The fairgrounds today? Right now it is multi-use, multi-cultural, and doing OK, considering a nationwide economic depression.
My feeling? We keep our baby, but DO throw out of the bath water. The grounds are in bad need of cleaning and fresh marketing, new scheduling requirements for noise, bigger-draw events, etc.
With a positive attitude and a non-partisan fair board we can turn it around and make it as special as it should be — with park space, fairs for everyone, roller derby, craft shows, trade shows, flea markets — without further impact on the environment, city infrastructure or anyone else in the neighborhood.
That won't cost near as much as other outcomes, and this choice can be modified going forward if it is not working in 10 years.
Or how about we make the whole thing a park? That would be nice. Get rid of the noisy cars, the riff raff of a fair, etc. Metro must spend money maintaining it and policing it, for no return at all — kind of like most of the golf courses only better (golf courses won't let us in to picnic). But this will never happen. Not without an endowment.
Reality? It's 117 acres in the middle of a metropolitan area. It's worth a lot of money! The powers that be probably already have an agenda for it, but are appeasing us with procedure. Please follow my "developer" thought process... These two actions (to me) make the most money for those in the decision positions (of today):
Build 400 affordable duplex homes on a half-acre each with a lovely 17-acre park for the people. (Condo's might be better — they generate yearly fees for doing very little.)
OK — if not that, how about this? Build 300 offices in a four-level complex with four- cornering shopping strips at 10 stores each. Capitalize on 85 of the acres with a per square foot return, 10 more acres for a pay parking structures, the remaining land for some sidewalks and low maintenance trees and grass.
Either build is a large flow of cars day in and out. (Don't worry, they are quiet ones.) The city will have to rebuild and widen all the surrounding roads, build access to Interstate 65 and 40 — we’ll need traffic lights, police, complete reworking of the water and power infrastructure, more bus service, another fire station… and what about all those trains that block the new major arteries in and out? Might need a bridge or two in case of emergency vehicles.
Oh yeah, if we get the condos, we need schools and a place to play (developers don't build those, a pesky insurance problem). More busing too, perhaps? Regardless, we pay for it. Helping developers is what tax money is for.
Remember, developers are patient and ruthless. They will not EVER live here. They want to sell here. Patience pays...
First, we fight and play among ourselves: pretend we can effect change. Metro Council will postpone and shuffle, and use parliamentary procedures to block and pose. Their well-meaning aides and assistants will read to us — well versed — from cryptic hidden agenda letters, really trying to believe they are helping the community.
We will have viewpoints and counter points, staying in denial about the fact the city has already decided to unload the burden of responsibility... (That point was clear months ago.) And Mother Nature will take care of the rest. She will rust the fairground structures, overgrow the area and make an eyesore. Then, when it looks really worthless, we have all given up — too tired to go and listen anymore, too much else to do, the calendar has been shifted for the 30th time, no one knows a vote is passing a sale in an obscure unannounced meeting and ‘boom…’ The developers buy it for 10 cents on the dollar and a few "good ol' boy network" deals.
In just five years they can destroy and steal what we have, and build what we will dread — and we will have lost a cherished piece of Nashville.