Hey Nashville: We Have More Cranes than New York City (and Other Cities, too)

Nashville started the year with more cranes in the skyline than Austin, Denver, San Francisco and even New York City — another indicator of just how much our high-octane blitz of construction has revved up.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 2.56.56 PMThat's the upshot from a newly issued report by the firm Rider Levett Bucknall, a real estate and construction consultant that twice a year tallies construction cranes around the world. We've taken their North American map, seen below, and added the 28 tower cranes I counted in Nashville this week. Those include office towers and hotels in SoBro, a pair at the Southern Land Co. mixed-use project in Green Hills, and one very, very tall one building Tony Giarratana's 505 apartment skyscraper on Church Street. (That daring crane operator now sits 490 feet above street level; that crane will soon grow another 100 feet). As our Crane Watch development mapshows, more of those right-angled cranes are coming.

Skanska USA, which is building a 33-story JW Marriott hotel in SoBro, erected its third tower crane on-site Jan. 26. Each crane costs about $60,000 a month, between the monthly rental fee and paying the operator, said Dennis Georgatos, a vice president at Skanska. The construction frenzy in Nashville these days has made tower cranes harder to obtain.

"It's definitely a process where you have to know six months out that you'll need it," Georgatos told me. "I'd easily say we will spend over $3 million on the JW site, just in cranes — renting them, setting them up, operating them and tearing them down."

A disclaimer: The intent of this story is just a fun way to gauge Nashville's growth compared to other parts of the country. It is as apples-to-apples of a comparison as I can make with the Rider Levett Bucknall report (while their data is newly released, they did their counting in November, while my count is from earlier this month).

It should be noted that this is just a general indicator of construction activity. In other words, all cranes are not equal: An office tower, for instance, contains many more people than an apartment tower. I counted four sites in Nashville where two tower cranes are present. The JW Marriott site now has three, and there are four on the campus of Vanderbilt University.

We're only counting stationary cranes that stay fixed in the same place. These are the kind that look like an upside-down L, with a boom arm parallel to the ground.

These counts do not include mobile cranes that move around a construction site on rolling tracks (the arms of those cranes are angled and point toward the sky). There are a number of these active in Nashville. There's four of them at just one site, the Capitol View mixed-use development at 1100 Charlotte Ave.

This article originally appears in the Nashville Business Journal.