Business owners and residents on a key one-block segment of downtown’s so-called Avenue of the Arts are pushing back against a proposal they say would “ruin” the neighborhood.
In a March 11 letter addressed to Mayor Karl Dean and signed “The unanimously opposed businesses and residents of 5th Avenue of the Arts,” the citizens say they were not included in discussions about a plan to convert the stretch of Fifth Avenue spanning Lafayette Street on the south to James Robertson Parkway on the north from a one-way street to a two-way street.
Fifth Avenue North is also part of the currently proposed route for the mayor’s proposed $136 million bus rapid transit project. Specifically, the one-block Fifth Avenue segment between Church Street on the south and Union Street on the north — along which the concerned citizens live and operate businesses — is undergoing a redesign meant to enhance the street as a visual arts district. That segment is significant due to its variety of design styles, street-level shops and absence of surface parking (a rarity for any one block within Nashville’s central business district).
“When the revitalized streetscape was presented to our community, there was no opportunity for conversation or input about the possibility of 5th Avenue of the Arts becoming a two-way street and the major thoroughfare for the BRT,” reads the letter (which can be found here). “Mayor Dean, this is a neighborhood, and as such we feel it is important and imperative that we be involved in the dialogue and decision-making of significant plans that will so drastically change the very fabric of our special block.”
The group goes on to say in the letter that “a two way street on 5th Avenue (and between Church and Union) is simply a dangerous idea.” They also claim that, after the community met with representatives from the Metro Public Works Department and Nashville Area Metro Planning Organization “it became apparent that Public Works and the MPO never consulted each other about their individual plans to change street traffic. Nor did they consult the business owners and residents.”
Dean’s office could not be reached for comment.
The proposal originally appeared on the March 11 Metro Traffic and Parking Commission meeting agenda, but the commission delayed consideration of the matter. The group meets next on April 8.
"Our community found out about the proposal for two-way traffic only about four weeks ago,” Susan Tinney, owner of Fifth Avenue-based art gallery Tinney Contemporary, told The City Paper Friday. “We asked the Traffic and Parking Commission for a deferral in hopes the community would have an opportunity to be a part in the discussions. The Traffic and Parking Commission granted the request. We are excited about the streetscape and all of the streetscape changes that are happening."
A spokesperson for Public Works could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
In the letter, the group expands on their concerns, including those of residents worried about noise, traffic jams, and “a change in character to the neighbor from one of an artistic enclave to a major noisy thoroughfare.” They also cite concerns about commercial loading and unloading, which they say will affect the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the Tennessee State Museum and the Ryman Auditorium.
“Our group is organizing to stop the changes as proposed,” the letter to Dean reads. “We would like your involvement, beginning with a meeting between our group and you, to hear the neighborhood’s concerns and mediate an alternative to the Public Works/MPO plans.”