On the heels of opening a $140 million mixed-use development in Midtown Nashville, an out-of-state developer now is focusing even more on an approaching deadline for its proposed 38-story Gulch skyscraper.

Indianapolis-based Buckingham Cos. has less than four months to obtain Metro building permits for that tower. Otherwise, the company will lose the right to build that tall on a triangle-shaped property at the intersection of Division Street and 12th Avenue South — one entrance into a urban neighborhood already boasting about 1,800 apartments and condos, a pair of office buildings, a newly opened luxury hotel and roughly 50 bars, restaurants, shops and entertainment venues. The scale, price tag and skyline-changing magnitude of Buckingham's proposal, and that quickly approaching deadline, makes this a project to watch amid Nashville's frenzy of construction.

The would-be skyscraper seized the spotlight two years ago, when Buckingham revealed plans for a building anywhere from 10 to 18 stories taller than what the developer could build under the property's existing zoning. The request became another contentious chapter in the growing pains many city residents are experiencing during Nashville's development boom.

The homeowners association at the neighboring Terrazzo mid-rise condo building provided the primary source of opposition to the design, which they said would block views and cast shadows on their building's swimming pools. Buckingham countered with sunlight studies arguing that a more slender building, at 450 to 475 feet tall, reduced the impact of shadows compared with the shorter, boxier buildings permitted by the property's zoning. In negotiations, Buckingham agreed to 12 conditions and modifications, and in exchange, the Terrazzo association did not oppose the request for extra height [some residents of the Icon in the Gulch building also voiced similar complaints].

The Metro Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved an exemption for Buckingham on Oct. 15, 2015 — and the proposed project has been silent since then. Per Metro rules, Buckingham would need to receive a building permit by Oct. 15 of this year to preserve the right to build 38 stories. As of Thursday, Buckingham had not requested the necessary permits, according to Metro records. After Oct. 15, Buckingham would be confined to the property's existing zoning, which allows at least a 20-story building. Per Metro code, several bonus stories can be granted for attributes such as underground parking, public parking and earning LEED-certified status.

Nashville's population continues to surge, helping sustain a supply of potential renters of the 250 to 300 multifamily units Buckingham wants to create. The company owns the land, which puts them solely in control of its future. Yet there's also a lot that raises the degree of difficulty: the site is cramped and oddly-shaped (and not even a half-acre of land); a record number of apartments are opening in Nashville and many other projects lurk in the pipeline; and the costs of skilled laborers and construction materials keep skyrocketing — expenses that grow even more the taller a building becomes.

Buckingham just opened its Aertson Midtown development, a 17-story building that combines 350 apartments, a 180-room Kimpton hotel and 35,000 square feet of retail space. The occasion gave me the chance to catch up with Scott Travis, the company's senior vice president of development, to ask about the Gulch tower.

"We've not pulled the trigger. We're cautiously watching the market. ... Supply has met demand in most cases, but there are a lot of projects still not open yet," Travis said. "If the zoning approval expires, we'll re-evaluate what we'll do. We understand that limitation exists, but that won't make us do a project that we aren't ready to do."

"We see Nashville as a place we want to develop for the long haul," Travis said. "We're not in a sprint."

Should the 38-story approval expire, Buckingham could seek such permission again, said Bill Herbert, the city's zoning administrator. Buckingham would go through a different process, as Metro Council enacted legislation two years ago that shifted the ability to grant such height exemptions from the Board of Zoning Appeals to the Planning Commission. Herbert said his office would coordinate with planning to determine the vetting process, should Buckingham again seek the exemption.