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 firstname.lastname@example.org