Metro officials are looking for community input as the city — working with an outside consulting firm — begins the process of creating a long-discussed fairgrounds master plan.
A fairgrounds master plan “open house” is set for July 23, 5 p.m, in the Sonny West Conference Room at the Howard Office Building on Second Avenue. There, Metro Planning Department staff and consultants from Minnesota-based CSL International will hear comments and suggestions from fairgrounds neighbors, stakeholders and others.
“We’re off to a good start,” said the planning department’s Ann Hammond, who is managing the master plan project, adding that Metro is still in the “information-gathering stage of the study.”
The purpose of this initial phase of the fairgrounds master plan is to “develop criteria for a Tennessee State Fair and associated year-round venues, at a non-specific location,” according to the planning department. The study is to take into account best practices for such facilities, market demands, costs, benefits, and “site impacts” if the model were located on the existing 117-acre fairgrounds site off Wedgewood Avenue or an unidentified “greenfield site.”
Metro has hired CSL International to assist on the project. According to its website, CSL is an advisory and planning firm specializing in providing consulting services to the convention, sport, entertainment and visitor industries.
Planners and consultants working on the master plan will consider the conclusions of several existing documents on the fairgrounds, including a 2010 Nashville Civic Design Center report, a 2008 report from Minnesota-based Markin Consulting and a Washington, D.C.-based 2010 Urban Land Institute study.
A forthcoming second phase — Metro is still searching for a real estate/development consulting firm to oversee it — will explore how to maximize value to Metro and its citizens. Metro’s request for proposals  says the firm is to consider “long-term economic value of the property, economic viability and livability of surrounding areas, and historic, cultural, recreational, and economic value associated with existing uses on the property.”
The second phase will include the actual drafting of a recommended fairgrounds master plan for the city to adopt.
Metro’s creation of fairgrounds master plan is mandated as a result of the Metro Council’s February 2011 passage of legislation that at the time foiled Mayor Karl Dean’s attempt to redevelop the city-owned fairgrounds.
By a narrow vote, the council defeated plans to demolish the fairgrounds’ racetrack and while also setting the course for a fairgrounds master plan to help dictate the future of the site.
Later that year, Davidson County citizens voted overwhelmingly to approve a Metro charter amendment that requires a 27-vote super-council-majority to alter the functions and uses on the fairgrounds property.
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