The last time I wrote on this topic I focused on the financial subterfuge in which we seem to be participating here in Music City. Of course there are many who would say that I am splitting hairs, and I’m willing to plead guilty to a bit of fiber carving. Yet let’s be honest in admitting what we are doing – we are using taxes, albeit taxes that are in some case reserved for certain purposes by legal statue, to fund the construction of the center.
Of course we are doing this on the backs of our guests, inviting them to come experience our hospitality and then charging them rent to sleep in the guest room. Already I have heard some event planners complain that their clients are complaining about the high daily extra fees beyond the rack rate levied by the “hospitable” people of Nashville. No, the “people of Nashville” aren’t exactly paying for it through our tax dollars, but we may be paying for it in the long run in a loss of good will among our guests.
But this article isn’t about money, at least directly. No, what is bothering me about the Nashville City Center involves logistics as well as how we’re paying for it. There are several places where it doesn’t feel like questions are being asked, yet alone being answered, yet these questions and answers have long-term implications for life in our city if they aren’t adequately addressed.
At the propagan . . . uh . . . information session that I recently attended, the presenters brought out several pretty pictures to outline the plan for the area.
Unfortunately, the pictures on the website aren’t large enough to catch much detail, but the general layout is between Demonbreun and Shirley/Franklin Streets to the south, and between 8th Ave. to the west, and 5th Ave to the east. The project will feature a new roundabout at the southwest corner where 8th Ave. and Lafayette come together, and one of the entrances will face the roundabout.
All in all this seems rather nice on the surface. Most of the existing property consists of small mechanic shops, strip clubs, with a few gems thrown in (such as Rockettown, the Michael W. Smith created teen club that is a safe hangout for kids throughout Nashville). But as I looked on the map on the big screen that night, something jumped out at me.
It’s clearer on this larger map:
The convention center is the northernmost cyan block, with the other two cyan blocks representing proposed expansion space and redevelopment. What jumped out at me were the two buildings immediately to the south of the whole thing: the Nashville Rescue Mission and the Campus for Human Development, the two primary service agencies for the homeless of Nashville. As I sat there that night, what popped into my head was a simple question: Has anyone in the development phase of the project thought at all about the impact of the Music City Center on these agencies, and for that matter has anyone thought about the impact of these agencies on the Music City Center? After all, this is supposed to be the shiny crown jewel of the city’s edifices. Do we really think that the mayor and the CVB are really going to let a bunch of homeless guys that close to the center, presenting an image of Nashville that falls far from the plasticine buddy musician that we attempt to sell in this town?
So, that night, I attempted to ask the question to the presenter. His answer made me even more worried. His entire answer was focused on the increased worth of these properties once the center is built, suggesting that commercial interests would swoop in and purchase these properties, negating any possibility of the potential “problems” of the population that uses these centers. It was clear that the desire is: 1) to ignore the issue and hope it goes away; and 2) hope that we can “buy off” these agencies and send them farther away, simply moving the problems of the homeless to someplace that (knowing Nashville) likely doesn’t have bus service.
That, of course, ignores the reality that very few other areas of the city would allow these facilities in their communities. This is demonstrated in the decision of a fairly working class and marginalized community to reject the construction of the local Greyhound Bus Station (currently locate within the footprint of the proposed center in the concern that the presence of the facility would increase the numbers of the homeless and other “undesirables” in the community. If a bus station can’t get passed, do we really think that a full service homeless shelter will get approval to move.
By all indications, this is but one of several logistical issues that are not being considered in the mad dash to approve the construction of this building. Unfortunately, these logistical details are just as important, perhaps even more important, than the financial ones, for they impact the quality of life for all of us.
Yes, I am skeptical of the center. I have little doubt that it will be built for the steamroller that is pushing this project goes beyond any I’ve seen in the past, including those of the Bredesen era. I simply wish we could slow down and get some better answers than we’ve gotten so far.