NOTE: This is the first of two fictional future trips to Bells Bend, where the May family and developer Tony Giarratana have proposed a mixed-use development they say will ultimately generate 95,000 jobs and $100 million in annual tax revenues. Look for a contrarian view of May Town Center’s future in next Monday’s issue.
“So, Grandpa Fred, why are you taking me to see May Town Center?”
“Well, Jimmy, you’re 8 years old and you like cities, skyscrapers and construction. Bob the Builder and Legos will soon be behind you. So I thought now’s the time for you to see how the big boys develop, design and build stuff.”
“Gee, Grandpa Fred, this is gonna be fun. What’s May Town Center like?”
“We’re almost to the big bridge, so let me tell you a little about how this place evolved before we arrive.
“In 2008, the May family and Tony Giarratana announced plans for what would be, essentially, a new downtown. There was lots of opposition because critics claimed it would ruin the beautiful countryside in Bells Bend and would harm Nashville’s urban core.
“But the city approved the plan. Here we are in 2028, and May Town Center has been a big success. On top of that, downtown and Midtown Nashville have exploded during the last 20 years with new office towers, shops, restaurants and residential buildings.”
“How did all this growth happen, Gramps?”
“Well, May Town Center focused so much positive focus on Nashville that numerous companies and tens of thousands of people moved to Davidson County. The county boomed and has been able to easily support both May Town Center and Nashville’s original urban core. Oh, look, here’s the bridge.”
“Wow, Grandpa Fred! This bridge is awesome. Is this the Cumberland River?”
“Yes, it is Jimmy. And there’s May Town Center. We’ll drive it first and then get some ice cream.”
“Oh, boy, this is amazing. Look at all the shiny buildings! And the shops and people walking and biking. This is so neat. So the Mays and Mr. Giarratana did all this?”
“Well, numerous developers, planners, general contractors, architects, engineers and banks have contributed to this effort. Metro Government officials and planners deserve some credit, too.”
“Didn’t Mr. Giarratana build The Epicenter, Grandpa Fred?”
“He did, Jimmy. Originally, it was to have been called Signature Tower. It remains the South’s tallest building. Mr. Giarratana’s in his early 70s now and shows no signs of slowing down. Some call him a visionary.”
“What’s a visionary?”
“A person who dreams big, Jimmy. Back in 2008, Mr. Giarratana and the May Family felt Nashville was not competing with Cool Springs and other suburban office parks. The city was losing tax dollars to outlying counties. May Town Center was their answer. And for the people who live near here on farms and secluded lots, their property is now so much more valuable due to its proximity to this vibrant community. So it’s been good for all of Davidson County.”
“What about Cool Springs and those other places out of town, Gramps?”
“Well, my young friend, they're struggling. Many Americans, even suburbanites, are tired of generic strip-center architecture and long drives just to complete everyday tasks. Places like May Town Center, which offer better building design and walking opportunities, have hurt suburbia. Plus, Cool Springs is severed by an interstate, which makes it even uglier and less functional than most suburban places. Its future is not bright."
“Hmm. So what’s the future for May Town Center and Nashville, Grandpa Fred?”
“I’m not sure, Jimmy. But one day, you’ll be able to show it to your grandson.”
William Williams writes about Nashville’s manmade environment. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org