Transforming two of Nashville’s inactive corridors into vibrant destinations would require aggressive action from the public sector, according to leading experts on land use.
Nolensville Pike/Fourth Avenue and Franklin Pike/Eighth Avenue — streets that flank the disputed 117-acre Tennessee State Fairgrounds property — are the subjects of an ongoing study conducted by the Urban Land Institute, a Washington-D.C.-based nonprofit that teamed up with Metro officials over the past month to explore ways to encourage infill development along underutilized corridors that feed into downtown Nashville.
Under the organization’s Daniel Rose Fellowship program, the cities of Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Phoenix are participants of similar studies.
An Urban Land Institute advisory team released an initial report Thursday, supplying Metro government with tools to potentially transform the heavily industrial area directly south of downtown into a true neighborhood, making the corridors “places within themselves” rather than unwelcoming accessways.
Weak capital markets will require Metro to offer a wider variety of incentives, experts said. Recommendations for the public sector include: assembling sites for development, assisting developers with financing structures and offering incentives, loans and grants to developers willing to build in the urban core.
Experts also said the city could start by revitalizing the streetscape along Nolensville Pike through a beautification project or enhancing the aesthetics at Eighth and Douglas avenues over the coming 12 to 18 months. Both are actions that could “set the table” for future development, they suggested.
“The key thing for this to succeed is to have a combination of the public and private working together,” said Mayor Karl Dean, who asked the ULI team to analyze the area sandwiched by Fourth and Eighth avenues. “Nashville is positioned to take advantage of some of the low density in the core of city, which makes us unique and gives us a real special opportunity here that we should take advantage of.”
Asked if he plans to announce a government-led initiative for the area south of downtown, Dean said the process is ongoing and depends largely on the future of the fairgrounds , which seems poised for redevelopment. He said the next step is to solicit community input.
In terms of energizing the area, advisors said to “think big” and agreed the redevelopment of the fairgrounds property would be critical to future growth, recommending that the city find a use that could generate a large tax base, perhaps through the combination of a corporate campus and park.
Suggestions for the area as a whole include: creating a “gateway park” at the fairground property; turning Browns Creek into a greenway; offering better transit services along Nolensville and Franklin pikes and extending Wedgewood Avenue — which currently stops at the fairgrounds — eastward to Murfreesboro Pike.