Creating Places: Deaderick due for surgical improvement

Monday, August 4, 2008 at 2:41am

Few surgical procedures will prove to be more difficult.

Come October, Deaderick Street will no longer be used as the Metro Transit Authority’s downtown hub. The opening of the $56.3 million Music City Central nearby will allow the city to remove its hideous bus shelters and begin giving the three-block stretch of street a much-needed facelift.

Last week, we assessed the challenges Metro Public Works, working in tandem with Hawkins Partners Inc. Landscape Architects, will face trying to bring to Deaderick a modicum of pedestrian friendliness.

Generic high rises coldly frame much of the street. The entrances to these buildings and the handful of street-level businesses they house are poorly defined. Tall, blank walls tower over pedestrians.

Short of having business partners Kim and Gary Hawkins get behind the wheel of demolition vehicles to level just about every building on the street, the transformation of Deaderick might not be dramatic.

But it must be effective.

Kim Hawkins said Nashvillians want Deaderick to provide a strong link between the Metro Nashville and State of Tennessee civic anchors at its extremes. They also want the street to offer additional uses for daytime workers, downtown residents and folks attending shows at TPAC, the War Memorial Auditorium and the Municipal Auditorium. Lastly, she said, improvements should incorporate sustainable techniques for the long-term health of the street.

“We see opportunities for private investment to add uses to complement the lunch crowd and evening concertgoers,” says the always upbeat Hawkins. “This might include restaurants, newsstands, flower vendors and markets that could add activity and potentially break up some of those large expanses of wall.”

I’m not so sure food vendors are a strong option. Downtown already has sufficient inexpensive lunch options. Unless thousands of new lunch customers descend each day on Deaderick in a Summer Lights-like food and beverage orgy, the owners of the existing nearby eateries might suffer.

What about a tree-lined median, which would add to Deaderick’s already eye-catching greenery along its wide sidewalks? Big trees in the center of the street would nicely amplify the vista for those standing at the War Memorial and looking east toward the Public Square (or vice versa).

Hawkins alluded to the recommendations her company will soon unveil when she said Deaderick can be made “beautiful and functional” with healthy street trees, planting areas that can double as green filters for stormwater, and more lighting.

Such a vibe would help patrons of concerts and hotel events — and downtown residents — feel more comfortable at night when strolling the street. Another option for the street’s towering blank walls could be colorful banners and/or murals.

Regardless, Deaderick needs better connectivity to surrounding downtown streets. In fact, for this part of downtown to seamlessly connect to the North Capitol and Central Business districts, the entire area south of Harrison Street and north of Church Street — essentially Union, Deaderick, Charlotte, Gay and James Robertson — must be as attractive and functional as possible.

Given its brief span, canyon-like feel and “War Memorial Plaza to Public Square vista,” Deaderick is one of the most unusual streets found in the core of an American second-tier city. We’ll soon see if going under the scalpel will elevate it from “unusual” to “attractive.”

William Williams is a citizen observer of Nashville’s manmade environment. Contact him at

Filed under: City Business
By: BigPapa on 12/31/69 at 6:00

So much of that area of downtown is very ugly. It was all done in the 60's "urban renewal" which apparently meant "huge slabs of blank concrete". At least all the scummy bus people will be in the new terminal and off the street.

By: RTungsten on 12/31/69 at 6:00

In 10-15 years, people will be complaining about the outdated condo complexes that litter Nashville. Tastes change and I am excited that Deadrick is getting a second look....although, the Municipal Auditorium could benefit from a big wrecking ball.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

And to think MTA never used the landport behind Cummins Station. $10 million for something that never was used. Thanks to Congressman Clement for that waste.

By: Saveusall on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Thanks for your heads-up on the upcoming Deaderick Street renewal. I've long been wanting to see a bit of livability added to downtown Nashville. Here's the perfect opportunity -- let's turn Deaderick Street into "Liverick Street" -- if not literally, then at least practically: Let's incorporate sidewalk cafés all along this revitalized street, perhaps along with some open-air live-music venues. Could there even be a square or roundabout?! And how about some interesting architecture, lighting, gardens, fountains, walkways, etc. Deaderick's wide enough to incorporate such features, especially if we narrow the traffic portion to two lanes (or even eliminate it altogether!). It could become Nashville's "little Champs Élysées." Numerous other cities have seized on such opportunities to reinvent urban areas, with great success, attracting people and renevue. This opportunity is too golden to pass up. It's downright exciting!!! Wow!Lee Martin