Creating Places: Will May project hold up over the long term?

Monday, August 25, 2008 at 12:05am
If May Town Center is built, the people will come. But will they stay after the novelty wears off? Paradigm Productions

This is the second 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. Read the account of the first ‘visit’ to May Town Center, go to nashvillecitypaper.com and search for “Grandpa Fred.”

“So, Grandpa James, why are you taking me to see May Town Center?”

“Well, Johnny, you’re 8 years old and you like cities, skyscrapers and construction. Back in 2028, my late Grandpa Fred took me on my first visit to May Town Center. Just like you, I was 8. I’m 65 now and still remember that day. May Town Center was alive with buildings and people.”

“Gee, Grandpa James, it’s 2085, so Grandpa Fred’s been dead a long time.”

“Yeah, Johnny. He passed away in 2050. But before his death, May Town Center slowly began to deteriorate. By 2045, many predicted it was doomed.”

“Was it, Grandpa James?”

“Here we are, Johnny. See for yourself.”

“Oh no, Gramps. Look at all the empty stores. There’s trash everywhere. I don’t see many people, either. This looks bad. What happened?”

“Well, Johnny, by 2030, change was brewing in this country. Americans began abandoning suburbia in large numbers to live in — or as close to as possible to — authentic cities and towns. There were practical considerations, but people also desired to live in places that had grown and changed organically over many years.

“They wanted places that had history, mass transit and an interesting and dense mix of buildings and people. Most importantly, Americans had finally gotten past their fear of living, working and playing with people unlike themselves.

“May Town Center was built out by roughly 2035, and there was no demand for additional construction. All the buildings had a certain sameness. Most of the people were of the same socioeconomic status. The town had no industrial buildings, few churches, no old neighborhoods and few independently-owned retail and restaurant businesses. The novelty had worn off and May Town Center seemed generic and outdated. By 2040, the rotting had started.”

“Gee, Grandpa James, this is terrible.”

“But it wasn’t always. In 2008, it seemed like a fine idea to some folks. Over time, lots of corporations located within May Town Center. Chain retail and restaurants thrived. People bought homes here and the Davidson County tax base increased.

“But just like the suburban model withered and had to be radically overhauled, so, too, did town centers and traditional neighborhood developments. They seemed nice on the surface but they were kind of plastic. In some cases, we still haven’t figured out how to re-use these places. Fortunately, many of the fine folks living a rural lifestyle in Scottsboro and Bells Bend sold while May Town Center was vibrant and made a nice return on their investment.”

“Is this what happened in Cool Springs, Grandpa James?”

“Yeah, it is, Johnny. For years, many folks were excited about all the new office and retail buildings in Cool Springs. Problem was, they were plopped down randomly and surrounded by asphalt and dead space. There was no sense of place. By 2030, folks looked at the mess and shuddered. In 2040, the Nissan headquarters building was demolished and replaced by a handsome high-rise in downtown Nashville.”

“What will happen to May Town Center, Gramps?”

“I don’t know, Johnny. But I wonder if it will even be here for you to show your grandson.”

William Williams is a citizen observer of Nashville's manmade environment. Contact him at bill37206@yahoo.com

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By: Saveusall on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Thanks for your two perspectives on the future of the May Town center proposal. I strongly suspect the second one will turn out to be the most probably scenario to unfold. Let's hope and pray it never gets the chance! We so need to improve on what we've already got (like Commerce Street), fill in, build up, and call a halt to this endless (sub)urban s-p-r-a-w-l. Its time is way over.Lee Martin37203

By: DaddyYo on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Oh man! This has got to be the largest pile of garbage I have ever read in the City Paper. Even among the pile consistently put out by Willy Williams.This is a fantasy based on the thinking of the most elite of the elitist. If this ridiculous rumination had any basis in fact then some form of the facts would have made it into the day dreaming that, although seemingly harmless, forms the battle plan of attack by the elitists’ private social “made men” known as the Metro Planning Department.If the new age hippies who take the form of planning professionals and commentators (cheerleaders) were just content with tinkering with the current form of their past failed social experiments (back-to nature communalism, urban renewal, sex, drugs and rock and roll and every other tenet of the 60’s cultural revolution including secular humanism, the glorification of criminality and deification of self-expression) then who would care? They would just be same headband wearing, barefooted, dirty, drug soaked hippies that everyone laughs at. However, the hippies of Willy’s ilk are much more dangerous. They have gained power within the Planning Department and instead of just being satisfied with crashing the Democrat Convention they have obtained some sort of validity as part of a governmental department. Willy and his Planning Department paramours should be rounded up and pounded with batons until they were thrown into paddy wagons screaming about their “rights” and bleeding for the cameras.Their quixotic policies don’t just harm the elitist; they harm the rest of us. The elitist always protect themselves. Willy wants everyone else to live in government designed public housing ghettos while they live in exclusive vertical gated communities. Willy can the bum on the street on Broadway come take a piss in the hallway of your high rise apartment? No? You are so racist.We daily reel from the fact that the idiocy, that used to be just harmless and clownish, has evolved into a full on war against the way-of-life of the majority of Nashvillians.There is no need to wonder why they want to destroy the suburbs. It doesn’t have anything to do with the environment, racism or economic equity. It is simply a method to increase their property values. Willy lives downtown and his property has has not been the wind fall that he and his back-to-the city hippies though it was going to be. If only the suburbs could be destroyed just think of how the value of their condominiums would increase.So they have to keep trashing the suburbs in the print and attempting to legislate it out of existence in the government. Just so they can make a buck.I used to think the suburbanites would eventually band together to fight the assault emanating from the cubicles of the Planning Department. But they won’t. They will do what they have done for the past 10 years – move to the surrounding counties.Willy’s twisted dream sees every development type failing to compete with downtown development. The most hilarious results of his elitist REM is that Cool Springs will do anything but out-pace the failing downtown Nashville.Willy, meet me in Cool Springs and we can go to the Tin Roof, Noshville, Bread and Company, Merchants and Boscoes. Then we can go shop and every major department store that is not in downtown Nashville. On the way back to your concierge guarded and card keyed access apartment building we can stop at Maryland Farms for a drink at Mere Bulles.If I didn’t know you I’d say your elitism was just based on your stupidity. But I do know you so I know your motivations are just selfish.

By: WilliamWilliams on 12/31/69 at 7:00

DaddyYo,Well, I guess I could join you for a beer at Tin Roof in Cool Springs. Maybe we can talk sports or music so as to not raise our blood pressure.WW