom rooms or purchase more expensive equipment.”

Woodard, Brown, and their team designed an outside-the-box solution that involved reestablishing an alternative pathway by installing conduit through electrical rooms, mechanical rooms, and any way possible to reach the roof while keeping within the two-hour rated spaces. This required some finagling, but it allowed them to avoid costly alternatives while meeting ERRCS installation standards.

Anticipating the finish line

The final delivery of the Neuhoff project will be late 2024. In the meantime, the Aptitude team is working to make sure every technology system on site meets or exceeds expectations, and they’re anticipating the day they can appreciate what will be a welcome reinvention of a historic property. For this massive project with many parties involved, Joe believes that the collaboration required has been both the challenge and the reward.

“We have built some good relationships and connected with trade partners we will work with again, and it’s been great to be a part of something that will benefit this community,” said Woodard. “It was not long ago that this area was not a safe area, but now we’re extending Nashville further out and improving this part of the community. I think this will become a very desirable area for people to live and work in.”