Council moves forward with new ‘Downtown Code’

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 11:58pm

With no objections voiced at a Metro Council public hearing, a proposed set of zoning guidelines known as the “Downtown Code” cleared second reading Tuesday night, inching one step closer to becoming Nashville’s new framework for development in its urban core.

Inspired by the 2007 Downtown Community Plan, the Downtown Code bucks the prevailing method of basing zoning regulations on land use categories such as residential, commercial and industrial. Instead, the proposal embraces design-oriented standards ––signage, proximity to the street, and entrance and parking locations, for example.

The long-awaited final version of the zoning plan –– devised to facilitate more mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly pockets within downtown –– arrived on first reading at the Council last month following a two-year study and community outreach effort conducted by the Metro Planning Department.

Before that study even commenced planners had already found the existing downtown zoning system to be out of synch with recent downtown developments, including the Pinnacle at Symphony Place office tower and the Row 8.9 Lofts on Rosa Parks Boulevard. Both projects required exemptions from zoning requirements. The Downtown Code would presumably remove such zoning obstacles for developers.

Formal filing of legislation came from Mike Jameson and Erica Gilmore, the two Council members who represent parts of the defined downtown area, boundaries comprised of Jefferson Street to the north, the interstate highway loop to the south and west and the Cumberland River to the east.

From there, the plan divides the downtown into four general zones: The Gulch neighborhood along 12th avenue, as well as north, south and central downtown. Planners envision replicating the kind of mixed-use development found in the 12South neighborhood, downtown Church Street and Broadway.

Jameson said an amendment addressing a lingering signage issue will be added to the bill, which would push its third and final reading to February.