News analysis: Green all around with a Bells Bend land swap

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 1:46am

Bells Bend's neighbors want green.

The developers want green of a different sort for the city and themselves.

Maybe there's a way everyone gets what they want and not one piece of dirt is moved on the bend other than to grow a vegetable.

If the discussion over the May Town Center proposals indeed becomes about the urban core, then perhaps one idea would be to swap land the city owns in the urban core with the Bells Bend property the May family owns.

Nashville is trying to figure out what should be down with the State Fairgrounds and the racetrack. The Nashville Sounds lease is running out on Greer Stadium. There’s the former Thermal site and many others.

They just aren't contiguous nor clean, requiring demolition and clean up of some kind. Clearly, it would be complicated.

Paul Ney, director of the Mayor's Office of Economic and Community Development, said Metro is taking an inventory of what it owns as it tries to figure out sites for luring potential users.

"One of the best ways it might be best used is swapping," Ney said.

He's not endorsing the idea of swapping it for Bells Bend. He and Mayor Karl Dean have stayed on the sideline with that proposal, saying not much more than it's an intriguing proposition.

Ney said, though, it all should be part of the broad strategic thinking process.

But a swap like that would make many happy.

Bells Bend area owners certainly would be pleased to have more than 1,000 acres of park land. They could create an entity like the Friends of Radnor Lake. Through that, they could establish organic farming as an educational venture.

"It's certainly a viable entity for that kind of thing," Emmie Thomas, director for Friends of Radnor Lake, said of creating a similar non-profit.

The Tennessee State Fair could move out there in more rural surroundings more befitting to the livestock shows. A Ferris wheel, roller coaster rides and the noise could be bothersome, but in the middle of 2,000 acres maybe not.

There would be issues of valuation to make it an even swap.

For the May family, it gets urban property to build "urban" instead of "new urban."

"It's a very interesting idea because it appeals to those loyal to the core idea," said Dave Cooley, who works with Bells Bend property owners opposed to the May Town Center proposal.

The neighborhood next to the fairgrounds wants the racetrack to go away and favors mixed-used development.

Developer Tony Giarratana, who is consulting on the May project, noted the valuation issue and seemed cool to the idea.

"I think all of those properties should be developed," he said regarding urban property.

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

capt4chris, That's 65,000 people!

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

Vanderbilt pulls more than that for baseball and no one is wanting to throw city moeny at that. I would wager that college baseball in general pulls in more outside money than that track since the majority of track attendees are local (within an hour drive) and/or do not staty the night or hit the town before and after a race. Attendance is meaningless if no one is spending money. Save everyone the time and money and start putting the downtwon boondoggles on htese properties outside of downtown. I just returned from a convention in Orlando (miles from downtown) and another meeting at Opryland so I know that these things do not have to be in place just for the benefit of the few downtown bar owners. Minor League baseball has no business being in downtown where the hassle and costs are higher.

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Tony Giarratana is a developer. His happy thought is the world paved over and buildings edge to edge. I think he got his “vision” from the move “Blade Runner”. The redevelopment of urban areas, or any area that has had a previous use, is a great idea. It is very beneficial from a “green” standpoint, as “undeveloped” areas get to stay the way they are. As with many things in the human world, there seems to be no value in things unless it can be put to use for humans. THE SWAP IS A GREAT IDEA!!!

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

So what's the comparative land areas between these two locations? If I'm deducing correctly, the Bells Bend site has 2000 ac, with 1000 left undeveloped. Right? So how large is the Fair Grounds site?

By: Nashville Voter on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Fairgounds are about 100 acres with a lot of that in the flood plain according to the study web site.Questions: *How would the 200,000 people who go to the fair get to the bells bend fairground? *Where would the millions needed to make a "fair" farigounds "swap' come from?*What would having to drive 5 miles down a narrow road mean to Fair attendence?*What effect would taking $50M to $75M a year in potential property tax reveuve and "trading" it for maybe 10% that amount mean for Metro?*Who are the "many" this would make happy? *There are already over 2000 acres of park land in the Bells Bend area---add to this the 800-900 acres the May's are conserving in their proposal and you will have 40%-50% of the TOTAL park land in Davidson County in ONE neighborhood. Do we need more park land for Bells bend or money money for firemen, policman, schools, and sidewalks other places in the city?If you are going to call something news analysis, then do it. This peice is better titled "news musing"..................

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

Fairgrounds needs to be an amphitheatre (6,000-8,000 seat) or a baseball stadium.

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Man I got to read some of these things better! The fair grounds at Bells Bend is STUPID. A park there is JUST RIGHT!!

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

Ferris wheels, roller coasters and what about the monthly Flea Market that draws hundreds of thousands a year? How would you get there and where are all of the thrill seeking bargain hunters gonna park. Either the city (aka taxpayers) will have to pave over significant areas of green space, or Bells Bend will become America’s largest motocross track. How attractive will the current fairgrounds and Greer Stadium neighborhood be to companies looking to relocate to Middle Tennessee. "Welcome to Nashville, let's head over to the fairgrounds" doesn't seem like a very strong sales pitch for the city.Who would pay for the extremely costly environmental cleanup required to make these sites useable? Would that be the Bells Bend Neighbors or every single taxpayer in Davidson County? This would be the worst swap since the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees. It only took Boston 86 years to recover from that mistake.

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

The point was not just swap only THE fairgrounds but various parcels of city-owned urban land. But this is a "what if" scenario, looking at things from a different angles. One of the problems is that folks start down paths of their own thinking and don't take time to consider what else might be done and maybe there is a way that the folks on BB opposed to the project could be happy, the neighborhood people next to the fairgrounds are happy, the city government is happy with improved urban tax based and so on. And yes the fairgrounds out there probably would be annoying and not doable. Maybe it could be like a lot of other things, it could move to Williamson or Wilson County. Aren't state fairs sort of a celebration of the rural life? I haven't been to one anywhere that didn't have a livestock show and horse, etc.As for environmental clean up, gosh let's just sit and let all the stuff be a rotting, stinking hole and only develop open green space. Sorry, that's my snide comment for the day at least in writing anyway.

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

Fairs are a dying breed. Memphis' Midsouth Fair is gone for example and it was bigger than the state fair. Fairs and weekly redneck racing facilites should not enter into the equation on what is best for Nashville. It is not Metro's job to provide a place for people to race in front of empty grandstands then go home at night. Real econmic impact is needed but Metro really needs to start focusing on its primary reasons for existence (schools, public safety, and transportation infratructure)

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

Amphitheater? Didn't they just tear one down in antioch?

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

First - applause where applause is due: As for environmental clean up, gosh let's just sit and let all the stuff be a rotting, stinking hole and only develop open green space. Sorry, that's my snide comment for the day at least in writing anyway." Thank you RL!The fairgrounds gives affordable "convention" site to many! (Go on, do the research - Nashville is in the top 1% of expensive convention space in the United States.) Everything from Governor's Dinners to HS Proms have been exceptional events, the parking is free, and the security is good. The Nashville Lawn and Garden Fair, Christmas Village.. the list is endless. The staff is diligent! So lets stop turning a nose up at our fair grounds. THE GOOD news is that the city is showing some life signs regarding better stewardship of what we have. Including not tearing up the Bells Bend area of the Scottsboro Community! The May family would certainly add to their legacy by being a part of that stewardship. Nashvillians need to come back to the core of the city and really use what is there, restaurants, office space, venues, etc. It is better that it has been in years - but there is still room for improvement via local pride. As for the transplants/new arrivals/and temporaries - I hope you came here because you like what we have; if so - why in the name of Iris Blommin'Time must you fight so hard to change it so dramatically.Again - thank you Richard - there for a minute I was certain that your heart had been lost to the 'dark side' for good.

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

A buddy of mine has a hog farm he might be willing to swap for the Fairgrounds. That way the "neighborhoods" could have their green space and it would already be fertilized. This bit of brilliant "news analysis" didn't mention that most of the "neighborhood" isn't concerned about what's there now. And by the way,metro doesn't spend a penny on anything at the Fairgrounds. All that is needed for the racetrack to make money FOR metro is a good promoter. Of course if the racetrack and that tacky old State Fair is done away with, just think of all the things that could be built there on which the Metro government could spend money...starting with the $10 to $50 million it could and probably would cost to tear down and clean up the speedway.Hey, the hog farm swap is starting to sound better and better.

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

Nashville would be much better off if the Fairgrounds left for the suburbs and not another headquarters as mentioned in the Marketplace column today. How many more jobs and tax dollars are we willing to send to surrounding counties? How much more time do our city leaders need to consider the fact that this is a real issue that impacts the lives of all Nashvillians, not just a handful of vocal NIMBY's.I have been in Nashville all my life and I am very "loyal to the core." I also realize that downtown is not the answer for all companies. If it were, Nissan would not be leaving this year.And what does Nashville have to offer as far as alternatives to downtown? A race track...A heap of rusting metal...A dilapidated ball park…blighted brown fields? If these are the only solutions we have, we are in big trouble.

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

I like the fact that the writers are on the site commenting about the articles. My vote still goes for an amphitheatre. Look at Atlanta's Chastain Park or Verizon Wirless @ Encore Park.

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

There absolutely is nothing wrong with change when it is absolutely needed. Again, we who are affected by these changes hear others who take it upon themselves to be our guardians and tell all that we are being taken advantage of and are going to be railrosded into something other than our green fields. Why should we of 'Bells Bend' end up with the cast off of someone elses problems. The fairgrounds have been in trouble for years. The race track nearly folded it's operatiion on several occasions. That is why the recent hire of Mr. Dozier, a prominent local busnessman and insider who can come in and be the 'savior' of the fairgrounds. How often have changes like this been made only to see that the action was the deciding factor to it's doom. There are some of you who jump on the failure of others to effeciently operate their business, i.e. the Fountain Square, only to see empty buildings and concrete and now can speak out to even consider such a haphazard scenario. It reaks of desperate thoughts and ideas that have in the past left the taxpayers of Davidson County to come to the rescue. It has been my belief that 'some of you' had previously added us in fighting down the possibility of living with a racetrack in our front lawn.

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

Tear it all down and make it a nice field that kids can play and we can go to remember what the land once looked like.

By: capt4chris on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Apparently the track is profitable. The current operators think so enough to request a 20-year extension for it.You can find more info at:"we're making an economic impact that the majority of people in this city do not realize we make. Partin said between 2,000-3,000 people generally attend the 20 or so local-participation NASCAR races the Motorplex holds annually each April to November and said 4,000-5,000 attend the national All American 400 at year's end. "

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

I think the "May Town Center" would not work without the "May Property". The development is designed to thrive with the neighborhoods around Bells Bend and not the ones around the fair grounds which are not quite up to par at this point for that kind of high landvalue development anyway. Plus I've also said before and will say again that if companies wanted to relocate Downtown they would have already but they'd rather be out from Downtown in a Cool Springs type environment which May Town Center would create within Davidson County so Davidson County could benefit. Putting it back in the Core completely defeats the intended purpose of the project. May Town Center is also from Local Affiliate Helicopters shown as being just slightly behind Nashville West with its exit being the next one past it on the interstate so it would and is intended to from the original announcement benefit Nashville West also and the two would feed off of each other. This land swap idea is kind of absurd and most likely nothing will come from it. There's no way on earth that people are going to have a racetrack that close to West Meade, Bellevue, and Belle Meade by the way so you should forget that. As it is the new Superspeedway is dwarfed event wise compared to the surrounding cities in the Southeast so why build another one when that one isn't even at any kind of a height yet. I think that Mr. Williams should become the primary Business writer again because he was much more optimistic and objective while Mr. Lawson is not. Mr. Lawson should be an editorial writer if he is going to criticize and be a skeptic on every development coming down the road in Nashville multiple times on end. I really liked the City Paper better the way it was before. Also, does anybody realize that a huge airline merger happened last night that affects Tennessee? We're like the only city that seems to care less and this paper didn't even bother to throw in the generic AP paragraph. Come on people!