NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s a construction project that puts the Cumberland River front and center against a backdrop of historic significance.

In the eastern section of Germantown, located at 1308 Adams Street and the 14 acres surrounding, you’ll find a bustling construction site. But beyond the barriers and the noise of new construction is a story about more than what meets the eye.

“For me, it’s a story about falling in love with the building,” said Jim Irwin, President of New City, LLC.

Like many love stories, the Atlanta-based developer wasn’t looking for a new project in Nashville when the brick beauty stole his heart. Experienced in restoring historic properties, Irwin was invited to look at the old Neuhoff meat packing plant.

“So, I crawl through the building. I came back out and then the owners asked, you know, ‘so what do you think? Is it worth saving?'” Irwin explained. “And I said, ‘oh my gosh, of course, this is an unbelievable place.’ It’s got to be saved, whatever you do. And they said, you know, ‘we’ve met with over 200 potential buyers of the property and you’re the first one that has said that.'”

That desire to preserve was important to the family as the Germantown neighborhood is named as a nod to the plant’s original owner Henry Neuhoff who employed German immigrants in the early 1900s. Now, Irwin is working to blend history with a hip mix-use space that will also feature residential, office space, shops, restaurants and underground parking.

“It’s impossible to recreate 100 years of patina, but it’s really just being painstakingly careful running around every day with the contractor saying, don’t fix that too much! Keep it. Keep it in place!” Irwin said.

New City partnered with New York-based S9 Architects to reimagine the waterfront development.

“Another highly underutilized resource that Nashville has, is this amazing river that just sort of runs straight through the heart of the city,” explained Irwin.

So they extended the project to include the Cumberland River.

“I’d seen a wonderful picture of a project in Berlin, Germany, where they had built a pool inside the hole of an old barge right out in the river,” Irwin recalled. “And I said, ‘well, gosh, we could do that here.'”

He hopes reinventing this area of the riverfront will allow others to see the magic that caught his eye.

“And also tell powerful stories about saving buildings,” Irwin added, “and how interesting they can be.”

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The first phase of the project, which includes everything east of Adams Street, will open at the end of this year.