The worn brick building on the corner of Fifth Avenue South and Franklin Street in downtown’s SoBro area has been in Fred Allen’s family since his dad built the place in 1958. Between the proposed $635 million downtown Convention Center and the proposal to extend the age-old Gateway Corridor project to Eight Avenue South, odds are Allen is going to become a victim of the city’s gung-ho efforts to redevelop SoBro.
The Gateway Corridor project dates back to 1998, when it was initially set to link East Nashville to SoBro with a new four-lane road. The project didn’t wrap up until 2006 and, instead of finishing at 13th Avenue South as originally planned, it stopped at Fourth Avenue.
The project was seemingly on the backburner until the Convention Center proposal got some legs last year and now the Gateway Corridor is back on track. The latest version of the corridor will see it finish at Eighth Avenue South.
However, in order for it to be completed, several buildings like Allen’s, will have to come down. And Allen is nervous.
When will he be forced to relocate his property? How does the relocation process work? What will become of the tenants who make use of his property?
The problem is there are more questions for Allen, and others like him, than there are answers.
As the Gateway Corridor extension project continues taking steps toward becoming a reality, SoBro residents and business owners whose property is caught in its projected path, are confused.
“These buildings have been here since the late 1950s,” said Allen, who owns American Fire and Safety and leases out space to three other businesses. “My tenants are going to be scared so they’re going to start looking elsewhere. My concern is, if I’m going to protect myself it would behoove me to make a decision now.”
But Metro Public Works, which has been the point agency on the public hearings relating to the proposed Gateway Corridor extension, is unable to offer any firm answers.
Department officials aren’t trying to be vague, but say there are too many variables to give people firm answers.
“We don’t have any time frames, because we’re not very far into the process,” Public Works spokeswoman Gwen Hopkins-Glascock said.
Public Works has hosted two public meetings on the topic of extending the Gateway Corridor. After the first meeting, it became clear the corridor was going to be extended from Fourth Avenue South, where it currently ends, to Eighth Avenue South. The corridor will coincide nicely with the proposed new Convention Center, as it will be a four-lane divided road running on the south side of the building.
“We’re dealing with several different agencies in [Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration] and there are a number of federally outlined processes that must be followed,” Hopkins-Glascock said.
Allen isn’t the only person confused about the process.
Rocketown, the mixed-use skate park, concert venue and coffee shop that serves as a youth outreach center, is also in the path of the proposed Gateway Corridor.
Community and Development Director Audra Davis said Rocketown is operating under the impression that a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement will be complete in about a year. That means Metro, TDOT and FHWA will be issuing right-of-way notices to affected properties.
“We’ve got to start looking at our options, because a year is not that much time,” Davis said. “We feel we are in the perfect location, we’re close to a number of schools. There’s a bus stop with easy access. Maintaining this location and the diversity it provides us is very important.”
Following the first public meeting in November of last year, only 26 responses came into Public Works. Since the Feb. 12 meeting, there have only been about 20 responses. Considering several dozen seem to be affected by the proposal, Hopkins-Glascock said Public Works is surprised by the limited response.
“We need to continue getting the word out,” she said.
The overall public response has been positive — Public Works said 24 of the 26 responses from the first meeting were in support — but questions do remain about potential relocation.
Part of the issue is the bureaucracy. Public Works is responsible for the planning process, but potential relocation will be handled by TDOT and the FHWA. Public Works has started a Web site related to the project and has links at the very bottom of the page giving information about relocation policies.
“I have some hard decisions to make and I need answers,” Allen said.
Besides questions about when the relocation might take place, there’s the question about what the name of the proposed street will even be.
On the east side of the Cumberland River, the road is named Shelby Avenue. The bridge over the river is named Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge and the remaining road between First and Fourth avenues is Korean War Veterans Boulevard.
Yet the project is still being referred to as the Gateway Boulevard Corridor Project.
Metro Council renamed the road Korean War Veterans Boulevard two years ago, and Hopkins-Glascock said it is likely the remaining stretch of road will adopt that name as well.
To make a comment on the corridor project, or for information on relocation, visit www.nashville.gov/pw/gateway_project .