Mayor Karl Dean on Wednesday called the Metro Council’s decision to create a new master plan to decide the fate of the fairgrounds and its racetrack a “positive step forward.”
The council Tuesday voted to dramatically alter a bill that originally called for the demolition of the fairgrounds speedway. The amended bill, which unanimously cleared the council’s second of three votes, now lacks the “demolition of racetrack” language entirely, calls for the state fair to stay at the Nolensville Pike property through 2012, retains the expo center until a new location is landed and paves the way for the master plan to determine the best use of the property.
The ordinance is up for the final of three council votes in February.
Dean is hoping to redevelop the 117-acre property to make way for a mixed-use development that would be anchored by corporate office space. Most observers believe last night’s proceedings produced at least a minor setback for the mayor and his administration. Nonetheless, Dean still seems to be eyeing redevelopment.
“I have been saying and will continue to say that for our city to prosper, we have to be serious about creating jobs and growing our tax base, and we have to be serious about using infill development to do that,” Dean said in a written statement. “It will never be easy or simple, but it’s something we must do to be able to compete with surrounding counties and other cities and to grow in a way that’s sustainable.
“Last night, the Metro Council took a positive step forward,” he continued. “At the same time the council filed this legislation, we had already decided to take a time out from our plans to relocate the fair and expo center and spend at least a year determining the best way for us to move forward. I believe the council’s decision to develop a master plan for the fairgrounds property is a productive next step.”
In an interview with The City Paper Tuesday, Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling also called the new master plan a “positive step forward,” though acknowledged, “You never get everything that you want.”
The master plan, which will require council approval, is to be piloted by the Board of Fair Commissioners, working in conjunction with the Metro Planning Department and Metro Parks and Recreation. The plan is to consider already existing studies of the fairgrounds, including reports produced by the Nashville Civic Design Center and the Washington-based Urban Land Institute.
The plan is supposed to outline the best use for the property. It’s still unclear how long it will take to draft the plan.
"I will continue to talk about the importance of economic development and jobs," Dean said. "I hope through this master planning process we will reach a conclusion that is in the best interest of our city’s overall economic health and takes into account the wishes of the surrounding neighbors.”