boom FA L L 2 0 1 8
S TA R T S M A L L
Tactical urbanism pioneer on changing our streets
T R A N S I T TA L K
What should come after the failed referendum?
A PA R T M E N T PULSE
Did Nashvilleâ€™s market peak this summer?
IMPROVE Looking at hot spots and districts that soon could be
ADDING AFFORDABILITY ThE LAUNch oF A coMMUNITy LANd TRUST bRINgS SoME hoPE To h o U S I N g A dvo c AT E S
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Developing Office Space In Nashville for 35 Years
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Nashville Yards will vary in scale, spaces, street-level aesthetics
Affordable housing advocates anticipate creation of a community land trust
Stakeholders chart plans for Charlotte Pike corridor
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Before biophilic design became the term of the moment, we were already designing human-centric spaces that connected people with nature. Nature acts as a calming influence to lower stress levels. Improve productivity. Enhance learning. And increase recovery rates in a healthcare setting. Through design, we can blur the boundaries between the outdoors and the indoors. Liberally infuse natural light. Use natural and sustainable materials in natural colors. Create focus areas and settings with green plants. Healthy design that evokes nature is just good design. For corporate offices, healthcare, education, hospitality, senior living, communities and the arts.
TOP: Viridian Lobby Renovation BOTTOM: 8 C1TY BLVD Medical Office Building
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u o b A l l A s â€™ t I
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48 PUZZLE PIECES
Four SoBro nodes unfold — but will connectivity follow?
07 TOKENIZING PROPERTY Local duo looks to launch CRE fund built on blockchain
08 LIVING TINY
David Latimer modifies marketing of his small home company
09 NORTH SIDE FOCUS
Titus Real Estate’s D.J. Wootson targets community needs
12 DATA BANK
A look at some key reference points and trends
16 LEADING THE WAY
Lendlease’s Gulch digs combine spaciousness, smarts, efficiency
19 A NEW SPACE AGE
Residents, developers increasingly agree on need for good public spaces
22 A CAPITOL CONNECTION
Centric Architecture’s Gina Emmanuel
Church Street tower plan elevates attention on connector street
23 DOWN BY THE RIVER
Rowing advocates edge closer to boathouse below RMH
24 TACTICAL URBANISM Mike Lydon talks about what Memphis can teach Nashville
40 RESPECT YOUR ELDERS As local housing advocates build a community land trust, we look at established programs nationwide
42 PLANNING POSITIVELY Lucy Kempf eyes improvements to city’s built form, function
43 INCENTIVES REVISITED Economist says to focus more on employment-population ratio
44 CODE OF CONDUCT
Developers struggle with Metro as city’s growth yields unwieldy system
51 MAKING A CONNECTION Connecting Capitol View and Nashville Yards is a key
52 JUNCTION CONNECTION Eighth and Division intersection primed to fuse SoBro, The Gulch
54 FAIRGROUNDS FATE Reinvention of south side site moves cautiously forward
58 FAST TRANSITION
The Nations rapidly changes — with no end in sight
60 A NATURAL EVOLUTION I-65 interchange at Buckner Road will spur Spring Hill growth
62 DEFEAT WITH VALUE
Failed Let’s Move Nashville effort could yield transit progress
28 BUILDING ON GOOD BONES
64 BACK TO BASICS
30 ADDING AN EDGE
65 WHAT NEXT?
UT students envision MetroCenter’s next evolution
Pondering the next phase of Lower Broad’s pedestrian evolution
31 FOR LEASE
Retail space pro talks supply/ demand, NNN rents, shopping malls
32 MARKET EVOLUTION Tracking a summer’s worth of apartment owners’ moves
The short-term improvements nMotion envisioned offer reminder
Nashvillians of note opine on key elements needed for a future transit plan
68 THE BIG QUESTION
Did you pick up on the change in tone?
34 TRENDING VIA DESIGN Five multifamily interior designs show the market still seeks luxury touches, shared spaces
spring 2018 | NASHVILLEpOsT.COM
DANIEL MEIGS (TOP), ERIC ENGLAND (BOTTOM)
8/30/18 11:43 AM
Editor Geert De Lombaerde Managing Editor William Williams Contributing Editor Nancy Floyd Contributing WritErs Lena Anthony, Linda Bryant, Stephen Elliott, Benjamin Krapohl, Bill Lewis
art dirECtor Christie Passarello staFF PhotograPhErs Eric England, Daniel Meigs
ProduCtion Coordinator Matt Bach graPhiC dEsignErs Abbie Leali, Mary Louise Meadors
PublishEr Amy Mularski advErtising dirECtor Daniel Williams businEss dEvEloPMEnt dirECtors Heather Cantrell Mullins, Jennifer Trsinar aCCount EXECutivEs Maggie Bond, Rachel Dean, Robin Dillon, Michael Jezewski, Carla Mathis, Mike Smith, Stevan Steinhart, Keith Wright salEs oPErations ManagEr Chelon Hill Hasty aCCount ManagErs Rachel Hellewell, Gary Minnis
EvEnts dirECtor Lynsie Shackelford ProMotions ManagEr Olivia Moye
subsCriPtion ManagEr Gary Minnis CirCulation ManagEr Casey Sanders
PrEsidEnt Frank Daniels III ChiEF FinanCial oFFiCEr Todd Patton CrEativE dirECtor Heather Pierce it dirECtor John Schaeffer sPECial ProjECts Coordinator Susan Torregrossa
FW Publishing, LLC Owners Bill Freeman and Jimmy Webb
210 12TH AVE. S., SUITE 100 NASHVILLE, TN 37203 WWW.NASHVILLEPOST.COM
LOOKING AHEAD Since we launched our quarterly magazine series in 2013, an issue devoted to the growth and development of Nashville has been an anchor of our calendar. We sometimes joke in the office about what we might call this issue when the next downturn comes — any tips on how to position “boom” during a recession? — and are thankful we haven’t had to confront that question yet. What we have tackled on these pages are numerous other forward-looking topics. We’ve looked at how we can make our public spaces better, at how the transit debate could/should be restarted and at areas of the city that are likely to become development hot spots because they’re located between other hot spots. Another guiding thought for us in pulling together many of the stories for this issue was the idea of making things better, not just bigger or more numerous. Our cover story spotlights a young but important effort to make a dent in our growing housing affordability problem. Other pieces look at the city’s codes department and the conventional wisdom around economic development incentives. Despite those and other growing pains, Nashville’s boom appears to have a good bit of room to run. We hope this magazine improves your understanding of where some of that growth might go and we look forward to continuing to chronicle the day-to-day progress on our website. If you’re not a digital subscriber, please consider signing up at nashvillepost.com. We look forward to hearing from you. geert de lombaerde, Editor email@example.com
A special thank you goes out to these advisory board members, who were generous with their time and helped us shape many of the concepts for this magazine. Joe Bucher, GS&P Crystal Davis, CBRE Sheila Dial-Barton, EOA Burgin Dossett, Hall Emery Gina Emmanuel, Centric Architecture Rick Helton, OakPoint Tom Hooper, JLL Bert Mathews, The Mathews Co. Thomas McDaniel, Boyle Investment Henry Menge, FifthGen
Nashville Post is published quarterly by FW Publishing, LLC. Advertising deadline for the next issue is Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. For advertising information, call Daniel Williams at 615-744-3397. For subscription information, call 615-844-9307. Copyright © 2018 FW Publishing, LLC.
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Left to right: Mark Deutschmann, Newell Anderson, Crystal Atkinson, Zach Brickner, Caroline Dean, Danielle Helling, Callie Hughes, Janice Stevens
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TECH @ WORK
TECH @WORK TOKENIZING PROPERTY Local duo looks to launch CRE fund built on blockchain
As this magazine went to press in late August, two local real estate professionals were working to finalize their new investment offering, a real estate fund focused primarily on apartments but distributed via electronic tokens based on blockchain technology. Luis del Mazo Jr. and Tanya Rodriguez, who have a combined four decades of experience in the Middle Tennessee residential and commercial real estate sector, are aiming to raise $50 million through TNCoin, which will price its tokens at par to the dollar. The duo has under contract for $16.1 million a recently renovated 68-unit apartment complex on Herman Street near Marathon Village owned by developer John Eldridge’s E3 Construction Services and has its eye on a $2 million residential property portfolio in Chattanooga. Del Mazo tells the Post that TNCoin has to clear a $5 million threshold before it will begin distributing tokens and has until Oct. 30 to get there. Foreign investors, whose minimum investments are lower than those faced by domestic investors, are a big target audience for TNCoin’s organizers. TNCoin isn’t a bitcoin investment — as the venture’s backers say in their white paper, it is “not a philosophical attempt to create a new monetary paradigm” — but rather a conventional real estate investment fund that uses distributed ledger technology to let investors securely buy and trade fractional interests in the real estate from which the fund collects income. Where crypocurrencies do enter the picture is in the possibility that large holders of bitcoin or other prominent currencies might look to diversify into so-called altcoins, which can trade in correlation with headlinegrabbing coins. Asked whether launching TNCoin at what might be the height of Nashville’s current property cycle adds to the risk of an investment already far out on the alternative spectrum, del Mazo says he sees his venture as a way of “positioning for the down market” that is likely ahead. “Acquisitions will be made at the sole discretion of fund managers,” he says. “We’ll be looking for deals at 60 to 70 percent of market value.”
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WHERE EVERY BANKING RELATIONSHIP IS
Built not Bought
David Latimer modifies marketing of his small home company BY WILLIAM WILLIAMS
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David Latimer is on a mission to make the tiny house movement a big deal. In late, 2017 the energetic CEO and founder of Nashville-based New Frontier Tiny Homes announced the debut of his company’s Alpha tiny house on HGTV’s Tiny House, Big Living. It coincided with New Frontier launching an enterprise division catering to companies looking to step outside the traditional brick-and-mortar model. Via its Escher tiny home, the New Frontier division offers brands and companies a distinctive opportunity to reach and retain customers. That update to the company’s model has proved helpful, Latimer says. “The enterprise division has taken off,” he says. “We’ve been fortunate to have a number of very high-profile companies contract us for cool projects.” One of those involves a current build, Latimer says, “for one of the top coffee companies in the world.” Of note, the home will be powered by a coffee bean biofuel. “The first of its kind,” he says, declining to identify the company but noting the project will have a national marketing effort that will launch publicly in late September.
After several events, the house will be Airbnb-affiliated and located in “an idyllic setting” in the Northeast. There is more. “We have several cool projects going right now and a few more in the works. We are in talks about a project for the NFL, as well as a new luxury mattress company that will do a year-long tour with a mobile showroom for people to see, touch and feel their bedding and mattress options,” he says. Of note, Latimer says New Frontier is open to collaborating with other tiny home manufacturing companies. “Two of the companies whose ethos, design and overall quality I respect the most are Wind River Tiny Homes (Chattanooga) and Tiny Heirloom (Portland, Oregon),” he says. “I speak regularly with some of the Wind River guys and several other big names in the tiny house world. It really is unique how even direct competitors are very open to sharing information and helping out wherever possible.” As to 2019, Latimer says New Frontier has a potentially major opportunity that would “radically change” the direction and trajectory of the company. “It would be a total game changer,” he says. “Again, I can’t share any details on this opportunity until it gets a little further along. I’m holding my breath for this one. It would be huge and a lot of fun. “In addition to this, we may have some cool television opportunities, he adds. “It’s another ‘stay tuned.’”
8/30/18 12:09 11:46 PM AM
NORTH SIDE FOCUS
Titus Real Estate’s D.J. Wootson targets community needs BY WILLIAM WILLIAMS
In September 2016, D.J. Wootson was months away from completing construction on his 1821 Jefferson building. Then, many viewed the future building as helping establish Wootson as one of Nashville’s noteworthy emerging boutique developers. Today, that expectation has been realized, as the four-story, $4 million building — backed by prominent local business people John Ingram and Bob Bernstein — is a fixture on what is likely North Nashville’s most important street.
Though 1821 Jefferson accommodates 18 market-rate apartments, a Smoothie King and Jefferson Street Café, its symbolic nature as the type of building the street will support is equally important. “The building is 100-percent leased and we now have coffee,” Wootson says. The success is noteworthy given a perceived misstep by Bernstein and Wootson, who planned to call the café The Sit-In. What the two men felt was a tribute to the women and men who bravely fought discrimination at Nashville’s lunch counters in the 1960s was
labeled as insensitive by many in the local African-American community. “Jefferson Street Café is now open for business and is the place where people will find me most days,” Wootson says. “I’m excited.” Wootson is president of Titus Young Real Estate, a company focused on North Nashville projects he anticipates being “equally balanced” between free-standing single-family homes and mixed-use buildings. “Starting out, I never really sought to be this big home builder,” he says. “It was more or less my responding to what I felt were the needs of this particular market in an effort to help it grow. As they say, ‘Retail follows rooftops.’ And this, in turn, allows me to look forward to my next mixed-use development in the North Nashville area.” And look forward he shall. “2019 will be year five for the com-
pany and probably our most productive year yet,” he says. “We have a 14-unit townhome project that just started, delivering next year. And I am working on another mixed-use project (to be located near Hadley Park) being planned for next year. I am looking at starting another eight to 10 single-family homes in the area around [Fisk, Meharry and Tennessee State] as well. We are also working to bring more retail to the area to complement the growth around the colleges and maybe even a small lounge.” In addition, Wootson is eyeing a project for three parcels located in North Nashville’s Cumberland Gardens. “I am hoping for big things here,” he says. “They are things that hopefully North Nashvillians and all of Nashville will appreciate. My goal is not that it will be one of the city’s biggest or best projects, but maybe one of its most impactful projects.”
The Nashville construction experts since 1933.
COMMERCIAL/MIXED-USE • INDUSTRIAL/WAREHOUSE • HOSPITALITY • INSTITUTIONAL • RETAIL
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THREE QUESTIONS GINA EMMANUEL CENtrIC ArCHItECturE
Gina Emmanuel serves as a principal of Rutledge Hillbased Centric Architecture, teaming with Jim Thompson, Justin Lowe and David Plummer to guide one of the city’s more forward-thinking design firms. Interested in the built environment since she was about 12, Emmanuel spent some of her early years in South Africa but has lived most of her life in Nashville. She joined Centric in 2002 after graduating with a degree in architecture from the University of Tennessee. Following are some of Emmanuel’s thoughts regarding architecture and placemaking. How has the local architecture/design industry changed since 2000? It’s a lot busier. During the downturn, a fair number of architects were out of work and many of them left the profession. I’ve heard from many local (ourselves included) and out-of-state architects how difficult it is to find and recruit talent due to that and the market demand in the region. Many of the folks in our office have come from outside of the region wanting to move here.
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With Nashville becoming more recognized nationally as a place people want to be involved in, there is an uptick in out-of-town architects’ involvement in projects. There are more collaborations with local and out-of-town architects than during any of my time in this industry. There has also been a change in leadership in many design firms, and many of them are now led in part or in whole by women, which is a change from 2000.
night lighting, alternative materials, structured parking, etc. — that you feel is noteworthy? And, on this theme, is there something of this sort that you feel is rather trendy or that is overrated? Denser living environments and smaller homes or spaces are being explored. People are looking for smaller private spaces and larger community spaces. There are many tiny homes emerging all over the U.S., and it is interesting to see that juxtaposed with the larger living spaces that are more prevalent in our region.
‘OUTDOOR SPACES IN GENERAL ARE BEING MORE INCORPORATED
What are some design elements that we are seeing on many contemporary buildings that you like and that you dislike? Outdoor spaces in general are being more incorporated into designs, which has been refreshing. Some of that you can see with the emergence of all the roof decks in town in both residential and commercial settings. Several years ago, you would struggle to find a restaurant patio, but now the choices are endless. I read an interesting article in the New York Times about A-frames houses making a comeback. I thought it was funny, but then I realized I was loving what people have been doing with them. As far as dislikes, I think I would be OK not seeing barnwood for another 10 years. What is a trend in the architecture industry — perhaps involving LEED,
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Building is booming in Nashville. So is the
need for an advisor in real estate law. GSRM
I N T O D E S I G N S .’ We have noticed staff and clientele asking what our social contributions are in the community and that having bearing on a decision in partnerships. It has made us think how the firm and individuals are involved outside the office.
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• Parking, parking and more parking. Or rather, how to reduce parking. The trend of reducing parking needs on site with programs such as rideshare, transit, locations tied to transit, etc., is coming up frequently. Some of this relates back to high land prices and denser working environments. • Modular design. The resurgence and love of old buildings with the rise of new building construction. More and more old buildings are being repurposed. • Trail-oriented development. On a trip to Atlanta, I was visiting a restaurant on the Beltline and asked the server for directions. She said, “Hop on the Beltline and take your second exit.” I loved that she was giving directions like someone should be driving, but instead it was all by foot or bike. Using these modes for transit and not just recreation is more and more in the forefront. • CLT (cross-laminated timber). This building material is becoming more prevalent. Many of our partners in the region and across the country are incorporating it on projects. I expect we will all see it more frequently as an alternate building system.
development and construction to lending and more. Plus we can counsel you on leasing,
zoning or land use issues. And should the need arise, we are here to serve as your advocate in
dispute resolution during or after development. From start to finish, GSRM is at your side to
protect your interests and achieve your goals.
Estate Planning & Probate Insolvency
Government Relations Real Estate
8/30/18 12:15 11:47 PM AM
wAgE gAPS The average hourly wage in Nashville was nearly 7 percent below the national average in the spring of last year. For most jobs in the region’s construction sector, though, that disparity was much larger — and has been growing in recent years.
Nashville Hourly Wage
Nashville Hourly Wage
middle Tennessee’s tremendous growth this decade has thrown up a lot of eye-popping numbers. on this page are a few data points that show the trends haven’t always been positive. We’re leaking construction jobs — maybe because we’re not keeping up with wage growth — multifamily construction is retrenching (albeit only to 2014 levels) and rent growth has slowed. Then again, we doubt many people will view the last of those as a negative.
Among large cities, Nashville ranks highly when it comes to the biggest year-over-year increase in home equity lines of credit originations. (Figures are for the first quarter.)
Gap vs. u.S. -14.3%
las Vegas ......................................+69% PLuMBERS
Source: ATTOM Data Solutions
ON THE wATER
Nashville doesn’t have as many waterfront homes as the national average nor do those properties command quite the valuation they do elsewhere.
Share of homes that are waterfront
Median value of waterfront home
Avg. sales premium since ‘96
N AT I O N A L
Raleigh ...........................................+56% Indianapolis ..................................+51%
Gap vs. u.S. -15.5%
The situation is similar for many the restaurant/bar sector, which has been red-hot during the city’s rapid growth spree this decade. It appears restaurant owners will need to catch up to the wage dynamic that growth has brought.
cHEfS ANd HEAd cOOkS
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
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PERMIT PULLBACK Middle Tennessee home and apartment construction activity isn’t quite as frenzied as it was a short time ago but the numbers are still impressive. Going back to the end of the last building boom, here are first-half comparisons of both the number of units permitted and the value of those units.
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 0
1.35b Source: U.S. Census Bureau
APARTMENT MARKET FORCES
The city’s condominium market has matured during this boom — and seen prices rise in a big way in recent years — as new and varied products have been built. Here is a snapshot of each June this decade.
The surge in apartment construction in Nashville’s core has brought thousands of new units to market. Based on the median two-bedroom rent, however, it appears the laws of supply and demand are working and (finally?) keeping a lid on rent growth.
Source: Greater Nashville Realtors
BUILDERS RETREATING Research compiled by a construction industry trade group shows that just eight cities across the country lost at least 1,000 jobs in the sector in the year ended in May. Nashville is in that mix.
Source: Apartment List
-2.3% Source: AGC of America
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Eighth Avenue 52, 56
Malcolm Getz 67
Robert Guth 58
Evergreen Real Estate 59
MarketStreet Enterprises 20
Robin Realty 31
Mark Hollingsworth 48, 51
Rolling Mill Hill 23, 49
Gary Gaston 20, 22, 48, 51
Marshall Crawford 37
Ron Yearwood 28
Gehl People 30
Mars Petcare 20
Rutledge Hill 49
Gina Emmanuel 10
Mary Carolyn Roberts 59, 66
Shawn Bailes 66
Glenn Wilson 61
Matthew Carney 55
Silo Bend 59
Beacon Center of Tennessee 44
Greater Nashville Regional Council 28, 62
Matt Largen 63
SoBro 31, 33, 48, 51, 52
Berry Farms 61
McEwen Northside 61
Southeast Venture 34, 52, 59, 60
Gresham Smith and Partners 46
Bill Herbert 44
Metro Department of Codes and Building Safety 44
Southwest Value Partners 46, 51
1821 Jefferson 9 Alexander Farm 60 Allen McDonald 20 Anne Dallas Dudley Boulevard 22 Baker Storey McDonald 20
Bob Mendes 37 Bob Murphy 66 Boyle Investment 61
Hawkins Partners 19
Braden Boucek 44
Broadway 24, 30, 46
Janet Miller 67
Metropolitan Housing Trust Fund Commission 37
Buckner Road 60
Jay Turner 20
Metro Public Works Department 19, 30
Capitol View 51
Jefferson Street Café 9
Michael Kenner 38, 58, 65
Carol Hudler 67
Jen Reinard 55
Michael Skipper 62
Carothers Crossing 61
Jeremy Elrod 66
Mike Lydon 24
Centennial Boulevard 58
Jim Maddox 19
MiKeN Development 38, 58, 65
Centric Architecture 10
Jimmy Granbery 57
Chad Grout 67
Joe Bucher 46
Charles Robert Bone 66
Kathleen Murphy 57
Charlie Robin 31
Kay Bowers 37
Charlotte Pike 57
Metro Planning Department 42, 57
Spring Hill 60, 63 Steve Bland 62 Street Plans Collaborative 24
T-Z Tanya Rodriguez 7 The Fairgrounds Nashville 50, 54 The Gulch 16, 20, 33, 42, 48, 51, 52 The Housing Fund 37, 40 The Nations 31, 58 The Trust Fund for Public Land 23
Nancy VanReece 19
Timothy Bartik 43
Nashville Civic Design Center 19, 22, 28, 30, 51, 65
Titus Young Real Estate 9
Kent Campbell 45
Church Street Park 22, 38
Kim Hawkins 19
Nashville Flea Market 55
Claire Johnston 16
Korean Veterans Boulevard 48
Colby Sledge 54
Larry Papel 23
Nashville Yards 46, 51
Laura Womack 55
New Frontier Tiny Homes 8
Craighead Development 59
Lee Jones 57
Craig Owensby 57
New Level Community Development Corp. 37
Darek Bell 59
Let’s Move Nashville 62
David Latimer 8
Lizabeth Theiss 23
Division Street 50, 52
Lucy Kempf 42
D.J. Wootson 9
Luis del Mazo Jr. 7
Metro Human Relations Commission 37
nMotion 64 Phil Fawcett 61
TK Davis 28 TNCoin 7 Tom Corcoran 19 Tony Giarratana 22 WeGo Public Transit 62, 64 W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research 43 Williamson Inc. 62 Wood Caldwell 59
Phil Ryan 56 Rick Graham 61
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LEADING THE WAY
Lendlease’s open office in The Gulch combines smarts, efficiency by GEERT DE LombAERDE
hen the local leaders of property management and construction giant Lendlease decided to leave their longtime home in Midtown’s Palmer Plaza, they also set out to take full advantage of their chance to overhaul their office environment. Managing Director Claire Johnston and her team worked with Hastings Architecture Associates to incorporate a range of design elements in the open plan for the 26,300-square-foot floor in 1201 Demonbreun. The collaboration was a blueprint of sorts: When it opened in late 2016, Lendlease’s Nashville outpost was the first in the Americas to showcase the company’s NextPlace
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team-based model, which features small office neighborhoods for team members as well as focus rooms and smaller private spaces for phone calls. Gone are cubicles and corner offices, which have been replaced by sunlit nooks, natural finishes and plants — including several green wall elements — and cozy corners designed to stimulate productive collaborations. Also gone are company-furnished soft drinks, chocolates and chips, which have made way for juices, fruit and milk as well as nutrition information and the occasional healthy cooking demonstration. On the technical side, Lendlease execs pursued the LEED and WELL energy efficiency certifications from the start. The office’s lowflow water fixtures have helped reduce water use by 40 percent and the emphasis on natural light and use of LEDs has cut lighting power density by 55 percent. Among other things, the design and construction teams also focused on using recycled and regionally produced materials wherever possible to lower their environmental impact. The mechanical part was easier than the human element. Johnston admits that some employees took time to settle into the open office approach, which has no assigned desks — and doesn’t want people working from the same spot all day — and
asks employees to pack up their things and store them in lockers when they leave. “It was such a big change from the way we had worked,” Johnston says. Despite months of talking, training and preparation — which included the use of Lendlease’s proprietary TeamFit Challenge online tool — “there was a big sense of the unknown” ahead of the move. One of the main struggles some people faced was not having a truly personal space in their home away from home. And old habits die hard: At times, Johnston says she feels “like a bit of a dorm mother” when she needs to nudge team members to not be sedentary and use their space to its full potential. Still, the new space has been a big success: More than 90 percent of Lendlease’s roughly 140 local employees say they are satisfied with the office’s air quality and natural light levels. And Johnston says the design has more than met her and Hastings’ goals when it comes to workflow, collaboration and efficiency. The success of the Nashville space has led Johnston and some of her colleagues to look at exporting the NextPlace philosophy to Lendlease’s field operations. They are studying how they might apply NextPlace ideas to a temporary office at a Denver-area construction site.
courtesy of lendlease
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THE NEW SPACE AGE
Residents and developers are increasingly on the same page when it comes to creating good public spaces by Geert De LombaerDe
number of our past editions of Boom have touched on topics featuring the idea of reclaiming public spaces. We’ve written about possibly capping a section of the downtown interstate loop, about the Nashville Civic Design Center’s work to convert parking spaces on popular thoroughfares, about developers in Cool Springs incorporating urban-style density and about Metro Public Works’ experiments turning four-way intersections into small-scale roundabouts.
courtesy of hawkins partners
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Some of those concepts were, still are or forever may be too ambitious for the budgets that do or don’t exist. But make no mistake: The demand is there. Many residents of Middle Tennessee want more spaces where they can escape the rush, find some space and take in a little fresh air. And they want them close by, in their neighborhoods and near their workplaces. A case in point: When planning and architecture firm Hawkins Partners was fleshing out ideas for Corcoran-Maddox’s planned redevelopment of the big Madison Square site on Gallatin Pike, it asked residents of the area what the district is missing that the new project could provide. Their top response was green space and their No. 2 desire was entertainment spaces for art and music. The plan by developers Tom Corcoran and Jim Maddox, who have owned the property for more than two decades, aims to help sate that desire with a one-acre civic plaza in the heart of what will be Madison Square on what is today surface parking. The space will be surrounded by a multitude of uses, from restaurants and stores to offices and overlooking apartment units.
“That plaza is really four sides and […] has a synergy about it that allows things to come together and collide,” Hawkins Partners Principal Kim Hawkins told a community meeting in March. “Collision is really good in a place like this. What we want is that friction of people being able to come together and see each other and have those conversations.” In all, Madison Square will feature more than five acres of green space, including a large stretch on its southern fringe. On the project’s northern edge, a planned five-story apartment building also will address the park in front of the Madison library branch, bringing more life to that green space. Nancy VanReece, District 8 Metro Council member, calls the plans for the mixed-use Madison Square in the heart of her district “a no-brainer” and says residents have become better at being able to voice their desires for good public spaces. “It’s awesome to have the community engaged in that process,” she says. “The tools are more accessible now. People can go see what others did, what a pocket park looks like. It’s easier to envision how you want your neighborhood to be.”
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In The Gulch, MarketStreet Enterprises Managing Director Jay Turner and his team this summer unveiled plans for their next building, a five-story structure that will house offices and stores — and address the main gripe of many Gulch visitors, residents and workers. (No, not the crowds at the wings mural.) Between what will be Three Thirty Three and the existing Laurel House, MarketStreet will create a pocket park featuring a wooden boardwalk, some green space and a water wall. Turner says it will be “a community focal point and a visual representation of how far The Gulch has come.” Another indicator of how much our thinking about civic spaces has evolved comes from the work of Mars Petcare, which has its U.S. headquarters in Franklin. As part of its community outreach work, the company has launched several programs in the region. One of them — powered by the fact that downtown is now home to more than 3,000 dogs — is a project with the Downtown Nashville Partnership to install more waste and water stations around downtown and creat-
ing parklets. A better public realm for four-legged friends means a better public realm for everyone. And while areas such as Madison and The Gulch — densely populated and close to or part of Nashville’s core — are obvious candidates for reclaiming public spaces, districts that don’t perfectly fit that mold are just as fertile ground for gathering spots that traditional subdivisions don’t have and can’t create. In Murfreesboro, the owners of the 77,200-square-foot Northfield Commons shopping center are taking advantage of adding a Climb Murfreesboro climbing gym to their project — part of a bigger overhaul that included renaming the center Parkside — to also envision the conversion of five adjacent acres of unusable wetlands along Sinking Creek. The team at Baker Storey McDonald Properties plans to turn that section of its property into a public park and has talked to Murfreesboro officials to have it serve as the beginning of a walk/bike trail connecting to the Middle Tennessee State University campus a little more than a mile away.
“The shopping center industry is changing very, very quickly. We’re not sure where it’s changing to but a few things that we do know is that all the stakeholders in the community have to be involved in whatever you are doing,” Allen McDonald, a partner at Baker Storey McDonald, says in a video promoting Parkside’s redevelopment. “We also know that people are looking for an experience; they’re looking for a place to have fun, to be together.” Gary Gaston, CEO of the Nashville Civic Design Center, says more developers are taking the approach of Baker Storey McDonald and creating better public spaces. Public investment alone, he says, isn’t enough. “The Parks Department has done an amazing job with limited resources of creating more park space in the city over the past decade,” Gaston says. “But now developers are seeing that they must create spaces in their developments too, and they can program those spaces to be active and vibrant. New residents are demanding this.”
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smart solutions. creative space. For innovative companies that champion creativity, value collaboration and seize transformative possibilities.
Gulch Noble Park
LITTLE PARK PROGRESS Nashville slipping on national group’s ranking
The Trust for Public Land late this summer updated its ranking of the 100 largest U.S. cities’ parks systems, putting Minneapolis and St. Paul in the first and second spots for the fourth year running. Here is a snapshot of this year’s top five and where Nashville and some of its peer cities rank. 1. Minneapolis
14. St. Louis
2. St. Paul
3. Washington, D.C.
4. Arlington, Virginia
5. San Francisco
Nashville scores well in terms of sheer acreage of park space but fares poorly when it comes to the number of people living within half a mile of a park and on amenities such as basketball hoops, restrooms and splash pads. The city has slid nearly 10 spots in the Trust for Public Land’s rankings in recent years as the organization has expanded its list and cities such as Miami have nudged their way up.
2014 ...............45 2015 ...............51 2016 ...............55 2017 ...............53 2018 ...............54
Leasing and managing 800,000 SF of commercial space.
For more info, visit parkscore.tpl.org.
Courtesy of Marketstreet, esa
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smart-space.com | 615-251-8900
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A CAPITOL CONNECTION
Church Street tower proposal brings new attention to connector street by GEERT DE LombAERDE
his spring, Tony Giarratana was back in the headlines with a proposal for his latest tall downtown residential tower on the site of the Church Street Park across from the Nashville Public Library’s main branch.
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And while the details of how that project might come to fruition — if it does at all — are still being worked out, Giarratana’s initial commitment to pump $5 million into improving Anne Dallas Dudley Boulevard speaks to the potential of the short street that until last year was called Capitol Boulevard. The idea to give Anne Dallas Dudley a new look isn’t new, though. Two years after its founding in 2000 and spurred by the opening of the library, the Nashville Civic Design Center conducted a study, “Capitol Boulevard Revisited,” that examined three alternative scenarios for the 80-foot-wide street. The aim was to boost the prominence of the street “as a citywide gathering place for book festivals, art fairs and important civic events.” The three sketches from 2002 all added green elements to the street connecting
Church to Union Street and Legislative Plaza. One, called “City Park,” features a wide green median separating two lanes of traffic (see image) and working its way up to Legislative Plaza with several small staircases. Another envisions wide tree-lined sidewalks with a more narrow “civic axis” featuring a clean sight line from the library to the Capitol. Gary Gaston, CEO of the Nashville Civic Design Center, says the plans laid nearly two decade ago “are nice to revisit” as concepts but adds that they do not take into account the big jump in downtown pedestrian activity that has taken place. But the core ideal remains the same. “The visual connection between the Capitol and the library should be more celebrated and the ability for pedestrians and active uses and new public spaces along the street should be a high consideration,” Gaston says.
courtesy of nashville civic design center
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DOWN BY THE RIVER
Rowing advocates edge closer to boathouse below Rolling Mill Hill
n a Nashville era when construction projects seem to pop out of the ground in an instant, the quest for a boathouse to serve the region’s rowers has had a remarkable shelf life. The vision to give Middle Tennessee’s rowing community a central home dates back to the Karl Dean administration and was the subject of a 2012 project by University of Tennessee architecture students. Various locations were explored but set aside once a plot tucked on the back side of Rolling Mill Hill was identified. The Trust for Public Land in San Francisco paid $2.5
million in late 2015 for the 13.5 acres on the west bank of the Cumberland, which come equipped with a parking lot and plenty of vegetation. With ongoing support from Nashville Rowing Club backers, whose most vocal advocate in the development community is Crain Construction Vice President Lizabeth Theiss, attorney Larry Papel (a past president of the Design Center’s
courtesy of Hastings arcHitecture associates and nasHville rowing
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board) and other supporters, the project took some steps forward this summer via a site cleanup day, several introductory visits and a history and walking tour. Donors have committed $1.5 million, and Metro has set aside some funds for park master planning work, which could start this fall once an RFP makes it out of the purchasing department.
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‘POSITIVE CHANGE REALLY CAN HAPPEN NOW IF WE LET IT’
Tactical urbanism pioneer Mike Lydon on improving cities from the bottom up and the top down — and what Memphis can teach Nashville
mall seating oases on Lower Broadway. Temporary roundabouts to slow traffic in Belmont-Hillsboro. Nashville has dabbled in tactical urbanism in recent years, setting up low-cost installations to improve the safety, walkability and general quality of parts of the city. And in that respect, Music City is far from alone. Tactical urbanism is making its way into the toolkits of urban areas around the country and New York-based Mike Lydon is a major force behind that trend via Street Plans Collaborative, a firm that will celebrate its 10th birthday next year. Lydon recently chatted with Post Editor Geert De Lombaerde about the evolution of tactical urbanism and how Memphis has amassed know-how that could be of great benefit to Nashville.
It seems like public sentiment has swung your way in recent years. As so many cities, Nashville among them, are growing quickly and experiencing rapid changes to their neighborhoods, there’s been a rise in neighborhood activism and, in some cases, discontent. Is that how you view the growth of tactical urbanism? It is. The root of this movement comes from people wanting better places to live and a resolute stance that they should not wait for the typical drawn-out public planning process to get underway. There’s been an interesting trend: More people are asking for change, not
more plans, and we see more cities starting to hand over some control to residents who want to run with an idea. Cities are changing and, many times, the impetus for that change is from developers, business improvement districts, nonprofits, activists and neighborhood associations. There’s more on-the-ground knowledge there and there’s more of an appetite, if not ability, for immediate execution. That’s part of our message to cities: Using tactical urbanism, you end up with more intelligently designed infrastructure from the outset. And you’re building adaptability into the process, which in turn creates more trust with residents because they’re more involved in the process — the actual delivery of projects — not just adding sticky notes to a map. So is that the ideal scenario for you every time? Test out a small project for a limited time, tweak it if necessary and then have cities build into their budgets funds for a permanent solution? Sure, but it works two ways. No city has the resources to positively impact all of its neighbor-
hoods all of the time, all at once. So in many cases, projects are proposed from the bottom up first. Citizens push an idea to fruition with the city’s permission and then if a project is well loved, three years later, there’s attention from a council member or other government officials and suddenly there’s money so that an interim street design project can become more permanent through the conventional capital budget process. This approach recognizes that communities need not wait for the expensive concrete to be poured. Positive change really can happen now if we let it. That said, cities are also pushing forward with their own early-stage implementation efforts, leading from the top down. Such projects are typically identified by a mayor, after a charrette process, or as part of another type of public planning effort led by planning officials and consultants. The push to implement immediately after a plan is complete — if not while it’s still being written — is highly effective because the energy cultivated in the planning process has no time to wax and wane, and demographic or political shifts don’t have time to sweep public support away before you can create improvement.
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It seems like a big — if not the biggest — challenge often is securing the budgets to build and maintain tactical urbanism projects. How has that element evolved over the years? Early on, there were no dollars and there was no attention. But there’s now a rich mixture of funding for this work. There’s a nonprofit crowdfunding site called IOBY — In Our Back Yard — that has helped raise $5 million for more than 1,500 projects around the country. More and more cities are writing tactual urbanism into their scopes of work, building dollars into their budgets for testing and iterating ideas. And foundations are stepping up to fund a number of notable projects and initiatives. We also position tactical urbanism projects as a public engagement tool. Oftentimes, we’ll take dollars already earmarked for marketing, engagement or community meetings and instead create what we call “a rendering in real time,” something people can actually experience and use as the engagement platform rather than meetings alone. Maintenance is always a challenge, yes, but this need is also an opportunity for embedding neighborhood-level stewardship opportunities. Business associations, for instance, can make themselves responsible for watering plants in a new public space. And here, too, we’ve seen foundations back projects or new stewardship models being developed to meet maintenance needs. We all stand to gain when our streets and public spaces are more safe and inviting. More and more people get that.
Did The Great Recession give tactical urbanism a jolt because budgets were tighter or has its growth been driven more by demographic trends? The Great Recession was an early driver but has since faded as a growing constituency of people more versed in the value of ur-
Land Development Consulting in a vertical world.
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What were the origins of your work in this area? I’d been working in planning for a couple of years and was growing frustrated by the slow pace of project implementation. The globe isn’t cooling; it’s warming. We have to act. So big planning projects are important, but so are all of the small things. In so many public meetings, we saw the same people with the same voices. There was no diversity of ideas or an outlet to try out things on the ground to cultivate the support for more catalytic projects from the bottom up. I was living in Miami at the time and working at night and on weekends on bicycle advocacy projects. We tried a thing we called open streets, where we blocked off a couple of miles of downtown streets for a day. We had 2,500 people come out and it was an a-ha moment for me. It gave residents — and politicians, too — the confidence to talk about people-oriented streets. It gave them the confidence that the demand was there. I saw the power of a six-hour event that cost $20,000 to change how one city could change its approach. A year later, we finished the city’s first bicycle master plan and within months some of those projects were in the ground. It was quick and tangible. I was hooked. We published our first tactical urbanism guide on this concept with examples from a number of cities in 2011. We showed how these small things could be done without a big, top-down approach and still lead to larger transformation — oftentimes faster — than the conventional process.
Sometimes, a well-thought-out plan can become obsolete before it’s even finalized. So this movement is as much about politics as it is about physical design. City staff and mayors are really challenged by the tension between big visions and the need to create meaningful change in short a time frame.
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ban living have continued to settle into cities and curry influence. Of course cities have a lot of unmet needs, quality-of-life issues that longtime residents have endured for too long. So drawing on both older and newer constituencies has led to a rise in public space projects, which in turn builds in even more demand for these projects. It’s not 1995; people see really enticing images of great places all over the internet and want some of the same amenities where they live. Has awareness of tactical urbanism spread much outside city cores? Yes, it is happening, but more slowly. Tactical urbanism is not a well known term outside the urbanist circle. New ideas require time and people need to be physically exposed to new types of spaces and experiments like we’re doing. But it’s happening — although the people living in suburban areas
may not recognize it as tactical urbanism or know the lingo associated with it. For instance, a gas station owner might allow a flower or food truck vendor in the corner of his or her parking lot every weekend. That’s a mixture of uses, if only temporarily, and it can drive foot traffic and lead to a greater awareness of the need for better pedestrian access or to legalize mixed-use development that is largely outlawed in suburban settings. Or a corner store or restaurant may set out chairs on the sidewalk or take over part of their parking lot for a dining patio. That may not be up to code, per se, but it can open people’s eyes. It’s so pleasurable to be with and see other people in public. So you’re seeing a lot of this type of nascent urban activity in suburban settings, even when it’s not necessarily following the conventional process of municipal zoning.
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What are your thoughts on Nashville’s urban spaces? I last visited Nashville in depth about four or five years ago. The city has a wonderful culture of people and music but the built environment, the public space, is not built to connect people. A lot of Southern cities don’t have that, though, and Nashville is not unlike Austin, Jacksonville or Memphis in that regard. There are interesting, walkable historic neighborhoods but also a lot of low-density subdivisions and big roads that are designed to keep people in private. As a nation, we stopped building walkability at scale in the 1930s. There is a lot of pent up demand, Nashville included. You mentioned a few other cities there. Are there specific ones you think have done really good things with tactical urbanism, that are ahead of the curve? Memphis, actually, is a leader on a number of fronts. Back in 2012, it was a recipient of a Bloomberg Philanthropy grant and created an “Innovation Delivery Team” inside the mayor’s
office. We worked with them to interject tactical urbanism into the city dialogue as well as to substantiate a number of bottom-up community efforts that were already underway. They’ve since really internalized and adopted tactical urbanism. The ethos has made its way into the city government, across the nonprofit and development sector, and right into the neighborhoods, with many temporary to permanent projects; curb extensions, plazas, bike lanes and public art. An early project was “A New Face for an Old Broad,” a 2010 foundation-funded project led by local property owners and the nonprofit Livable Memphis. It was a weekend-long event that took a stretch of Broad Avenue that was in bad shape — like lights out in most places — and it injected pop-up stores and bike lanes and public art to get people back out into the neighborhood for the weekend. The potential to re-enliven these vacant buildings was so clear. A few years later, all of those empty buildings were filled with new shops and the bike lane was permanent.
Since then, Livable Memphis has regularly held events like this (called MEMFix) and IOBY has helped fund about 500 projects in the last five years. Some have been for $200, some for up to $2,000. Another big success story worth studying is the old Tennessee Brewery building. It dates back to the 1870s and had deteriorated since the brewery closed down decades ago. But the problem was no one could make the economics of preserving and re-inhabiting the building work. So a group of people got together around the Memphis in May festival to organize a beer garden and fill some of the building’s ground-floor spaces with entertainment and community activity. They invested something like $35,000 and a lot of sweat equity. The partnering brewery then poured $265,000 worth of beer in a month! The success led to an investor buying the building and the lot next door. They invested $26 million. It is now fully converted to apartments. The building, which was going to be demolished by the previous owner, was saved. That’s the value and potential of tactical urbanism.
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FOCUSED ON THE LITTLE THINGS merging from work done earlier this decade in the Elmington Park area and Madison, the Nashville Civic Design Center’s Design Your Neighborhood program has pushed tactical urbanism into parts of Nashville not regularly blanketed by tourists or concert attendees. This summer, the program took aim at the active section of Nolensville Pike near Elysian Fields Road and Paragon Mills Road. The threeweek project supported by Conexión Américas and the Greater Nashville Regional Council recruited a group of 14 students to study the area around the Salahadeen Center of Nashville, one of the tenants of a retailheavy stretch that is quite inhospitable to pedestrians.
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The students took stock of the district during the first week, including by checking out the nearby Plaza Mariachi and meeting with Councilmember Fabian Bedne, before planning some low-cost, quick-fix projects such as crosswalks and bike lanes. During their third week together, they brought to life some of those plans — where local business owners consented — to calm traffic and let pedestrians better access the shops.
Civic Design Center Design Director Ron Yearwood says he hopes the interns’ work — which included seating options for a small grass plot next to the Salahadeen building to better define it as a gathering space — will change how drivers maneuver through that part of the parking lot. Two months after the tactical urbanism works were installed, they were still standing strong. > GEERT DE LOMBAERDE
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BUILDING ON GOOD BONES
Karolina Morawska’s work focused on a “neighgborhood in a box” that places next to each other housing for young professionals, a startup incubator, a co-working center and a coffee shop. The project also features green spaces and a community garden as gathering spots and connects the building to the canal in front of it.
UT students envision MetroCenter’s next evolution
onceived some five decades ago, MetroCenter grew up as a piece of suburban planning just about within sight of the state capitol. For years, it remained largely a collection of low-slung office buildings and distribution centers interrupted by some retail strips and bordered by Ted Rhodes Park and the Cumberland River. But Nashville’s growth and the rising awareness of smarter land uses have led a number of residential and retail projects that are closing the gaps. The bones are there for more of that interesting infill to take the place of surface parking. The district’s roads have enough capacity and its street layout, while not (yet) tight and urban by traditional standards, can yield some interesting perspectives. This summer, University of Tennessee architecture students explored, under the guidance of professor (and former Nashville Civic Design Center Design Director) TK Davis, possible uses for various open properties along Great Circle Road as part of a broader redesign of the area. Several of the sites studied are adjacent to the Cumberland River greenway and thus able to, as current Design Center design chief Ron Yearwood says, “shift entrances or add entrances.” Several projects sought to take advantage of the small canal that runs along much of Great Circle. Here are some of their visions.
Michael Swartz folded a visual arts center and a sculpture garden into his project. To add density to the site, he goes up with a small tower with market-rate apartments to go with the affordable housing around the perimeter.
Marcin Mazgaj’s project was one of several that sought to make clear connections to the Cumberland River via the levee. He did so by positioning a parking garage close to the levee and building on top of it a terraced courtyard. His plan, prioritized residential units around the plot’s perimeter.
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ADDING AN EDGE
Thinking about the next phase of Lower Broadway’s pedestrian evolution
egular visitors to Lower Broadway over the years — and yes, we know you only go when friends or family come to visit — will have noticed various projects to improve the safety and mobility of pedestrians there. Some, including street furniture and blue lanes, have been very temporary experiments while other pilot projects such as diagonal crosswalks — which went live in March 2016 — and sidewalk extensions have endured longer. The Nashville Civic Design Center and international consulting firm Gehl People have been working together for several years on possible next steps Metro Public Works could take. On this page are some of their ideas to help the city better accommodate the masses of visitors, residents and others who regularly make Lower Broad a veritable ant nest of humans. The focus on Gehl’s work has been on the north side of Broadway between Third and Fourth. There, work already has begun to double the sidewalk to about 25 feet, narrowing the outside traffic lane to eight feet and the two remaining westbound lanes slightly to 10 feet. The construction showcased an interesting plot twist: With the temporary fencing removed, jaywalking jumped — undoing many of the safety-focused features implemented elsewhere along the block. Enter the idea for an “edgy Broadway” that envisions various seating and standing installations that would give visitors a place to rest their feet or retreat just enough from the bustle of the block’s storefronts. One of Gehl’s design concepts features seating blocks that could be stowed on site later in the day when the crowds pick up; another breaks the block into chunks of long bar tables that shield pedestrians from traffic.
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Retail real estate pro Charlie Robin talks supply and demand, NNN rents and shopping malls by wILLIAm wILLIAmS
harlie Robin serves as president of Robin Realty Co., a downtown-based company that focuses on retail space. Robin, whose father William H. Robin, founded the company in 1947, has been involved in the local commercial real estate industry since 1976 and is considered one of its venerable elder statesmen of sorts. We checked in with him this summer for a market check.
What is the single most significant difference between retail spaces now compared to five years ago? Ten years ago? Twenty years ago? Twenty years ago, retail growth was propelled by grocery stores and national, large-box retailers, mostly located in regional malls and neighborhood and community shopping centers. Open-air shopping centers and retail outlets were expanding. Ten years ago, the economy was struggling, retail sales had begun to drop and Internet shopping was beginning to have a negative effect on brick-and-mortar stores. Expansion plans were cancelled. Many regional retail malls and shopping centers are closed and have been redeveloped into new, non-retail uses, such as fitness centers, call centers and churches. In the last five years, mixed-use retail developments have provided new retail product in urban areas and gentrifying neighborhoods, mostly with non-chain tenants. Restaurants, entertainment and general retail growth have been strong. Vacancies have increased in malls, shopping centers and retail outlets. However, some malls that cater to affluent communities are still seeing strong growth and increases in demand, rent and property values.
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Are the lease rates — in both older and newer buildings — appropriate and helpful? Like the stock market, rents and real estate values have, over the long run, increased at a steady pace. Supply and demand has the largest influence on rent values. It seems we’re seeing more so than ever available retail spaces with a triple net lease (NNN) agreement component (via which tenants pay, in addition to base rent, some or all of the expenses related to owners’ property taxes, insurance and maintenance). Thoughts? NNN lease terms have been growing in all classes of retail lease agreements. NNN terms are fair and reasonable if retail tenants require long-term leases with options to renew the term. This protects landlords from increases in cost of property taxes, insurance and other expenses to maintain retail properties. How is all the new product affecting the retail market?
New retail structures are located in areas with growth in retail sales and with higher rental rates. Some tenants prefer newer buildings. However, there is demand for older buildings at typically lower rental rates. What are some well-established areas that remain vibrant for retail and why? Similarly, what are some well-established areas that are seeing some concerns with retail space and why? With the largest influences in the SoBro area being the convention center, the arena, multiple hotels, corporate offices, restaurants and mixeduse residential buildings, I do not expect any large, traditional retail developments in SoBro. Is there an area or district (for example, The Nations) that has some underrated long-term retail potential? The Marathon Village/Jefferson Street/Rosa Parks Boulevard area is underrated. Over time, this area will experience faster retail growth.
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IS THIS THE TOP?
Apartment rents are up from last year but plateaued this summer by bENjAmIN KRApoHL
ast summer, the Post tracked a number of recently developed apartment complexes, looking for trends in their price dynamics. The results were fairly direct: Demand was still rising — and prices with it. This year, we picked up the narrative where we left it, watching 28 properties (several returning from last year and others new) from June through early August. Of immediate note is that prices continued to rise long after our summer 2017 study. At the end of that period, average rent among observed apartment units had risen to $2.23 per square foot. At the start of June this summer, that number had reached $2.62.
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On the whole, though, prices plateaued this summer. Average rent per square foot dipped to $2.60 just weeks later and waivered only by fractions of a cent for the rest of the season. These flat-lined numbers hide a flurry of activity, however. Here are several observations from the summer study: • Of all the categories of units observed (studio, one-bedroom, two-bed, three-bed and loft), studios were consistently high-priced. They were typically pricier per square foot than their one-bedroom alternatives and the disparity was great enough that they often demanded monthly payments equal to or higher than those of one-beds while offering less space. • No unit categories saw significant rent percentage increases over the course of the summer, while several properties dropped noticeably. Outliers were the lower-range onebedroom units at SkyHouse in Midtown, which dropped from $1,920 to $1,595, and the upper-range two-beds at The Melrose, which fell from $1,770 to $1,475 — both representing a 17-percent decrease. Also of note, Millennium Music Row cut all its prices significantly
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in mid-June and kept the lower rates for the rest of the season. The one-bedroom units dropped from $1,650 to $1,414 (a 14 percent decrease), the lofts from $2,220 to $1,971 (11 percent decrease) and the two-bed from $3,750 to $3,481 (7 percent decrease). • Among those surveyed, Cortland Bellevue in West Nashville offered the lowest rate of the season, with a two-bedroom apartment coming available in mid-June priced at $1.25 per square foot (the unit was leased by the end of the month). Aertson Midtown presented the priciest offering: an upper-floor, three-bedroom unit going for $4.78 per square foot — it remained available through the summer. • Of the 91 specific unit types the Post observed, seven were full at the summer’s start. Twelve were leased by mid-June, 15 at the start of July and 18 from mid-July through early August. When taken with the steady overall rent prices, this trend would suggest a slowing demand. • With overall rent prices settling this season, much of the apartment owners’ maneuvering seemed to be through incentives and deals. In early June, 11 of the 28 properties advertised some sort of discounted rent incentive, and by mid-June, the number had risen to 16 (with several prior discounts increased in value). Offered incentives dipped slightly to 15 in early July, before settling at 17 for the summer’s remainder (with some variation in specific offers and some apartments ending incentives only to replaced by other rental properties). • The standard offer was two months of free rent, though some properties offered only one, added in gift cards, waived fees or tried to lure buyers by alluding to incentives offered over the phone or at the office. The most curious incentive was offered by Aertson Midtown in early June: a coupon that would net interested applicants a free drink at the complex’s ground-floor bar if they came in for a look.
NoT FLAT Many of the complexes we surveyed last year have been able to raise their prices considerably in the past year. But some owners have had to retreat a bit. New additions in Midtown, meanwhile, are clearly at the higher end of the market. Here’s a selection. UNIT TypES AVAILAbLE
pRIcE pER Sq. FT.*
pRIcE pER Sq. FT. 2017**
Stacks on Main
Novel Music Row
Hill Center Sylvan Heights
Vertis Green Hills
* For units being within a price range, we calculated price per square foot using the median. ** Where applicable — Data compiled by Benjamin Krapohl
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APARTMENTS WITH CHARISMA The market is still looking for luxury touches, shared spaces by GINNy CALdwELL
lthough the manic growth in Nashville has started to slow down, there are still a ton of people looking for rental housing. That influx is marked by young people who are still in their nomadic days, not yet ready to settle down and buy property. As a result, you see cranes all around town that are building apartments. With so many of these buildings going up, architects and designers need to find ways to make their projects stand out. A clear style has developed among these new, trendy living spaces and it features modern concepts, chic accents and premium finishes. A couple of Southeast Venture’s latest apartment developments, Station 40 and Eastside Heights, are no exception. Here’s what they spotlight to be on-trend.
Luxury surfaces Just as hardwood floors are in demand in singlefamily homes these days, so are they the flooring of choice in rental properties. Easy to clean with an elegant look, they are the best way to get a great-looking apartment that can be easily prepped for the next tenant. Another finish that adds a little luxury to a temporary home is quartz or granite countertops. Whether islandstyle or along the wall the old-fashioned way, nice countertops and ample cooking space have become a necessity in these units. And you can’t forget those trendy kitchen backsplashes. Anyone who watches HGTV knows that a modern kitchen isn’t complete without a backsplash that provides a charming accent to the room. Subway tiles are the most current right now, and we don’t see this trend going anywhere anytime soon.
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Metals As we become more surrounded by technology, metal finishes are being incorporated into our homes via our computers and TVs and down to our smartphones. Bold and attractive, metals can add a very sleek look or — as with the brushed nickel fixtures and accents Station 40 boasts — they can even add a bit of a rustic charm. Stainless steel appliances are also being featured in a lot of new and newly renovated units. Gone are the days of finding the cheapest options possible to fill an apartment. Renters are looking for luxury, so the appliances need to be as stylish as the rest of the place.
stats to USB wall jacks to key fobs rather than keyed doors. Where the young people are, the technology is, too.
Perhaps the biggest, and most important, trend in multifamily is having larger spaces outside the apartment units for social gathering. From lounges to courtyards to game rooms, residents have access to TVs, pool tables and other entertainment that’s fit for their whole crew of friends to come and visit. Many are located outside or offer flexibility such as garage doors that can open the space to the outdoors on nicer days. These spaces are especially necessary in a place with weather as great as Nashville’s. Many of these design trends seem to be here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future, and designers have focused on making designs that are timeless, especially with upgraded appliances and technologies. With so many buildings going up with unique and upscale styles, Nashville’s aesthetic is changing to match its reputation as a contemporary, nontraditional city with charisma.
Along with the stainless steel appliances, multifamily developers are sweetening the deal with smarter apartments for this technological age. These include anything from Nest thermo-
Ginny Caldwell is director of interior design at Southeast Venture.
Natural light An important part of any living space, homeowners (and renters) now are looking for more and more of it! Rather than the small, paneled windows of bygone eras, multifamily designers are opting for large windows with few to no panels that often take over a majority of the outer wall spaces to let the sunlight pour in.
eastside heights courtesy of southeast venture; station 40 interiors by daniel meigs
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ADDING TO THE TOOLBOX A f f o r d A b l e h o u s i n g A d v o c A t e s A r e c A u t i o u s ly optimistic About the development of A community lAnd trust in nAshville by stephen elliott
hen then-Mayor Megan Barry’s office announced late last year that it had partnered with local nonprofit The Housing Fund to establish Nashville’s first community land trust, stakeholders estimated full implementation of the program would not take place until fiscal year 2019-20. In the ensuing months, organizers have quietly been laying the groundwork for the land trust, a program already in place in other cities by which a nonprofit organization owns the land on which owned or rented affordable housing sits, thereby moderating the effects of boom-and-bust housing cycles. The trust could help alleviate some deficiencies in the local housing market, where rising rent and home prices can push out longtime residents in favor of newer, wealthier residents. Some housing advocates, however, are concerned by the slow pace of progress.
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Housing Fund President and CEO Marshall Crawford recently attended a conference with community land trust leaders from across the country. The Metropolitan Housing Trust Fund Commission this summer approved donating 15 parcels around the city to the new land trust (the Metro Council still must approve the donation). “That is huge,” Crawford says. “You talk about those early wins.” Once operational, the CLT could purchase land or accept land donations from the city or other individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations, then solicit proposals from housing developers. Residents could rent or purchase housing under the model, though resale values are limited by the trust’s ownership of the land. Advocates are optimistic about the potential for the community land trust, but they caution that the program is not a cure-all.
“The land trust is only one tool,” says Kay Bowers, executive director of nonprofit housing developer New Level Community Development Corp. “It is not a silver bullet.” Bowers is one of more than a dozen community members and government officials on the CLT’s new development coalition, a group that met for the first time in June. She says that people she knows who’ve worked on community land trusts in other cities say they take six to nine months, and Nashville’s longer outlook is concerning. The proposed property donation, she says, “is a start.” “We’ve heard that for years, what we’re doing is a start,” she says. “But we have a deficit projected to be 31,000 [new affordable housing rental units by 2025], so we need bold, transformative moves and policies.” One of the country’s largest and oldest community land trusts, the Champlain Housing Trust in Vermont, stewards nearly 3,000 homes, most of them apartments. So it’s fair to posit that even decades of successful development would leave a Nashville CLT unlikely to serve as more than just one piece of the puzzle. In Nashville, Crawford and his advisors say that it will cost about $19.5 million (assuming a per-unit subsidy of $65,000) over the course of 15 to 20 years to market 300 owner-occupied housing units. That figure is after the properties are donated to the trust. “Timing is completely a function of how much money is available to reduce the cost of creating the units,” he says. “If the money is there, we can figure out how to ramp up faster. So it is really a resource question, and of course, the longer it takes, the bigger that number gets as well as costs generally rising.” At-large Metro Councilmember Bob Mendes, another member of the CLT coalition, also believes the process is taking longer than expected, but he adds that the group should run trials before diving head first into use of the method. “I think the idea of a community land trust in Nashville is something we ought to explore hard because it actively looks for a way to combine private and public resources in a way that creates longer-term affordability than most of the tools that are available,” Mendes says. “I think we have to start with some sort of experiment to make sure that we have a product that works for everybody.” Though optimistic about the CLT’s prospects, Melody Fowler-Green, executive director of the Metro Human Relations Commission, says that the slow roll has been frustrating for housing advocates.
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“We need tools now,” she says. When the government offers up parcels of land for CLT use, those involved say Nashvillians must trust the process. In recent months, Metro has faced blowback as it sought to sell or otherwise re-use public land, including at Greer Stadium and downtown’s Church Street Park. “When the public sees the process and how properties are vetted and which ones are going to be utilized for purposes of public good, then it builds public trust,” Bowers says. “And we all know there’s a need to build that.” Bowers’ for-profit colleague Michael Kenner, a housing developer and member of the CLT coalition, agrees. “Transparency is always the best policy,” he says. “As Metro gets rid of these properties, we need to have standards in place for evaluating whether they should be in the land trust or how they should be dealt with.” For now, in addition to completing due diligence on the 15 properties proposed for donation, Crawford will focus on educating the community, a process he calls “critical.”
’Market rate is easier by far but the Margins, if you do affordable housing, aren’t that M u c h d i f f e r e n t .’ MICHAEL KENNER, MIKEN DEVELOPMENT
Since the community land trust model is new to Nashville, it may take time for potential buyers and housing developers alike to warm up to the idea. Though buyers will own the structure, the underlying land will remain with the CLT. “If they decide to sell, they will come back in to us and will calculate what the resale value is on that,” Crawford explains. “Everything they
pay off as they pay on the principal, that’s all their money. They will get some appreciation but they will not get the full appreciation because they do not own the land.” From the builder’s point of view, Kenner doesn’t think it will be hard to find other developers like him willing to work with the CLT. “There’s a little extra headache factor but if you get creative with your financing you could even have it where you make more money off the affordable housing deals,” Kenner says. “Market rate is easier by far but the margins, if you do affordable housing, aren’t that much different.” One thing Crawford seeks to avoid as his plan comes to fruition is an alienation of the communities where the CLT puts residents. He does not want to build homes that violate the character of their neighborhoods. He does not want to ignore input from community leaders. “We know there are a lot of people saying ‘not in my backyard,’” Crawford says. “But what we want to ensure is that the community has a say.” Each project will therefore include a community benefits agreement, designed as a contract
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between builders and the communities in which they are working. The agreements can govern size, style and other characteristics of the homes. The community land trust got a kickstart from Metro, which promised seed money for early work and has since explored donating land to the project. But between Metro’s ongoing budget problems and a growing population’s increasing pressure on the housing market and various city services, advocates worry it won’t be enough. Mendes says it will be important for the CLT to win funding from philanthropic foundations on top of
should pursue in connection with and in addition to a CLT.” One of those tools could be a land bank, an entity distinct from a land trust. Bowers, the nonprofit developer, says her conversations do not indicate that Metro plans to employ a land bank, though she and others will continue to push for one. “Most people would agree you should think about having both, because they can go hand in hand,” says Mendes. A land bank, controlled by a government or quasi-public corporation, would hold donated or purchased parcels in the short-term
’We knoW there are a lot of p e o p l e s a y i n g ‘ n o t i n m y b a c k y a r d .’ but What We Want to ensure is t h a t t h e c o m m u n i t y h a s a s a y .’
Nashville is the #1 Fastest-growing Large Metro Economy of 2017. We’re also ranked as one of the Top 10 metros for growth in industries such as finance, hospitality, manufacturing and business services.
M A R S H A L L C R AW F O R D , T H E H O U S I N G F U N D
At the center of this government support and the profit margins promised to builders. Fowler-Green, the executive director of the Metro Human Relations Commission, believes community members will have to buy in. “Because successful CLTs are generally community-driven, I hope the community here doesn’t rely too heavily on the city to make ours successful,” she says. “It will need community commitment, especially for funding.” Fowler-Green, like multiple members of the coalition, cautions against believing in a “silver bullet.” “CLTs are nationally recognized as a proven strategy for building units and preserving affordability over time,” she says. “It’s a tool that’s definitely needed here. … There are a number of other policies and tools that we can and
until a use can be determined, while land trusts steward the parcels in the long-term. “We believe and research shows you have to have other tools to fit with [a CLT] for it really to get in position where it can have significant impact, and one of those tools is a land bank,” Bowers says. Kenner, too, warns that the CLT will not fix everything that ails Nashville’s housing market. He believes Nashville needs more dedicated funding, including an additional property tax, to support affordable housing programs. And yet, though the CLT may not be a “silver bullet,” he still believes it can contribute to a solution. “There’s a bunch of ammunition. This is one piece of that ammunition to help solve the problem,” Kenner says.
growth and prosperity is the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. Learn more at nashvillechamber.com.
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The Nashville Civic Design Center’s Reclaiming Public Space Initiative (RPS) focuses on promoting safety, mobility, and beauty in our built environment.
SAFETY • Temporary Pedestrian Plaza
MOBILITY • Pop-up Traffic Circle
RESPECT YOUR ELDERS
As Nashville housing advocates build a community land trust, a look at more established programs around the country
BEAUTY • PARK(ing) Day, 3rd Friday each September
Through temporary pilot projects, public input, research, and reports RPS highlights the impact shared civic spaces can have within Nashville. Learn more & get involved at civicdesigncenter.org
Marshall Crawford, the Housing Fund executive overseeing Nashville’s under-construction community land trust initiative, says he is “looking at organizations doing it well” around the country. As he seeks best practices input in the run-up to a more formal launch of the CLT, Crawford has consulted with other land trust leaders, including by attending the Grounded Solutions conference in Oakland, a gathering of like-minded community land trust boosters. As a model, the community land trust has been around for decades, with the New Communities land trust and farm collective in rural southwest Georgia generally cited as the first in the United States. The group of black farmers owned more than 5,000 acres, begin-
ning in 1969. Since then, the model has spread to hundreds of communities around the country, providing furtheralong examples on which Nashville can model its community land trust. When a newly formed advisory coalition for the local community land trust met for the first time this summer, they watched a video that explained the concept through the lens of several other cities’ programs. One was New Orleans, where the Crescent City Community Land Trust was founded in 2011, in part in an effort to preserve affordability in lowand moderate-income neighborhoods still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. In Georgia, the home of the community land trust, the Atlanta Land Trust Collaborative was formed in
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order to protect low- and moderate-income residents from rising housing costs expected from the development of the Atlanta BeltLine, a project that is turning a former railway corridor around the city into green space and other public uses. “It is going to be a world-class amenity,” said one advocate in the video. “As a general rule, low-income families don’t benefit from world-class amenities. And we were determined that this world-class amenity was not going to be successful unless it benefits all of Atlanta’s citizens.” The Delray Beach Community Land Trust was formed in the Florida seaside town to insulate longtime residents from the displacement sure to follow when developers started snapping up property there. “Developers were coming in and buying up everything,” one resident said in the video. “Where would that leave us?” The video also featured the Durham Community Land Trustees, founded in 1987. Crawford says he has spoken with that North Carolina-based organization’s executive director, Selina Mack, and has plans for further meetings. More than three decades after
residents and activists formed the group to protect Durham’s West End neighborhood, the group now manages nearly 300 permanently affordable homes in seven different neighborhoods. Crawford also called out the Champlain Housing Trust and Burlington Associates in Community Development, both based in Vermont. The program in Champlain was founded in 1984 and now manages 2,200 apartments and 565 owner-occupied homes. It
has won a United Nations World Habitat Award for its work in several small New England cities. Burlington Associates is a consulting cooperative that provides technical support to community land trusts across the country, exactly the kind of support that a fledgling program like the one in Nashville seeks. “You can’t stop gentrification,” Mack, the Durham organizer, told the Charlotte Observer last year. “You can only hope to stabilize what you have.”
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New department head Lucy Kempf aims to grow sense of place in Nashville’s built form and function
n June, the Metro Planning Department welcomed Lucy Kempf as executive director. Kempf, who replaced Doug Sloan, previously served as the department’s land development division manager. She joined the department in September 2016 after working 10 years at the National Capital Planning Commission in Washington, D.C., last working as director of urban design and plan review. The Post met with Kemp for a quick chat.
Is the city growing too fast? I wouldn’t say that. One key to successfully addressing growth is to ensure that we have highquality development in the right location, where growth is most appropriate. Our long-range plan, Nashville Next, identifies areas where growth makes sense, such as near employment centers and along major corridors. And, as the city grows, we want to ensure that we are building and maintaining wonderful communities where people want to live and work, and where we can more easily access parks, schools, offices, shops and the like. Some folks are critical of the downtown code’s strict requirements related to the height of buildings proposed for sites outside the central business district. Thoughts? There are a couple of factors that shape how we think about building height downtown and else-
where. First, the market is a critical driver for a certain type of building, including its uses and size. Nashville has historically been pretty responsive to those indicators. Second, from an urban design perspective, I would argue that the street-level design of a building is as important as its height. Our goal is to create walkable and comfortable places for people to experience our city. Public spaces, street trees and the design and uses within a building’s first floor are all important contributors to a great pedestrian experience. Lastly, context is important when it comes to building height and intensity. It’s important to consider proximity to major commercial areas versus residential neighborhoods, and access to a robust street network and other infrastructure. Is River North a doable and needed development? Many locals say it is not. There are great opportunities for the River North site. Given the proximity to downtown, we think a vital mixed-use area is appropriate here that successfully engages the riverfront, incorporates public amenities and open spaces and includes urban design standards that ensure high-quality development. You spent time in Charlotte. How would you compare and contrast? Charlotte and Nashville share a number of similarities. Both are
growing cities with wonderful residential neighborhoods and growing downtowns. Charlotte has invested in transit, which is an important factor shaping its approach to growth and development. Charlotte has undertaken a number of interesting projects. One example is a partnership to revitalize an old warehouse district, Historic South End. This mixed-use neighborhood center is well-integrated within one of the city’s historic inner-ring residential neighborhoods and illustrates that — if designed and located well — a diversity of uses can be sensitively integrated within the community. Nashville’s diverse economic base and strong creative community are two advantages that we have over similarly sized cities. These are important drivers when imagining the built environment. Like Charlotte, Nashville is also redeveloping within some of our older commercial districts, which provides an opportunity to create distinctive neighborhoods and attract some of the creative talent we have in the city. Identifying built resources that are unique to our city and integrating these into the fabric of new development is important. What is the single greatest challenge you will face in this relatively new role? Keeping the department current and effective as our community grows and changes. We don’t have the same challenges now that we did five or 10 years ago, and it’s vitally important that we recognize and meet those new challenges as they arise. What are examples of how Nashville’s planning efforts failed and succeeded over the years? One area where I think the city has not been successful is enhancing the urban design quality of some of its major pikes and corridors, which are prominent features in the city. These include both vehicular corridors and waterways. Many of our major corridors are not easy places to walk, and some neighborhoods even physically turn their backs on them. Streets are public spaces, meant to be used for travel, but — if well designed — they can be great places to live and work. I’d like to focus on creating more of a sense of place along Nashville’s prominent streets, which enhances the city overall as well as the neighborhoods around them. On the positive side, Nashville is open to transformative change, where appropriate. The Gulch and downtown are great examples of mixed-use areas where people want to live, work and play.
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What could cities and states be doing instead? They should be investing in broader strategies for promoting economic development, which includes various types of customized business services to the small and medium-sized business sector. Those kind of programs probably have higher job creation effects per dollar than most incentives do. Small and medium-sized businesses are a little bit easier to affect than large businesses and some of these services have a high value relative to their cost to the government. Timothy Bartik
Economist says to focus more on employment-population ratio
ennessee and Nashville still love their incentives. In May, city and state officials were on hand to celebrate Wall Street firm AllianceBernstein’s decision to establish its headquarters in Nashville, bringing around 1,000 jobs with it — and garnering $17.5 million in state incentives by doing so. Though an economic boom has led to many similar wins in recent years, a strained Metro budget and looming questions about Nashville’s secretive bid for Amazon’s HQ2 have some asking whether they really were victories. Timothy Bartik, senior economist at the Michigan-based research organization W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and previously a professor at Vanderbilt University, has published a number of studies questioning the effectiveness of such economic incentives. One literature review published in July found that somewhere between 2 percent and 25 percent of incented firms made location decisions based on the incentive. “In other words, for at least 75 percent of incented firms, the firm would have made a similar location/expansion/retention decision without the incentive,” he wrote. The Post recently spoke with Bartik about changing opinions on economic incentives. Here is an edited transcript of that conversation.
What are some of the problems with large incentive offers like we’ve seen for Amazon and other companies? One of the issues is will these huge incentive offers set a model or precedent for other companies. There’s an old Lay’s potato chip ad: “I bet you can’t eat just one.” Well, incentives, you can’t give out just one. When a company comes to you and says, “We’re providing jobs that are just as good as these other jobs,” it’s hard to come up with a good rationale, frankly. In what scenarios can incentives be effective? My view is that you can make a case for incentives in cases where the firm is paying high wages, the multiplier effects are high, and especially the local unemployment rate in the area is high. In those cases, if incentives are carefully targeted at these high-multiplier cases, high-wage cases and highunemployment cases, you could make a reasonable case that they have a reasonable benefit relative to cost, but I think that only includes a minority of incentives. Incentives are not highly targeted on high-wage companies or high-multiplier companies. They’re not highly targeted on high-unemployment areas, and so my own view has been that states should try to target incentives much more narrowly than they currently do.
How do new jobs affect the local economy? On average in the U.S., when you create jobs and the number of jobs in the area goes up by X percent, on average after five or six years, the local population goes up by about 80 percent of that, so roughly speaking, of the available jobs, 80 percent of them are going to people who otherwise would’ve lived elsewhere. You’re trying to boost local earnings per capita, and a key way you do that is by boosting the employment-population ratio, so if unemployment rate is already low, it’s harder to find local people who don’t have jobs who can fill them. A lot of times, you see the analyses of economic development projects that act as if these things are great for local taxpayers because we’re bringing in all these jobs and that creates all this tax revenue, and one of the things that overlooks is you’re also bringing in a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t live there, and those people expect services. Their kids are going to go to school; you’re going to have to hire teachers. They’re going to clog up the roads; you’re going to need to expand the roads. You’re going to have to provide either more services to people or, alternatively, you’re going to have to expect that the quality of local public services implicitly is degraded. You have the same number of police and more people so response time is going to go down. The same amount of roads and more people, commute times are going to go up. Growth in the employment-population ratio is clearly a good thing for local workers and the local fiscal situation. An increase in employment that’s matched by an increase in population ... it’s not clear whether that’s a good thing or not. I guess it’s a good thing if you want larger cities. It’s a bad thing if you don’t want larger cities. It’s not clear that it’s a good thing overall. It’s not clear it creates any fiscal benefits. It certainly doesn’t create any employment benefits. If the jobs go up by 10 percent but the number of workers in the economy go up by 10 percent, why are local residents any better off? It’s not any easier to find a job.
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CODE OF CONDUCT
Developers struggle with Metro as Nashville’s growth creates unwieldy system by Linda bryant
eal estate development can be a challenge, even in cities experiencing modest growth. In Nashville, with its population boom, the task is often downright frustrating. Though some industry professionals say they have handled the complexities of their projects successfully — citing lessons learned from the boom-and-bust times of the 2000s — they add that it is increasingly difficult to navigate projects through the various Metro departments that regulate development. The Post spoke with four area developers who requested anonymity, noting they need to maintain a cordial relationship with Metro, and particularly the Metro Department of Codes and Building Safety. The sources voiced concern about the city’s lack of prompt attention, inefficient department-to-department coordination and penchant for arbitrary decisions often made in the last phases of developments. Seem-
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ingly illogical and impractical, Metro’s shortcomings, they say, often cause troubling — and sometimes project-killing — cost overruns. Two sources say they were once unsure about moving forward on projects, fearing delays they anticipated, based on prior experiences with Metro, would render their efforts cost prohibitive. The sources also say there’s widespread dissatisfaction with the city’s application of its newish sidewalk requirements and with the often-used specific plan (SP) zoning — which, as one developer puts it, “has run amok and is sometimes used to punish developers rather than help them.” “It’s very frustrating,” a developer says. “How are we supposed to hold down housing costs when we can’t even get Metro’s attention on the things that are costing us hundreds and thousands of dollars for every project? “We see the risk piling up with no real end in sight. It’s become critical for us to have some discussions about this. But that’s very hard, too, because if we are seen as [uncooperative], it could mean it becomes even harder to finish a project.” The developer says projects that once took a few weeks to complete now require months. “There was a time you could pull a permit in 60 days or less and start your construction,” the source says. “Now that time period is seven to nine months for every project I’ve dealt with.” Bill Herbert, recently tapped to serve as Metro Codes Department director, says the goal is to make the permitting process as manageable as possible, while maintaining high-quality standards for construction.
That’s not easy given the fast-increasing workload. “Since 2010, we have seen a 33 percent increase in the number of building permits being issued, in addition to the new responsibility of permitting and regulating short-term rental properties,” Herbert says. “Due to budget limitations, the number of zoning staff and plan reviewers has not proportionately increased over that same period of time.” However, Herbert says the department remains competitive with peer cities regarding issuing permits in a timely manner. For instance, he says more than 90 percent of all permits are issued within 24 hours and most single-family residential permits are reviewed and issued within three days. “Considering permit applications can be quite complex and require reviews from multiple departments (Codes, Public Works, Fire, Water Services, Planning), our turn-around times are [respectable] when a contractor presents a project plan that meets Metro’s development standards,” he says. Braden Boucek, director of litigation at the nonpartisan and free-market-leaning Beacon Center of Tennessee, says both developers and contractors must be “somewhat faceless” when working with city officials. “They have to do business here, and the city is not very discreet about implying to them that, ‘If you’re going to do business with us, you can’t be suing us.’ ” Boucek says he has privately met with “quite a few” prominent developers.
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regarding] sidewalks, curbs and gutters.” Indeed, the Beacon Center is not averse to taking legal action. In 2017, the organization filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Home Builders Association of Middle Tennessee challenging Metro’s inclusionary zoning ordinance as illegal and unconstitutional. The Davidson County Chancery Court dismissed the case last year because Metro had not yet applied the ordinance on a project. Boucek says an appeal was filed in early August. Legal battles don’t help matters. One source mentions a “purposefully difficult path to get things done.” “I try to have sympathy with government employees who probably aren’t always given all the assets and tools they need to do their job,” the source says. “They are tremendously understaffed and underpaid. “Still, I can’t understand — with all the growth and [increase in] property values — how [the city] is running at a deficit. That is incredibly frustrating. Why aren’t we funding our departments adequately?” Kent Campbell, vice president of Nashville-
“I’ve gotten an interesting perspective,” he says. “Starting with [Mayor Phil] Bredesen and continuing until very recently, developers felt like they had a working partner in the city … which would make the process as streamlined as possible. Now it’s more of a private-public adversarial relationship.” Boucek says the development community tries to temper its frustrations knowing that Nashville’s explosive recent growth has likely yielded an end to informal relationships that don’t easily work in big-city politics. But he offers a warning that balance is needed, citing Metro’s failed efforts at mandating inclusionary zoning related to affordable housing. “There has to be some kind of political will on the part of the government’s side [to make changes], and I’m not seeing it yet,” Boucek says. “I’m afraid we are going to have to increasingly take a more active role in taking these things to court. “You can’t attach unrelated political considerations to your land-use powers,” he adds. “We made [that argument] with affordable housing. You can just as easily make it with [requirements
based Core Development, says the recent hiring of Herbert, a former zoning administrator, to oversee Codes is encouraging. “We’re hopeful that with some changes in staffing, maybe some of these things are going to start to be resolved,” Campbell says. “It’s probably time to figure out how to correct some of this and make Nashville the developmentfriendly town it used to be.” Herbert acknowledges the department should continue to find ways to improve. “During these tight budget cycles, we must look to maximize the resources we have to more efficiently do our jobs,” he says. “I’ve begun working with Information Technology Services to review our current systems, such as CityWorks and QLess, to find ways to improve how we are operating to give customers a more reliable and predictable experience throughout the permitting process. “This, more than anything else, is what developers and members of the public would like to see so that they can spend less time waiting here at the codes department.”
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DESIGNING A TRUE URBAN EXPERIENCE
GS&P’s Joe Bucher says Nashville Yards will offer a variety of scale, spaces, street-level aesthetics by william williams
oe Bucher serves as a principal with Nashville-based Gresham Smith + Partners, the architecture, urban planning and engineering firm working on downtown’s massive mixed-use project Nashville Yards. Working closely with Nashville Yards master developer Southwest Value Partners, Bucher is overseeing GS&P’s efforts on what could be a 10-building undertaking with a collective price tag of at least $1 billion. It’s a major challenge,
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one that could require up to 10 years of work and that the urban planning expert embraces. Post Managing Editor William Williams spoke with Bucher about the development. One of the key questions many folks have involves the Nashville Yards property located north of the Church Street viaduct and adjacent to the YMCA building. It fronts 10th Avenue and faces west. I understand that, after some discussion, you now envision one office tower for that specific site. How will that tower effectively connect to the main segment of Nashville Yards given the challenge of the fact that the viaduct spans 10th Avenue? In its current condition, the viaduct is problematic for pedestrian and vehicular access. With Nashville Yards, we strive to create a walkable urban community. That’s why we are introducing a new concept to Nashville: a “double decker,” or stacked, street. The future Upper 10th Plaza will connect the viaduct to all the Nashville Yards buildings planned for the Church Street corridor. The elevated state of Church Street will be Level 1 of the proposed structures, and this new plaza street will create a seamless and walkable experience at that upper level.
We are also planning a series of creative office buildings for the south side of Church Street. The tower shown in the renderings of the north side of Church Street is still flexible based on the potential user. Zoning is nearly unlimited. On this theme, will the future buildings that hug the viaduct offer vehicular and pedestrian access from that structure? All buildings along Church Street will seamlessly border the viaduct, creating a continuous sidewalk system and eliminating any feel that it is a “bridge.” Upper 10th Plaza will directly access the viaduct through a signal intersection that allows vehicular flow to and from the development. It is also worth noting that the viaduct at Church Street is roughly equal to the viaduct on Broadway [in terms of orientation]. This allows for the creation of an elevated boardwalk along the western edge of Nashville Yards that will serve as a pedestrian walkway from Church Street to Broadway. I would think 10th Avenue will be the key street at Nashville Yards, with Ninth Avenue and Commerce Street taking a slight back seat. Broadway will offer only the Hyatt Regency within the footprint but it will be a key
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street for Nashville Yards regardless. Church Street could be the “wild card.” How would you describe the future significance of the streets? Each of the streets that connect to or intersect Nashville Yards has been thoughtfully designed with consideration for the streets’ history, use and purpose. Broadway is integral to Nashville, as it is the street many consider the heart of the city’s entertainment and tourism district. It made sense to put the Hyatt Regency hotel there while taking advantage of an opportunity to fix and improve the 10th Avenue intersection. Nashville Yards will maximize Broadway to efficiently feed both pedestrian and vehicular traffic into the development. Originally known as Spring Street, Church Street is at the center of the original plan for the city of Nashville. It remains the artery into the heart of the central business district, which is why the Nashville Yards development will feature new office buildings along this corridor. Additionally, Church Street has historically been considered one of the best streets in Nashville. It was a hub for urban shopping, hospitality and theaters. With the launch of its mixed-use entertainment district at Nashville Yards, AEG will bring theater, music and cultural arts back to this area of town. Commerce Street will be vastly improved due to Nashville Yards. The future Commerce Street will link all of the good progress underway at the Fifth + Broadway site and the new federal courthouse project to Nashville Yards. We will activate and improve the street, and the terminus will be a fantastic piazza space between our buildings that leads to the new park and green space next to the railroad tracks. At what intersection, street segment, etc. — in other words, at what location within Nashville Yards’ public realm/outdoor spaces — will people feel like they are truly in Nashville and, conversely, in a place very unlike Nashville circa 2018? The public outdoor spaces that we are creating at Nashville Yards will align nicely with the charm and history of Nashville, while also offering a fresh take on modern urban living. We have been thoughtful in the material selection throughout the development to harken back to the railyards and historic Nashville architecture without mimicking the forms. Nashville Yards will feature urban piazzas that are more reminiscent of European spaces than those currently found in
Nashville but, through materiality and scale, will still feel sincere and authentically Nashville. One of the concerns about Nashville Yards is that it might offer, despite its striking cosmopolitan vibe and energy-efficient buildings, a somewhat sterile and excessively uniform feel. If, for example, all the sidewalks are of the same width, all the buildings are of the same design style and all the ancillary elements (landscaping, signage, street lights, bike racks, etc.) are coordinated to offer a matched presentation … that could yield 15 acres of built fabric exhibiting minimal, if any, level of organic evolution. If there will be no quirkiness or grittiness, Nashville Yards’ “persona” will need to derive from other elements. Thoughts? There’s no doubt Nashville Yards is a coordinated effort. Much of the coordination is based around a commitment to create a large-scale development that feels cohesive but never monotonous. Our goal has been to create variety and delight throughout the development using a few different methods. First, from a master-planning standpoint, we have focused on creating a variety of scale of spaces — meaning we have integrated some lower-rise buildings with some taller towers, helping to ensure pedestrians don’t feel overwhelmed. Nashville Yards will feature everything from one-story object build-
ings nestled in a park-like setting to 30-story glass towers. We also broke the block plan into smaller chunks than the current superblock planning model. This will create a finer, human-scaled granularity, allowing secondary passages to cut through the development and connect more points — much like is found in an old city — limiting long, interrupted facades. Second, we know the ground floor and ground plane are the most important elements to encourage vibrancy in a development; these are base buildings at eyeline with pedestrians and they shape visitors’ perception of the environment. That’s why the first two floors of every building in Nashville Yards will have a huge variety of façade treatments, opening variability and encouraging fresh and interesting landscaping elements. We have incorporated historic materials in a variety of forms to give everything a sense of texture from up close, preventing glass towers from dominating the street. We intend to create layers of texture, intrigue and grit through the careful curation of first-class retail tenants, environmental graphics and signage elements, and lush greenery and landscaping throughout the entire project. Third, we’ve deliberately alternated the size and width of sidewalks throughout Nashville Yards, creating a rich and engaging pedestrian experience. Sidewalks will spill into larger open spaces surrounded by courtyards of outdoor dining spaces and multiple levels, providing pedestrians with an enjoyable, meandering pathway through the heart of the project and along double-sided outdoor retail streets. Finally, we have tried very hard to incorporate distinctive aesthetics to the different buildings. The office towers may be all glass — because that is what the market desires — but we intentionally gave them ”movement” and offset floors to react to the kinetic nature of the railroad. The residential buildings are more solid, with balconies that protrude outward toward the green spaces. AEG’s future venue will be a low-rise building integrating elevated exterior space that aligns nicely with Nashville’s entertainment scene. The Hyatt Regency hotel will be a beacon and central entry point to the city, so we gave it a monumental sheer façade. There is a concerted effort to ensure a level of continuity throughout Nashville Yards, but we also have worked to create a variety of building forms and styles to encourage interest and intrigue. Once experienced, Nashville Yards will offer a rich, multi-faceted urban experience with grit, charm and a cosmopolitan edge.
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PUZZLE PIECES SoBro’s four nodes of note unfold — but will connectivity follow? by wILLIAm wILLIAmS
icture SoBro as a puzzle in progress. With any puzzle, portions and segments unfold in various manners — with some seeing more progress than others. Whereas, say, the upper right corner of the puzzle takes shape quickly, the left quadrant might not see such sufficient advancement. This, in simple terms, is a way to describe SoBro, the fast-changing urban district located south of Broadway and that is redefining the form and function of downtown Nashville. Indeed, some nodes of the mixed-use district have experienced significant change, particularly during the post-Recession period. Other sections have not.
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Given the geographically expansive nature of SoBro (ask five folks the borders of the district and you will get five different answers), this is not surprising. Gary Gaston, Nashville Civic Design Center CEO, says the district is hugely important given its potential to fully link the central business district and The Gulch — and, to a lesser extent, the primarily residential districts Chestnut Hill and Edgehill, both located on the south side of the inner-interstate loop. “Clearly the major streets that connect these nodes — both internally and to other parts of the downtown core and surrounding neighborhoods — should be of critical consideration,” Gaston says. Since its evolution — which many followers of Nashville’s urban placemaking scene trace to the late 1990s — SoBro has seen four “pockets” land multiple new buildings, new businesses and reinvented structures. It is these sections that have provided the potential for long-term connectivity within the district. And that connectedness will be, among other factors, a key consideration determining the long-term viability of SoBro.
Here is a look at each one: • The “epicenter node” bordered by Broadway on the north, First Avenue on the east, Korean Veterans Boulevard on the south and Fourth Avenue on the west. In this SoBro segment is found the singlegreatest number of large-scale and prominent buildings — including Bridgestone Americas Tower, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, The Pinnacle at Symphony Place, 222 2nd and mixed-use high-rise The SoBro. Add West Cumberland Park, Ascend Amphitheater and the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge to the mix and the epicenter node is not only the most noteworthy of the four distinctly different parts of SoBro but also one of the more important urban pockets in all of Nashville. Mark Hollingsworth, a citizen observer of Nashville’s built environment, said a key characteristic of the epicenter node is its notable density of large-scale buildings. “It is becoming one of the densest portions of downtown,” says Hollingsworth, who serves as moderator of the Nashville chapter of international message board website urbanplanet.org. daniel meigs
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’ C l e a r ly t h e m a j o r streets that ConneCt these [soBro] nodes … should Be of CritiCal Consideration. G a ry G a s t o n , C i v i C D E s i G n C E n t E r
For instance, Hollingsworth points to the Demonbreun Street and Second Avenue intersection as eventually to be the “tallest” intersection in Nashville in a few years when The Pinnacle at Symphony Place (417 feet), The SoBro apartment tower (345 feet) and 222 2nd (305 feet) are joined by the planned Congress Group tower (540 feet) at the Market Street Apartments site at 151 First Ave. S. “Besides this node’s serving the city’s corporate sector with over 2 million square feet of office space, nearly 1,700 rooms between seven current and proposed hotels, and over 800 units in four residential developments, the Broadway strip entertainment district is being drawn southward, with over two dozen new eateries/ venues coming into play. Hence, it is a heavily trafficked district for pedestrians. As nearly every vacant lot in what was once a wasteland is filled, this will create even more flow southward towards the Trolley Barns complex/Rolling Mill Hill, along with the rest of SoBro past Korean Veterans Boulevard.” • The “cultural and civic node” bordered by Broadway on the north, Fourth Avenue on the
east, Korean Veterans Boulevard on the south and the Gulch railroad tracks on the west: This SoBro pocket is defined by buildings and spaces that welcome the general public, including the Bridgestone Arena, the Music City Center convention facility, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the First Baptist and First Lutheran churches, Hall of Fame Park and the Frist Art Museum. It is also home to Cummins Station and the JW Marriott, Hilton, Cambria, Union Station, Omni and Westin hotels. “Like the ‘epicenter node,’ this area has definitely drawn a lot of foot traffic southward from Broadway, creating a very healthy and diverse entertainment district,” Hollingsworth says. “The addition of over 2,400 hotel rooms at seven existing and proposed locales, along with millions of visitors to the arena, symphony hall, convention center and country music museum each year have created a lot of pedestrian traffic unheard of 10 years ago.” Of note, Zach Liff — whose DZL owns and manages Cummins Station — is considering adding to his holdings by developing eight-plus acres of surface parking.
• The “Rolling Mill Hill and Rutledge Hill node” bordered by Korean Veterans Boulevard on the north, the Cumberland River on the east, Fourth Avenue on the west, and the inner-interstate loop on the south: This pocket within the greater SoBro district offers primarily low-rise buildings and is not particularly building dense or pedestrian-active at this stage in its evolution. The recent development in this node has been primarily residential with 10 projects offering a collective 1,400-plus units either completed since the mid-2000s or underway. Underway is the nine-story mixed-use Peabody Plaza and a residential high-rise of 25 stories that will include another 450 units is planned. Between the repurposing of the former Trolley Barns into office space, Peabody Plaza and several other structures recently just completed or under construction, there is 450,000 square feet of office space in this quadrant of SoBro. In addition, one hotel is on the drawing board and various buildings have been or are being adaptively reused. Hollingsworth says that with Rolling Mill Hill near the Trolley Barns slated to land culinary, beverage and retail options, there is a “good chance” downtown’s entertainment district to the north will extend in a southeast direction past Ascend along Hermitage Avenue and the Cumberland River. As such, connectivity between the “epicenter node” and the “Rolling Mill Hill and Rutledge Hill node” (currently, any connectivity is limited due to multiple parcels with no buildings) will improve.
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“The Rolling Mill Greenway now extends all the way from the top of the RMH hill along the Cumberland, blending into Riverfront Park, which adds greatly to pedestrian and biking options,” Hollingsworth says. “There are still at least nine large tracts that are empty and/or prime for development, including those located at the southwest and southeast corners of the intersection of First Avenue South and KVB, which appear to be earmarked for 30-plus-story towers in the future.” • The “south of KVB node” bordered by Korean Veterans Boulevard on the north, Fourth Avenue on the east, the Gulch railroad tracks on the west and the innerinterstate loop on the south. “There is some tower density forming at the northern edge of this node along KVB with two 20-plus-story and two 30-plusstory structures either under construction or near groundbreaking,” Hollingsworth says. “In this quadrant, there are six hotels being built, with another four being considered, for a collective 2,400plus rooms. Residential is part of the growth as well, with 1,100plus units either recently opened or about to get underway in three developments.” Hollingsworth notes that this node potentially could use some office space. Specifically, Mainland Companies’ One KVB Place, planned for the KVB Roundabout, will help with 400,000 square feet of office space. Hollingsworth points to entertainment venues Cannery Row, City Winery, Rocketown and The Listening Room, and the future YeeHaw Brewery featuring a live music component as well, as helpful to the connectivity. “More restaurants and clubs are bound to debut to support the large numbers of tourists coming through each week, and for the citizens calling this quadrant home,” he says. “Should the pe-
destrian bridge spanning the CSX tracks and connecting the western side of SoBro to The Gulch ever be constructed, it will certainly help with the flow of foot traffic between these burgeoning neighborhoods, just as the newly finished Division Street Extension connector already has in regards to vehicular movement.” Gaston says the “south of KVB node” offers an interesting tidbit: It is farther to walk from Broadway to the Nashville Farmers Market than it is from Broadway to the Adventure Science Center. “But how many people do you know that currently would do the latter or even venture there casually on a bike?” he asks. Gaston cites Sixth Avenue as a “missing link” of sorts, a street that could — if properly reinvented — be a catalyst in lower SoBro. In fact, CDC coined it the “Avenue of the Sciences” about 10 years ago. ““If Sixth Avenue were redesigned with sidewalks, street trees, lighting and dedicated bicycle lanes, [significantly] more people [than currently] would visit the science center, Fort Negley, the Nashville City Cemetery and beyond to all that is happening in Wedgewood-Houston and Chestnut Hill, and ultimately beyond to The Fairgrounds Nashville.” Because each of the four SoBro nodes has its own identity and vibe, achieving full connectivity between them will require effort and time. “When considering all of the acreage of new development, our downtown has nearly tripled in scope over the past decade or so,” Hollingsworth says. “One would hope that there would be more public transit — like additional Music City Circuit circulator bus routes — to assist in the flow of people between all these sectors. The rumored second Metro transit hub for Lafayette Street and Fifth Avenue South is a good sign.”
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MAKING A CONNECTION
Thinking about how Capitol View and Nashville Yards can be seamlessly joined by wILLIAm wILLIAmS
uilding a mixed-use urban node from scratch is no easy, or inexpensive, task. There is always the risk such development will seem a bit sterile and manufactured — that it will lack the organic growth, quirkiness and grittiness to render it distinctive and appealing. The epicenter of The Gulch, for example, benefits from having a handful of old, small masonry buildings that temper the “newness” of the recently opened towers. As such, The Gulch functions as a well-defined entity while simultaneously exhibiting some personality. It works overall. The same can be said of SoBro. Conversely, Nashville Yards and Capitol View will not have the benefit of, once finished, offering any degree of old-school-ness or significant evolution. Though both should be attractive and inviting, they will need every positive element that such constructed-via-a blank-slate urban pockets (think Atlantic Station in Atlanta and South Waterfront in Portland, Oregon) must rely upon for success. With Capitol View and Nashville Yards, connectivity — and not so much within themselves but with each other — would help.
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There are three properties that the developers of either project do not own and that might hold the key to maximum connectivity between the two. At 315 10th Ave. N. is located a nondescript building home to the Nashville Business Incubation Center. At 1021 Charlotte Ave. sits a generic warehouse home to W.W. Grainger Inc., which sells motors, lighting, fasteners, plumbing, tools and safety supplies. And at 1000 Charlotte and 905 Nelson Merry St. are sited two surface parking lots. The State of Tennessee owns the lots, the Tennessee State Board of Regents owns the 315 10th site, and W.W. Grainger Inc. owns the 2.23-acre property from which its namesake business operates, having acquired it in 1992 for about $448,000. The Post could not determine the level of interest any one of the aforementioned property owners might have in selling to allow a potential redevelopment. And it is unclear if either Boyle Investments (teaming with Northwestern Mutual on Capitol View) or San Diego-based Southwest Value Partners (the master developer of Nashville Yards, aka The Yards) would be interested in buying and building upon the trio of properties. But what is clear is that full connectivity between the two massive developments will never be realized if the three properties remain as is. Gary Gaston, CEO of the Nashville Civic Design Center, says the thought of connectivity is interesting. “NCDC has done studies that proposed connecting Union Street where it makes a sharp turn and becomes Ninth Avenue North via a
pedestrian bridge that serves to connect Tennessee State University’s downtown campus and the YMCA, back to the central business district,” he says. “This would serve as a connection to the new open spaces being built at The Yards, as well as Capitol View. An added benefit would be increased safety and pedestrian access for places that are separated by a particularly awkward and dangerous section of Rosa Parks Boulevard.” Mark Hollingsworth, a citizen observer of Nashville’s built environment, said the under-activated parcels are, in fact, key to the specific area. “The stretch west of the CSX tracks and that includes the greenway seems kind of prime,” says Hollingsworth, who serves as moderator of the Nashville chapter of international message board website urbanplanet.org. “Could somebody develop the back part of ElevenNorth with a parking garage? Certainly to the east of the greenway is a linear stretch of unused land. “All of that land will be prime once construction of the Asurion headquarters building (by Highwoods Properties) and Nashville Yards are fully underway,” he adds. Hollingsworth says the two state parking lots are primed for workforce housing. “Whatever building will be there will need parking for state employees and activated with ground-level retail.” Hollingsworth says it will be “important” to connect Nashville Yards and Capitol View. “As the city is drawing westward from the CBD core, people will need to move easily between the western section of downtown, in particular Capitol View, and the entertainment district. You want to give people a pleasant walking experience and not have them reliant on taxis, Uber and Lyft.”
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Eighth and Division intersection prepped more than ever to connect SoBro, The Gulch by wILLIAm wILLIAmS
n the late 1990s, Nashvillians were not thinking about how The Gulch and SoBro could interact in a seamlessly connected manner. For that matter, few locals were pondering much, if anything, about the two now-bustling urban districts — as neither was much more than a collection of smallish nondescript buildings, their streets devoid of pedestrians. Twenty years later, the dynamic has changed dramatically for what have become a noteworthy pair of downtown places. Towers soar. Walkers, joggers and bikers abound. The energy is palpable. And with the opening the past few years of Gulch Crossing, 1201 Demonbreun, Twelve Twelve and JW Marriott, The Gulch and SoBro are at least reasonably connected. But more connectivity clearly is needed. And beyond the obvious is a less-noticeable characteristic: The intersection of Eighth Avenue South and Division Street has become an important factor, more than ever, regarding the further linking of SoBro and The Gulch. This heightened importance stems from various considerations: • A long-planned pedestrian bridge spanning the CSX rail tracks has yet to materialize, thus placing heightened emphasis on the Eighth/Division intersection as a connector.
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• In 2017, Metro completed its so-called Division Street Extension, a viaduct that spans the aforementioned CSX tracks and slices through Pie Town, an emerging urban node that overlaps both SoBro and The Gulch. • Alliance Residential Co., as of publication, was nearing completion of its Broadstone Gulch, a 14-story tower offering retail and apartments, at the intersection. • The $8.9 million sale in mid-August of a property fronting Division and adjacent to the Frugal MacDoogal building is expected to yield a large-scale building of up to 16 floors. • There is potential for both a 16-story mixed-use building at the former site of the Habitat ReStore business and, on the adjacent
parcel long home to Yazoo Brewing Co., a Hilton Canopy hotel. • Southeast Venture plans an eventual reinvention of the northeast corner of the site (home to Flyte, among others) with a large-scale mixed-use building. • Three parcels home to R.J. Young and with a main address of 810 Division St. are for sale, with the future buyer expected to redevelop the sites. Given those multiple factors, the Eighth/ Division intersection has assumed an elevated presence, with that strong attention placed upon it perhaps providing the key to the eventual connectivity of the southern segments of SoBro and The Gulch.
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The parcel at 645 Division St. sold for $8.9 million in mid-August and is expected to yield a large-scale building.
The parcel at 910 Division St. and long home to Yazoo Brewing Co. is slated for a Hilton Canopy hotel. Charlotte-based company Tara Investments Inc. would undertake the project.
Charleston, S.C.-based Greystar Real Estate Partners is eyeing a 16-story apartment building for 908 Division St., which most recently was home to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
Nashville-based Southeast Venture is eyeing a mixed-use building for the 700 block of Division Street but has not announced design details or a construction start date. Three parcels home to suburban buildings housing R.J. Young and with a main address of 810 Division St. are for sale, with the future buyer expected to redevelop the sites with large-scale buildings.
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Reinvention of south side site moves cautiously — but clearly — forward by LINDA bRyANT
he long-proposed redevelopment of The Fairgrounds Nashville has been a contentious issue ever since then-Mayor Karl Dean rolled out a plan to radically transform the 117-acre site into a mixed-use corporate campus in 2011.
Roll forward to 2018 and the fate of the Fairgrounds, although still a thorn in the side for some, is in a much more definable and predictable place than it was during the Dean administration or in most of the years since. Fine details of a master plan for the South Nashville project are being ironed out. As this magazine went to press, Metro Council members were preparing to cast their final votes on a $275-million, 30,500-seat Major League Soccer stadium and an associated 10-acre mixed-use development. While some Nashvillians continue to protest big-city-style changes associated with the Fairgrounds, the reality is that it’s unlikely redevelopment in some form will be stopped. And it’s advancing in an era characterised by two converging trends: the rise of Nashville as a national destination and the corresponding emergence of the city as a nerve point for gentrification that comes about because of massive development.
The questions remain. Will the future new-look Fairgrounds — complete with an MLS stadium and mixed-use buildings with housing, retail and entertainment options — manage to offer amenities to the community at large without contributing to growing disparities in the city? And can the plan for the Fairgrounds actually safeguard members of the community who might be pushed out by the redevelopment of the site? Specifically, the general south side of the city near the Fairgrounds is home to lots of working class folks and immigrants. If property values increase thanks to the redevelopment of the Fairgrounds, those citizens could be impacted. It is, no doubt, a complicated issue.
Who will benefit? District 17 Metro Councilmember Colby Sledge, who represents the Fairgrounds area, has seen
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constituents bicker about proposed developments at the Fairgrounds for years. He says this time around he’s “truly encouraged” by the proposal that’s moving toward Metro Council’s possible final approval in early September. “In the nine years that I have been involved in this area (Wedgewood-Houston), it seems like this is the first time that everyone seems to be on board and on the same page in terms of the Fairgrounds,” Sledge says. “We are protecting existing uses, and we are growing and expanding its uses in a lot of ways. We are making a commitment by saying this is a property that’s important to our area and our city, and people should be able to enjoy it. “I’m also encouraged that some part of this improvement plan has gone through five different Metro boards and commissions at this point, and they have gotten unanimous support in every single one of them,” Sledge adds. “That tells me that we are onto something here, and that we are doing something that can benefit a lot of different people in a lot of different ways.” Matthew Carney, owner of Smokin’ Thighs at 611 Wedgewood Ave., is also upbeat about the new version of the Fairgrounds, but his enthusiasm comes with a caveat. “It’s a good thing for the city,” he says. “My only concern is that the Fairgrounds stays intact for all the different groups who used and enjoyed it over the years.” Carney opened Smokin’ Thighs in 2014 in the fast-changing Wedgewood-Houston district that sits adjacent to the Fairgrounds. He says launching the restaurant seemed like a risk at the time since another restaurant had recently failed at the site. But Carney took the gamble because he believed the area offered a strong upward trajectory. And so far, his bet is paying off. Smokin’ Thighs is thriving. One of the reasons for the restaurant’s success, Carney says, is that visitors to the Fairgrounds frequently stop in for a meal or snack. Fairgrounds-sponsored events may not happen every day, but when they do occur, it’s not unusual for thousands of people a day to attend happenings such as the Nashville Flea Market, which occurs one weekend a month and attracts 500,000 visitors a year. “The Fairgrounds events are great for business,” Carney says. “Soccer is great, but we rely on the other events, too.” Other events such as those involving Christmas Village, Fostoria Glass show, Just Between Friends, Nashville Roller Girls and Aro Lucha wrestling attract visitors by the hundreds, sometimes thousands.
‘Frustrated and optimistic’ Nashville Flea Market vendor Jen Reinard, owner of Jen Treasures at Booth 91, has been active as an advocate for fellow flea market vendors and has participated in dozens of community meetings, planning sessions and strategy sessions concerning fairgrounds redevelopment. “I’m both frustrated and optimistic about the new plan,” Reinard says. “In the beginning of all this, our meetings [with Fairgrounds officials] were hostile and there was little trust. That has slowly changed, although many are still worried that we’ll end up having a lesser flea market because of all the focus on the other aspects of this plan. They are very nervous about their livelihood, and aren’t breathing too easy. “In the end though, I think many of us do understand that the Fairgrounds needs to change and evolve. But change is hard, and we’re afraid we’ll get drowned out because of the higher-profile aspects of the project.” Reinard says she’s also skeptical about the housing element of the plan, which would bring about 900 residential units, 10 percent of which would be labeled as affordable housing. “I know they are really pushing housing and retail as a part of the ‘game day experience,’ but I think it would be better to include even more green space and 24/7 uses so the entire neighborhood around the Fairgrounds and new stadium can use it, too.” Under the proposed plan, the flea market and other events would be housed in newly constructed buildings on the lower elevation part of the Fairgrounds property, near what is currently Walsh Road, close to Nolensville Pike.
Enter: A CBA Sledge says another reason why the current Fairgrounds master plan has a chance to succeed “on
many levels” is because of the unique thirdparty negotiations surrounding it. No such negotiations occurred in previously aborted plans to revamp the Fairgrounds. This time around, advocacy group Stand Up Nashville is actively negotiating a community benefits agreement (CBA) that would advance equity and benefit the neighborhoods surrounding the site with Nashville Soccer Holdings, the project’s investment group led by Nashville billionaire John Ingram. A CBA is a contract, signed by community groups and a real estate developer, that requires that developer to provide specific amenities and/or mitigations to the local community or neighborhood. In exchange, the community groups agree to publicly support the project, or at least not oppose it.
’many of us do understand that the fairgrounds needs to e v o lv e . B u t c h a n g e i s hard, and we’re afraid we’ll g e t d r o w n e d o u t .’
“They are working on three major areas of the project — affordable housing, well-paying jobs and community and cultural spaces,” Sledge explains. “A strong majority of Metro Council members think it’s good to address these issues. It’s just a matter of getting down to brass tacks and getting the details finalized.” Community benefits agreements have been successfully negotiated in other cities across the country when the construction of stadiums were undertaken. “It’s a typical thing across the country; we just haven’t ever done it in Tennessee because we haven’t built a stadium here in 20 years,” Sledge says. “Cincinnati’s MLS [group] came to an agreement with a similar CBA a few months ago.”
Learning from the past The Fairgrounds Nashville Executive Director Laura Womack admits that the Fairgrounds redevelopment is a challenge that can at times be unwieldy and frustrating. At the same time, she says the very thing that makes planning the fairgrounds development so time-consum-
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ing, clumsy and controversial at times — the sheer number of stakeholders involved — ultimately will make the project successful. “It’s fair to say that everyone that utilizes or lives near the Fairgrounds is an important stakeholder,” Womack says. “There are a lot of opinions on what the improvements should look like and how we get there and that goes to finding consensus. “Consensus in this process means engaging a cross section of the community and stakeholders and equalizing the opportunity for input on co-existence and the ability to thrive,” she adds. “I’m encouraged that people who came in [to community planning meetings] with predetermined beliefs were willing to listen and participate and the many who left with a more open mind when presented with the facts.” Sledge believes the mistakes made in previous attempts to redevelop the Fairgrounds have paved the way for a plan that is more reflective of the community’s desires. “There is a sense that maybe we haven’t been as diligent in making sure that we have made good deals for the city in previous bills,” he says. “There’s a feeling that we need to be extra aware of what negotiations are and what the terms of agreements are. We have benefited a lot from working with the Ingrams because they are committed to Nashville in a way that many other groups just wouldn’t be. “A lot of people want to see this happen because it seems like the best opportunity we have to set the Fairgrounds to have a sustainable future. This is the best shot we’ve got — and probably the best one we will get for years, if not decades, to come. Obviously, people still have questions — and rightfully so — about things like traffic and parking. But, so many different people and groups have been working very diligently to get this to work.” Phil Ryan, an affiliate broker with Village Commercial Real Estate and former executive director of the Metro Development and Housing Agency, has been on the frontlines of many of the city’s high-profile public projects over the years. Ryan hopes the project will put an end to the Fairground’s identity crisis. “The Fairgrounds Nashville has been searching for its identity beyond what it’s been for so long,” Ryan says. “It’s sometimes auto racing, sometimes flea markets, sometimes gun shows and other periodic events, and what else? This new MLS plan helps solidify it as a public space with a very diverse user population. What more can you ask from your city than public spaces that are for everybody, for all kinds of users?”
NOLENSVILLE PIKE, SMALL BUSINESSES COULD BLOSSOM WITH FUTURE CHANGES Colby Sledge works to improve some of South Nashville’s fastest-growing and most diverse neighborhoods The District 17 Metro Council member serves areas including 12South, Chestnut Hill, Edgehill, Melrose, South Music Row, Waverly Place, Wedgewood-Houston, Woodland-in-Waverly, the City of Berry Hill and The Fairgrounds Nashville. Sledge routinely hears from constituents who represent a wide swath of the city’s south side, from a new business owner on Eighth Avenue South to an elderly couple on a fixed income in Edgehill to a wealthy professional in 12South. The Post chatted with Sledge about the future of the neighborhoods surrounding The Fairgrounds Nashville. It seems obvious to many folks that a Major League Soccer stadium and revamped Fairgrounds will boost the profile of the adjacent Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood. Can you weigh in on the matter? I think the development of the Fairgrounds will have a less noticeable impact on WedgewoodHouston than it will on some of the other surrounding areas. Wedgewood-Houston has already been going through some changes with the infill and business district that it’s created. But I think of places like Nolensville Pike, where there are multiple properties going up for sale or turnover that were car lots or storage facilities. Nolensville Pike and the area around the Fairgrounds will become much more vibrant in the
next five to 10 years. You see places like the new pocket park, Azafran Park, and the new businesses that are going in across the street from it. There are multiple pieces of property converting to mixed-use in the area. All of a sudden, it's a super important corridor. That portion of the city will start to be used in a way that we've never seen it used before. There is a car lot across the street from the Fairgrounds that has already been vacated and is up for sale. There is a big vacant area at Nolensville and Polk [Avenue] that is also going to be redeveloped. How do you envision the future Fairgrounds affecting local businesses? It's going to bring more of an audience and customer base for the existing businesses. But the hope is that the [reinvented Fairgrounds] will create opportunities for locally based businesses to have an opportunity that they may not have had before — from physical space to built-in customer base. I think the Vine Hill area, for example, could become more walkable, active and beneficial for everyone. A major issue in our city is locating basic services near where people live. A lot of people have to commute to them, whether it's a grocery store, pharmacy or doctor’s office. We now have the opportunity to create whole communities again like we used to have where we can get everything that we need within a shorter distance. Hopefully that will also help resolve things like our traffic issues in the city.
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CHARLOTTE PIKE STUDY AREA
Stakeholders chart plans for Charlotte Pike corridor by bENjAmIN KRApoHL
n 2015, Nashville Next created a vision to address the city’s tremendous growth, equipping urban communities to weather the storm of development with grace and effectiveness. In some communities, however, the best path forward may still be up for deliberation. This summer, Metro Councilmember Kathleen Murphy called for a reassessment of the community plan for the Charlotte Pike corridor area (located in her District 24), aiming to refine NashvilleNext’s overarching goals to suit the community’s particular needs. “When I first came into office, people talked about the Charlotte corridor as the ‘final frontier’ of [Nashville’s] development,” Murphy told the Post at the time. But growth may come sooner than expected. Murphy noted “several significant parcels of land” within the corridor could see changes and Metro’s expected eventual sale of its salt works property at 3800 Charlotte Pike. “When development happens here, we want to do it right,” she said. “We want to be proactive,
not reactive, so that the community has the security of knowing what development will look like.” That stance spurred the Charlotte Pike Community Planning Study charrette — a four-session planning workshop held the week of July 16. The first session asked local community members how future development could preserve and maximize the distinctive feel of the corridor’s various parts. During the next two meetings, Metro’s community design team parsed through the feedback. By the fourth meeting, the team had distilled the community’s vision into seven distinct character areas with development goals for each: • Western gateway: Mid-rise (four to six stories), mixed-use buildings to anchor the Charlotte and White Bridge intersection and create an entrance to the corridor from the west. • Floodplains: Mid-rise (four stories) mixeduse buildings focused on reclaiming the Richland Creek floodplain, prioritizing open space over greater intensity. Developers working on reclaimed floodplain would be cleared to build up to six stories. • Interstate-facing: Mid-rise (four stories), mixed-use buildings to address Alabama Avenue, serving as the face of the corridor as seen from the interstate. Such built fabric would bridge the gap between the interstate and the adjacent old-school character of the corridor. • Historic: Low-rise (three stories) buildings in the corridor’s “historic heart,” focused on adaptive reuse and redevelopment. Intended to preserve and enhance a “Main Street” character, of sorts. • Industrial homage: Mid-rise (three stories) mixed-use buildings to cultivate a walkable center for the corridor. Intended to preserve some of
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the area’s industrial roots through adaptive reuse of historic buildings. Developers renovating older structures could be cleared for up to four stories. • Interstate buffer: Mid-rise (four stories) mixed-use buildings to provide a buffer between Interstate 40 and lower-intensity areas. Developments with dedicated public, open space could have buildings rising to six stories. • Downtown entrance: Low-rise (three stories) mixed-use buildings intended to create a transition between the corridor area and Midtown/downtown Nashville. Of note, none of these goals would affect current zoning. The community also has voiced opinions on road layouts, walkable spaces and park placement. When presenting the charette’s findings, Metro Planning Department Design Department Manager Lee Jones noted that if all the most popular requests were met, the community’s road plan would include sidewalks, bike lanes, public transit lanes and shared center turn lanes throughout. However, he jokingly acknowledged that such a layout might yield a streetscape that is “a bit too wide.” Planning Department Public Information Officer Craig Owensby noted that the design team will “refine” the community input as the Charlotte Pike plan develops in coming months, and called juggling community expectations, random input and feasibility factors “a real balancing act.” Owensby also expressed optimism, however, saying that Metro saw an “amazing level of cooperation from the [whole Nashville] community” as the city collaborated on NashvilleNext. He holds that many people are more willing to compromise “if they know they’ve been heard.”
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The Nations sees rapid change — with no end in sight by bill lewis
n a shuttered sheet metal factory located in the heart of The Nations, several dozen artists recently were busy transforming the interior into an exhibit space for murals, graffiti and other artwork that would be gone after just a few hours on public display. Aptly named Impermanent, the brief showcase is a fitting metaphor for this rapidly evolving neighborhood sandwiched between Charlotte Pike and Centennial Boulevard on Nashville’s west side. As new residents arrive, the former
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sites of blue-collar industries are being filled by residences, offices, restaurants, coffee shops, craft breweries, a distillery and other amenities favored by young, urban professionals. The changes have rendered The Nations almost unrecognizable compared to its iteration prior to the Great Flood of 2010, a natural disaster that saw a bloated Richland Creek hammer the western part of the neighborhood. The attention placed on the West Nashville district after the flood, helped spur major growth. “The Nations is experiencing rapid densification and also rapid gentrification” as many small, existing homes are torn down and replaced by two houses per lot — with prices often between $400,000 and $500,000, says local developer Michael Kenner, who is concerned about that trend. Kenner offered the factory for the Impermanent art show after purchasing the building at 1211 57th Ave. N. He is selling it to an undisclosed buyer but is keeping a couple of acres of the site to expand his Treaty Oaks subdivision. His company, MiKeN Development, is building 82 cottages in Treaty Oaks priced from
$250,000 to $350,000. The subdivision is located at 1206 60th Ave. N. MiKeN also built the 13,000-square-foot Phoenix, a mixed-use building with apartment and retail located on 51st Avenue North. “The face of the neighborhood absolutely is changing,” says Robert Guth, president of the neighborhood association. “That’s reality — a reality that is good, bad and mixed.” Nearly half of the homes located in The Nations about five to six years ago have since been replaced — the result of the neighborhood’s aggressive post-flood evolution, Kenner estimates. But in some ways, the neighborhood hasn’t changed. The This-N-That Thrift Shop is still open at 5007 Georgia Ave., for one thing. And on Sept. 8, Guth organized a Unite The Nations block party to introduce old and new neighbors to one another. The event benefited Saint Luke’s Community House, which provides services to children, the elderly and the community in general. The 105-year-old nonprofit organization is located in The Nations at 5601 New York Ave.
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’pedestrians and heavy industrial traffic are getting i n e a c h o t h e r ’ s w a y .’ r o b e r t g u t h , n at i o n s n e i g h b o r h o o d a s s o c i at i o n
“We still have a population that needs help, seniors, Meals on Wheels, workforce housing,” says Guth. Some changes are harder to see but mark a fundamental shift in the character of The Nations, which grew over the years as a center for light industry attracted by quick access to the Cumberland River, Interstate 40 and other highways. A 200-foot former grain elevator still rises near the intersection of Centennial Boulevard and 51st Avenue North, the latter of which serves as The Nations’ Main Street of sorts. The Gillette Grain Co., the former owner, is long gone, though, and the surrounding 38 acres of land are being transformed into a mixed-use development called Silo Bend. Overseen by Nashville-based Southeast Venture and located at 5400 Centennial Blvd., Silo Bend ultimately could have up to 600 residences. The first phase of development, The Flats @ Silo Bend, a 193-apartment building, began leasing this summer. Silo Bend’s next phase began at the end of June when Evergreen Real Estate closed on its purchase of two parcels for residential developments. The seller was R. Manuel – Centennial GP, which hired Southeast Venture as Silo Bend’s master developer. Evergreen, also locally based, is developing Silo House, 103 condominiums with prices starting in the low $100,000s, and Silo Park, which will have 49 townhomes and cottages starting in the low $300,000. Southeast Venture is the architect for both projects. New infrastructure also is in the development phase at Silo Bend, including the extension of 54th Avenue north of the railroad tracks that run through the property.
Another part of Silo Bend, Silo Studios, incorporates a 70,000-square-foot former lumber mill being adapted for office, restaurant and retail space. Currently in the permitting stage, Silo Studios is being developed by Flyway, based in Charleston, South Carolina. Completion is expected in mid-2019. Wood Caldwell, a principal with Southeast Venture, says Silo Bend is transforming unused industrial property. “In the earliest stages of redevelopment, we simply saw a lot of opportunity in a piece of property that sat idle for nearly 15 years. It’s important to understand that the entire area, save for the lumber mill building currently under renovation as Silo Studios, was abandoned industrial property, which did pose a number of issues to overcome,” says Caldwell. “But we still felt perks of the location — such as its proximity to downtown, its position on the bluff of the river and the fact that we wouldn’t need to tear down existing structures — made it worth the investment,” he says. Evergreen should find strong demand for Silo House and Silo Studios if the experience of Craighead Development is any measure. When Craighead built West Mill Townhomes on six acres along 57th Avenue North, the company pre-sold 38 of them during the first three weeks of sales in 2015. Craighead, another locally based company, sold the 98 residences for prices between $200,000 and $230,000. “They’re up about $70,000” since then, says Bill Hostettler, Craighead chief manager. Other developments are coming to the area located near Silo Bend. Darek Bell, owner of Wedgewood-Houston-based Corsair Artisan Distillery, paid $6.8 million for an industrial property at 4717 Centennial Blvd. The 6.3-acre parcel includes a building with 14,000 square feet of office space and 103,000 square feet of warehouse space. Bell tells Nashville Post he plans to use part of the space for warehousing and will renovate a segment of the building for office, retail and light industrial maker space for artisan food production and craft beverage manufacturing. The space will allow Corsair to use larger stills than in Wedgewood-Houston. The site will also have a parking garage. Others are also preserving The Nations’ heritage by finding new uses for industrial sites. Nathan Lyons, whose Stocking 51 mixed-use development repurposed the old Belle Meade Hosiery
Mill at 5016 Centennial, recently purchased an industrial site at 4900 Centennial. “He’s going to keep it as it is,” and preserve the large industrial silos on the property, says District 20 Metro Councilmember Mary Carolyn Roberts, who represents the neighborhood. There’s another aspect of The Nations’ industrial heritage that hasn’t changed. Drive west on Centennial Boulevard and you’ll notice that Silo Bend stops at 57th. Instead of townhomes, condos and mixed-use developments, the road is home to active petroleum tank farms operated by companies including Marathon, Cumberland Oil, Magellan Terminals Holdings and Motiva Enterprises. Briley Parkway offers access to nearby Interstate 24, but oil tank trucks often take a more direct route down 51st even though the street underwent a “road diet” a couple of years ago to make it more pedestrian-friendly. The street now has two traffic lanes with a turn lane in the middle, bike lanes and crosswalks. The neighborhood has sought to move tankers off the street ever since 2014, when a truck hauling 8,500 gallons of petroleum flipped over and burned on 61st Avenue North. Kenner described The Nations as “the exploding neighborhood that doesn’t want explosions. Do we let them go through the heart of the neighborhood?” At Roberts’ insistence, Nashville’s traffic officials ordered the tankers off the street, but the federal government threatened to withhold highway funds if the city enforced the ban. The neighborhood doesn’t object to its industrial neighbors, but “pedestrians and heavy industrial traffic are getting in each other’s way,” says Guth. Some efforts to coexist with industrial uses have had happier endings. When the city proposed a huge wastewater storage tank in West Park, it was welcomed as a way to prevent the kind of flooding that devastated parts of the neighborhood in 2010. But placing a 21-million-gallon circular tank on Morrow Road on the edge of The Nations had the potential of creating an eyesore. The solution was to paint a mural of a landscape on the tank’s sides. “I had to search the world over for someone who paints sewer tanks,” says Roberts, who believes The Nations will continue to evolve and grow for years to come. “I don’t foresee this well going dry for 10 years,” she says.
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A NATURAL EVOLUTION
I-65 interchange at Buckner Road will spur additional growth south of Nashville BY BILL LEWIS
tâ€™s not hard to picture commuters making the morning drive north on Interstate 65 to Cool Springs, Maryland Farms and downtown Nashville. Now imagine thousands of them heading in the opposite direction to offices, retail outlets and restaurants in Spring Hill. Yes, Spring Hill, the city straddling the WilliamsonMaury county line about 30 miles south of Nashville and best known for its General Motors factory. The city is poised for dramatic growth during the next few years thanks to a proposed mixed-use devel-
opment that dwarfs anything on the horizon for Cool Springs. That roughly 775-acre development, known as Alexander Farm, is expected to move forward as major road improvements are put in place to handle the flow of traffic, including a planned new interchange at Interstate 65 and Buckner Road. Preliminary development plans for Alexander Farm envision 3.9 million square feet of Class A office space, nearly 1.3 million square feet of retail and restaurant space, 400 hotel rooms and 2,926 residential units (via single-family houses, cottages, townhomes and multifamily buildings) over the next 20 years. Nashville-based real estate, design and development firm Southeast Venture has been hired to plan the development. The land is owned by the Alexander family. As currently proposed, Alexander Farm would become a southern gateway to Cool Springs. The property fronts the interstate between Goose Creek Bypass to the north and Saturn Parkway to the south. It is the next logical step southward along the I-65 growth corridor, says Wood Caldwell, a Southeast Venture principal. â€œBased on our third-party market absorption analysis, I-65 is, and has always been, the number one
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GREEN HILLS growth corridor in the region because it provides critical access to the most affluent communities in Middle Tennessee,” says Caldwell. “The pattern is obvious, as it started in the early 1970s with Maryland Farms, then continued into the late 1980s and early 2000s with Cool Springs and Berry Farms, respectively,” he adds. “But the limit to that growth along I-65, according to a our analysis, is at the 30-minute mark from downtown Nashville, which sits just beyond Alexander Farm and the Buckner Road interchange.” That planned interchange has received initial approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which gave the city eight years to begin construction. The next steps are an environmental impact analysis and design of the roadway. The overall cost is expected to be $28 million. Approval of the interchange clears the way for Southeast Venture and the city to develop a clearer picture of what Alexander Farm could become. “We’re not ready to share additional details at the moment. The federal government and TDOT (Tennessee Department of Transportation) approved the interchange, so with green-lit access to the highway, we’re slowly entering the next steps in the process,” says Caldwell. Adding a second interchange leading to the city will be a game changer for Spring Hill, says Mayor Rick Graham. For now, Saturn Parkway is the city’s only direct access to the interstate. “This interchange will create a gateway into Spring Hill,” Graham said in February after the interchange received a green light. It will “give us what’s needed to attract a wide range of new corporate office investment so that more of our residents can work where they live,” he said at the time. In addition to making development of Alexander Farm possible, the new interchange will be the centerpiece of a regional transportation solution that is expected to draw additional commercial investment south of Cool Springs and create new employment opportunities in Spring Hill, says Chuck Downham, the assistant city administrator. Plans include extending Buckner Road across the interstate and linking Highway 431 (Lewisburg Highway) with Highway 31, which runs through Spring Hill and leads to Columbia and Franklin. That would create an alternative route for commuters living in Maury County’s fast-growing suburbs. Development around Buckner Road could eventually mirror that of Berry Farms, the mixed-use development located a few miles north on I-65 at the Goose Creek Bypass, says Downham. “Certainly it could be comparable to what we see around Goose Creek,” he says. “Look at the whole I-65 corridor. We look at this as a way to create a true gateway.” Berry Farms, developed by Boyle Investment Co., will have upon completion 3 million square feet of Class A office space, 1.8 million square feet of retail space and
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1,100 residences, including single-family homes and condominiums. Berry Farms is home to the campus of Ramsey Solutions, the personal financial advice organization led by radio host Dave Ramsey, the Lee Co. and the Tennessee Baptist Convention as well as a Publix grocery store and retailers and restaurants. The 600-acre development was the first of its kind south of Franklin. Now it makes sense for more growth to move south, says Phil Fawcett, chief manager of Boyle’s Nashville office. “The long-term vision of what (Interstate) 840 is going to do is starting to become a reality,” says Fawcett. That loop south of Nashville connects Lebanon, Murfreesboro, Franklin and Dickson and has encouraged development of new subdivisions. Now commercial growth is following those rooftops south. A project the size of Alexander Farm is difficult to imagine in Cool Springs, although there are significant developments underway there. Glenn Wilson, CEO of Southstar, says it’s hard to find available land with interstate access in Cool Springs. “We’ve been blessed by being part of Cool Springs, but [available developable land is] almost gone,” he says. Southstar teamed with Highwoods Properties to launch Ovation in Cool Springs before selling its stake to Thomas Land and Development. Ovation, located on the south side of McEwen Drive east of I-65, is a 145-acre development that will have up to 1.4 million square feet of Class A office space, a residential community, two fullservice hotels, retailers and restaurants. Southstar is developing Carothers Crossing, a mixeduse project that includes a 120,000-square-foot Life Time Athletic fitness facility, 100,000 square feet of Class A office space and a 100,000-square-foot climatecontrolled storage facility. In Cool Springs, another development of note is Hall Emery’s Franklin Park. That master-planned development, located at East McEwen Drive, will have 1.25 million square feet of Class A office space when completed, as well as a 600-seat amphitheater, a pond and an 11acre natural area. Likewise, Boyle and Northwood Ravin have begun construction of McEwen Northside. The 45-acre mixeduse environment will include approximately 750,000 square feet of Class A office space, 100,000 square feet of restaurants and specialty retail, a 150-room businessclass hotel, 580 luxury apartments and more than 10 acres of green space. Looking ahead, Fawcett sees growth continuing to move south toward Spring Hill. Cool Springs is filling up and “lacks available sites and the price point is rising,” he says. “We see things continue to go south,” says Fawcett, adding that development such as Alexander Farm in Spring Hill is “a natural evolution.”
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THE VALUE OF DEFEAT
Transit officials say failed Let’s Move Nashville effort could yield progress BY LENA ANTHONY
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lmost five months have passed since the overwhelming defeat of the Let’s Move Nashville transit referendum, which was rejected by Davidson County voters on May 1 by a 2-to-1 margin. Some may call that a decisive blow, but that’s not necessarily how Michael Skipper, executive director of the Greater Nashville Regional Council, sees it. “These things are difficult to do the first time,” Skipper told attendees at Williamson Inc.’s Fourth Annual Transportation Summit during a panel discussion that also included Steve Bland, CEO of WeGo Public Transit (formerly the Metro Transit Authority). “And it’s not uncommon for that first time to be a defeat.”
In fact, transit measures nationwide have about a 71 percent success rate, according to the American Public Transportation Association. Tax-based referendums, like Let’s Move Nashville, meanwhile, tend to be less successful than bond-based measures. But defeat still has value, Skipper said. Even with a loss, “you get an unprecedented level of awareness,” he explained to attendees of the event. “For the first time really, you have voters and members of the general population putting skin in the game. In turn, conversations about transit become more meaningful.” Among the mistakes made with Let’s Move Nashville was an under-reliance on technology in the proposal, Skipper said. Many opponents of the plan, for example, mocked the inclusion of light rail, instead touting the benefits of emerging innovations like autonomous cars. Bland pointed to another shortcoming. “Transportation doesn’t exist in a bubble,” he said. “Gentrification, affordable housing, schools, community spending priorities — all of these have an impact on transportation and stand to be impacted by transportation. We can’t restrict the conversation just to transportation concerns. What we’re really talking about are changes to the way people live.” And the results of the May referendum demonstrat-
courtesy of let’s move nashville
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’ T h e s e T h i n g s a r e d i f f i c u lT
“It’s incredible to see the stark comparison of what our city’s skyline looks like now versus 60 years ago.” ~Vic Alexander
T o d o T h e f i r s T T i m e .’ M I C H A E L S K I P P E R , G R E AT E R NASHVILLE REGIONAL COUNCIL
ed that voters were concerned about what could happen to their neighborhoods. Any future transit planning, then, should include as many community stakeholders as possible. But historically, that hasn’t been the case. “We would send out the invitation and it would typically be the same 20 to 25 people in the room,” Bland said. He said partnerships with professional organizations like the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, employers and even church groups have proved most effective in engaging the greatest number of community members. “The reality is the more there’s a peer-to-peer conversation about the value of these investments, the closer we’ll be to realization,” Skipper said. In addition to highlighting lessons learned from Let’s Move Nashville, Skipper also previewed the near future of getting from Point A to Point B within the region. Warning: It’s not pretty. “Forecasts show that congestion is spreading like a cancer,” Skipper said, referencing the soon-to-bereleased South Corridor Study, a feasibility study of rapid transit options connecting downtown Nashville, Cool Springs, Franklin and Spring Hill. “It’s worsening on corridors you’re already familiar with. Alternative routes also are going away in the future.”
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To alleviate some of the congestion, area commuters are utilizing various ridesharing solutions available in the region, which were spotlighted at the Williamson Inc. Transit Summit. VanStar places five to 15 commuters from a common location (Clarksville, for example) into a “vanpool.” Included in the monthly fee, about $40 for a 40-mile commute, is the use of a van, insurance, maintenance and access to a discounted fuel program. Emergency rides are also available in cases when commuters have to leave early or stay late. The program currently operates in 15 Middle Tennessee counties, with the majority of riders coming from Montgomery, Williamson, Maury and Rutherford counties. Riders meet at a common location, such as a Relax-and-Ride parking lot, before commuting together to a shared workplace, like Nissan, or a location, such as downtown Nashville. The program is run by TMA Group, a Franklin-based nonprofit that also manages Franklin’s transit system. Individuals can sign up on their own or join an employer-sponsored program, which are becoming increasingly popular in response to the traffic congestion in the region, said Stanton Higgs, TMA Group director of operations. Hytch is another ridesharing option, although there’s no van or auto insurance included. Instead, it’s an app that tracks and rewards users for rides shared with friends, family and other people who have the app (and share a common destination). Hytch users can earn 5 cents per mile in 10 Middle Tennessee counties, thanks to a sponsorship by Nissan. In some locations, the earnings are even more due to additional sponsorships. Specific employers also can set up custom rewards programs for their employees who use the app. There’s another solution to traffic congestion in use at Schneider Electric, which employs nearly 900 workers in its Southeast regional office in Cool Springs. “Employees are measured by what they produce, not how much time they’re in the building,” Matt Largen, president and CEO of Williamson Inc., said at the event. “There’s no reason for any of them to ever be stuck in traffic because they can work in different locations.”
As we celebrate our 60th anniversary, we . . . reflect on the past, appreciate the present, and remain committed to serving those helping shape the future of our great city.
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The CSA will also set priorities for shortterm service expansion — as more funding becomes available, where and how should it be used? Create a Frequent Transit Network/ Provide More Service for Longer Hours MTA will begin to provide more frequent service for longer hours throughout the system, including on weekends. Initial improvements will be on routes that will make up the Frequent Transit Network, and additional priorities will be identified as part of the CSA.
Improve Downtown Transit
BACK TO BASICS
Improve Waiting Facilities MTA and RTA will begin a program to improve bus stops. This will include more shelters and better signage, especially at RTA park-and-ride lots. This will include starting the addition of transit neighborhood and regional transit centers and purpose-built park-and-ride lots that are explained more thoroughly in mid-term improvements.
One of MTA and RTA’s first priorities will be to make transit operate much better in and out of downtown Nashville. To do this, MTA and RTA will participate in the city’s upcoming Downtown Mobility Study, which in part, will identify transit improvements. It is anticipated that this will produce short-term transit priority improvements that can be implemented within the constraints of downtown’s existing infrastructure, plus more extensive improvements will follow.
etro officials and other regional leaders two years ago released the nMotion plan to build out Middle Tennessee’s public transit networks. With the decisive defeat of May’s referendum, almost all of those plans have been put on ice. MTA officials are moving forward on a few projects — including a rebranding to WeGo Public Transit this summer — but few other elements look likely to happen for a while. Nevertheless, it’s worth revisiting just what nMotion — whose planners canvassed thousands of city residents for the better part of 18 months — foresaw happening in the next few years. Here is an excerpt from the plan that outlined the first building blocks from which more ambitious projects could grow. Re-reading these priorities alongside the responses we gathered on the next few pages makes for an interesting exercise. _____________
Provide Better Information
Begin Development of Community Transit Centers
MTA and RTA will initiate a Comprehensive Service Analysis (CSA) to identify changes that can be made with their existing budgets to simplify and improve service. The types of changes that will be made are, for example, making service more direct, improving connections (including crosstown routes), developing through-city routes and improving schedules.
A reminder about the short-term improvements nMotion envisioned
The Comprehensive Service Analysis will determine how to improve connections outside of downtown Nashville. Concurrent with those changes, MTA and RTA will begin the construction of new outlying community transit centers as places to make those connections.
Along with presentation of MTA and RTA service to the public as a single system, it will provide information through a single website. Recent MTA service enhancements, such as real-time information, will be extended to RTA and AccessRide services.
Unify Fares The MTA has recently begun an effort to determine how to simplify fare payment. As part of that effort, MTA and RTA will adopt a simpler, more flexible and single-fare structure. MTA and RTA will also investigate and implement ways to make fare payment easier, including mobile fare payment.
Improve Base Services
In conjunction with the CSA changes, MTA/RTA will rebrand itself with a new unified name and image. While MTA and RTA will likely remain as separate entities, service will be presented to the public as if it is provided by a single system. Specific subcategories of services (such as commuter express service and the frequent transit network) will also be brand-differentiated to reduce complexity.
Improve Airport Service MTA will upgrade express bus service between West End and Nashville International Airport with downtown to operate every 30 minutes seven days a week from early to late. This will provide fast and consistent service for both visitors and airport employees.
Improve Express Bus Service MTA and RTA will initiate a program to improve commuter service. This will include new schedules that serve a broader range of work hours, the start of the development of “purpose-built” parkand-ride lots in more convenient locations, realtime information and better stop facilities.
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Nashvillians of note opine on key elements needed for the next transit plan
ith Nashville’s voters having spoken in a May referendum to not approve the then-proposed roughly $5.4 billion transit plan, the Post is taking a look ahead. We asked the following influential citizens this question:
What do you think will be the single key feature, service or component that needs to be at the top of the list when the transit debate resumes in full and in earnest? “The next transit rollout needs to be frontloaded with a grassroots, community-based support building throughout Nashville. Enlisting already existing nonprofits like the Nashville Civic Design Center to engage in a charrette process that helps people truly grasp the positives about transit and allows them input on each stop in every neighborhood. This needs to be a Nashville plan — not the mayor’s office or the council’s. And once it has become everyone’s plan/vision, we should be able to pass a ballot initiative.”
“Increased frequency in bus service and improved sidewalks and crosswalks for safer access to that service should be at the top of our list. This combination is the fiscally responsible foundation for a successful transit system that truly serves the community and benefits the economy. Ridership will grow over time with a more functional, frequent and attractive system. We should focus on growing bus ridership and making our system more robust and excellent before discussing light rail again.”
Michael Kenner Founder, MiKeN Development
Angie Henderson Metro Councilmember, District 34
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‘a central component w i l l b e s y s t e m i c a l ly redesigning and transforming the current bus system’ “Assuming that the transit debate does, in fact, resume ‘in full and in earnest,’ a central component will be systemically redesigning and transforming the current bus system (similar to what Houston did in 2015). We have an opportunity to reimagine our bus grid by aligning resources with our busiest routes; connecting employment with housing by acknowledging growth patterns that didn’t previously exist; and working across the city to grow ridership and attract more choice riders.”
“I would like to see specific goals and metrics along with an accurate cost estimate so that these two questions can be debated: 1) Is this worth the expense? and 2) How are we going to measure success ongoing? I don’t care for the ‘What’s $9 billion between friends — what, you don’t trust me?’ strategy.” Shawn Bailes President/CEO, FMBC Investments
“While there is support for a better transit system in Nashville, the failure of Nashville’s referendum on the $5.4 billion transit plan was a clear acknowledgement that many Nashvillians are not ready for a plan of that magnitude. However, Nashville has become a major city with continued growth in its future. As we move forward after the referendum, the key question for Nashvillians is how do we want our city to grow and what role does transit have in this future vision? “Within Nashville’s urban area there are physical constraints that limit our ability to expand our highways to provide more traffic capacity. Also, while autonomous cars hold great promise for reducing congestion, their full deployment is still years off, and autonomous cars will never be as space efficient as buses that can carry 60 people or a train that can hold hundreds. As a result, a much more robust, comprehensive transit system will be vital to our ability to ensure quality sustainable growth, maintain our strong economy, expand affordable housing options and enhance our travel options.
the key question for nashvillians is how do
“The cost to the taxpayers is my primary concern. I’m not willing to roll the proverbial dice on a plan that might work with money that can be better appropriated elsewhere. We are a city in debt and we still owe our teachers and Metro employees their deserved raises. Getting out of debt, fulfilling our obligations, working on our infrastructure and helping the homeless is far more important to me than solving our transit woes.”
“For a significant transit investment, we’ll need a plan that gives people a better sense that the benefits and costs of increased transit are more evenly spread out, with a majority seeing and understanding the benefits in their own lives and commutes. Putting together a plan to do that will be hard. Will the region and counties need to step up together? Will the state need to play a bigger role? Will traffic have to get much worse before people support dedicated funding? Do people want a smaller plan or a bigger and regional one? With the May referendum failing by a 2-1 margin, there will have to be a significant change in circumstances for people to be willing to vote to raise their taxes for transit. First, however, we have to deal with our current Metro budget issues before we could even consider any dedicated funding for transit.”
“It is also important to understand that if we really want a transit system that is on par with those of other major cities, a dedicated source of funding for transit will be a critical component. If transit has to continue to compete every year in Metro’s budget with schools, fire, police, etc., for funding, we will never be able to build and operate a first-class transit system. For Nashville to continue on its upward trajectory, we will need to make a strong commitment to transit. The big question is, ‘Will we be willing to do what it takes?’ ”
Mary Carolyn Roberts Metro Councilmember, District 20
Jeremy Elrod Metro Councilmember, District 26
Bob Murphy Regional Practice Leader, KCI Technologies
Charles Robert Bone Attorney, President and CEO Bone McAllester Norton PLLC
we want our city to grow and what role does transit have in this future vision?
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“Any new transit plan needs to be start with the blocking-and-tackling assignment of greater frequency of service, longer hours of service and improvements to existing bus service. Technology improvements are next and several of these are underway. There is an urgent need for more funding today for improved transit — not 10 years down the road. This is a necessity for the livelihood of many of our residents, not a ‘niceto’ proposition.” Janet Miller CEO, Colliers International | Nashville
“ A f u n d i n g s o u r c e .” Jimmy Granbery Chairman and CEO, Hill Realty Co.
“The final solution to transit is one that merely improves upon the investments we’ve already made in our existing street network. Creativity applied to traffic signals, bus/shuttle systems, rideshare/carpooling technology, and supporting bicycles/scooters will be the most effective and economical solution to our traffic woes.” Chad Grout Founder, Urban Grout Commercial Real Estate
“People were scared of the unknown. Future proposals need to be better communicated to make sure people understand how this plan fits with the overall effort to address our infrastructure in a fiscally responsible way. We must show how we have planned to adapt to emerging technologies, variances in projected revenue and the overall plan for the region.” Carol Hudler CEO, Cumberland Region Tomorrow
Malcolm Getz is professor of economics emeritus at Vanderbilt University and has studied mass transit issues extensively. Following is his take on Nashville’s future transit options: Express lanes work well. SR91 Express Lanes in Southern California opened in 1995. Today, express lanes are in-service with more lanes coming in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Texas to name just some Southern states that have them. Express lanes are dynamically tolled lanes usually parallel to unpriced limited access highways. Atlanta began by converting some HOV lanes to express lanes. In September, the city will open express lanes added beside I-75 northwest of the city. Atlanta plans to develop an extensive network of express lanes by 2040. Dynamic tolling means tolls vary by time of day and location to keep traffic flowing. On a lane with traffic moving at 50 miles per hour, twice as many vehicles can complete their journeys per hour compared with heavily congested traffic. With dynamic tolls, everyone can leave later and arrive sooner. Dynamic tolling doubles the capacity of heavily travelled roads. Express lanes also carry commuter buses and vans. Twenty-six percent of the people moving along the I-85 Express Lanes northeast of Atlanta are in commuter buses. Buses and vans move at 50 miles per hour even at peak times. When the buses and vans are in non-stop express mode, they complete trips faster than trains that make stops along the way. Express lanes then offer a superior transit service without the expense of a dedicated facility. Bus and van services on express lanes may be both publicly and privately operated. A common concern with express lanes is that we are paying again for roads we already paid for with gas taxes. The central idea of an express lane is that dynamic tolls manage the flow of traffic to keep vehicles moving efficiently. Dynamic toll
revenues could replace gas taxes in whole or in part. They could be used to expand roadways and provide other valuable public services. Public support for the use of the revenues is essential for a successful program. Another concern is that paying tolls is a nuisance, creating delays rather than reducing them. Express lanes generally use radio transponders in vehicles that identify the vehicle as it travels under an overhead gantry. Passage subtracts the toll at that time and place from the vehicle’s online debit account. Most people add funds to their express lane account by the internet. Collecting dynamic tolls does not cause delays. A third concern is that express lanes benefit cities at the expense of suburbs. Suburbs see increasing congestion just as cities do. Express lanes are valuable for suburb-to-suburb links as well as for travel in and out of a central city. Of course, how we use the revenues is just as important as who pays them. State transportation agencies in many other states have found suburban areas support express lanes as do central cities.
A fourth concern is that Tennessee passed a law that bans toll roads. Building roads in areas of low demand and expecting tolls to cover the cost is a bad idea. Because dynamic tolling doubles the capacity of a lane at heavily congested rush hours — as well as providing high-quality, lower-cost shared ride and transit service, they are much more economical than building unpriced lanes and rail services. Tennessee should change its outmoded law. In short, dynamically priced express lanes show considerable promise for our region. Regions that move ahead with express lanes more quickly will gain an edge on those that area slow to adopt them.
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FEATURES CLOSE bIG QUESTIoN fEaTURES
DID YOU PICK UP ON THE CHANGE IN TONE? e have moved on from the days of “Can you believe this?” giddiness. Nashville’s rapid growth over the last decade — a boom that helped the city enter the national and global consciousness — has delivered shiny towers, ballparks and amphitheaters, created fashionably updated urban districts and poured mountains of investment dollars in downtown’s entertainment hub. To wit: Tourist spending in 2017 rose 8.5 percent from the year before to $6.5 billion — more than triple the number from 1993 — and climbs higher still with every new
star-sponsored Lower Broadway honky tonk. But as we head toward 2019 and the 10-year anniversary of the national economy’s growth streak, Nashville’s communities are pushing back against the bright lights and glitz. They are pushing back against a pattern of big infrastructure investments concentrated in a few core districts. They are pushing back against more tall skinnies and teardowns. And they are pushing back against the incentives developers have often received without much muss or fuss. You might say that’s not much different than in the past. But listen closely and you’ll notice that the tone has changed. Those speaking out are doing so with a more deep-seated antipathy to the path and pace of the city’s growth. They are voicing a deeper fear with their pleas of “No more” — and they aren’t just latching on to headline-grabbing projects such as the transit referendum or the abandoned redevelopment of the former Greer Stadium. Their complaints focus more on housing affordability and paralyzing traffic, their groans the results of another section of sidewalk blocked off because of another construction project that likely won’t benefit them. The detractors see a growth spurt with potentially negative long-term consequences for their neighborhoods, green spaces and other commu-
nity amenities. And they see too few city leaders paying too little attention to real fixes. Things haven’t gotten truly combative to this point. They’ve been heated at times, yes, but it would be a stretch to say that Nashville’s growth-friendly image is in imminent danger of being defaced by a massive NIMBY mob. Still, the transit referendum’s decisive vote was one clear marker and the city’s emerging budgetary indigestion could become another. It won’t take many others to offset the momentum created over the last several decades and embodied by the 25-plus construction cranes still lining our skyline. The economic development narrative of Nashville as a welcoming boomtown could change and usher regional and national developers toward other cities. Such a script flip would be a slippery slope. And it makes it all the more important now for those with a stake in Nashville’s long-term future — and that’s all of us, no? — to chip in with clear-eyed thinking, courageous dissent where needed and strong leadership to answer the detractors’ tough questions. Doing so will help set the stage for growth that feels a little more measured and a lot more inclusive. If we don’t get this right in the next few years, the risk will grow that this change in tone turns into a change in fate.
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