Slow down the eastern shore planning study

Representatives from several Nashville labor and equity organizations stood against the backdrop of the Cumberland River on Wednesday with a resounding demand: to slow down the East Rim planning study and increase community engagement.

Metro Nashville’s planning department has partnered with global design firm Perkins Eastman for the multi-month study that focuses on land use and redevelopment plans for 338 acres along the Cumberland River.

The stretch of land is one of Nashville’s largest and most significant redevelopment sites in recent memory.

Members of several Nashville labor and equity groups gather in a field next to Nissan Stadium to call for more transparency and open community input into exploring opportunities for the redevelopment of the East Rim. Wednesday, September 1, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn.

Global software company Oracle Corp. will build a $ 1.2 billion campus in the region, occupying more than half of Monroe Investment Partners’ 125-acre River North project. The first part of the project, a cluster of 40-acre office towers behind Topgolf, is already underway.

The study aims to engage the community and provide opportunities for public participation on new roads, parks, greenways and attractions. Metro and Perkins Eastman have created a Neighborhood Advisory Committee, and Metro Planning has hosted 15 public engagement opportunities with more than 400 participants since February. A community survey received 605 responses.

But a coalition – including Stand Up Nashville, The Equity Alliance, LiUNA, Nashville Organized for Action & Hope, and the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition – said the study’s methods so far were “flawed” and “disappointing. “.

The coalition said the study lacked transparency and wide and unlimited possibilities for those affected by West Bank development to weigh in. The groups sent a letter and a four-page document detailing their concerns and recommendations to Nashville Mayor John Cooper, Metro Council and Metro. Planning service on Wednesdays.

The bulk of the redevelopment will be on the east side of Nashville, around Nissan Stadium and River North.

“Recommendation number one is, slow it down,” Odessa Kelly, executive director of Stand Up Nashville and Democratic congressional candidate, said in a statement. “Attempts at community engagement have been too few and too controlled. Empower residents to make a real contribution and expand reach citywide, in the communities that will actually provide the workforce for these new businesses. “

The coalition identified five main issues:

  • The study was not sufficiently transparent or collaborative.
  • Knowledge of public workshops is low among current residents and these workshops do not allow for direct public comment.
  • Metro selected members of the neighborhood advisory committee without consulting neighborhood residents, and committee meetings were not public.
  • Where workers in the region’s development projects will live and how they will travel were not discussed.
  • Wages and safety protocols for workers who will build the developments were not discussed.

“The East Rim represents both the most valuable underdeveloped land in the heart of our city and Nashville’s greatest opportunity to advance racial and economic inclusion,” the letter said.

Richel Albright, spokesperson for Metro Codes and Planning, wrote in an email to The Tennessean that the first phase of the study aims to “establish essential public standards”, including environmental resilience, mobility and quality open spaces.

“These are the building blocks needed to direct and manage future development in the area, including housing proposals and many other uses desired by our community,” wrote Albright.

Due to pandemic precautions, the planning department approached public engagement through virtual and in-person meetings, ward and district council meetings, and through its advisory committee meetings. neighborhood and its technical advisory committee, whose notes and minutes are public, according to Albright. Public engagement efforts continue.

“We also looked for opportunities to hear directly from adjacent neighborhoods, as well as a wider audience. … We sought the advice and input of residents, businesses and local organizations for any opportunity to expand our scope to all, ”Albright said. in a report.

Cooper’s office in a statement called the east shore the city’s “next big neighborhood”.

“Mayor Cooper’s vision is for the East Bank of the Nashville River to become our city’s next great neighborhood through an expert planning process that includes strong community engagement,” said Cooper spokesperson Andrea Fanta. , in a press release. “Nashville continues to work with a diverse group of neighbors and stakeholders toward this goal.”

Key issues include equity, affordable housing, support for the local workforce

The eastern shore planning study began in February. Metro Planning organized 15 events, including three public planning and design workshops in July and one in August which provided opportunities to provide input through organized activities focusing on public spaces, mobility, use soils and other topics. Metro mailed a notice of engagement opportunities to landowners in the East Shore region and those in surrounding areas. A total of 141 people attended the workshops in July and about 30 people in August.

A total of 605 people took part in the study’s online survey from July 14 to 23, but 83% of those responding were white, and only 4.5% said they worked or owned a property. in the West Bank, according to Metro’s July public engagement report. .

The study is in its final recommendation phase before developing a first mobility and green space plan in the fall, according to its initial schedule.

Stand Up Nashville Executive Director Odessa Kelly speaks at a press conference calling on Metro officials to slow down a study on East Shore redevelopment to allow for greater community contribution.

“The outreach efforts have only involved a few people of color and appear to have focused on developers, architects and other professionals,” the coalition wrote in its letter to Metro officials. “Families of modest means, who are excluded from Nashville, have not been involved in the process, although they are more affected than any other group.”

The coalition also said the workshops “seemed to deliberately avoid any mention of uncomfortable realities, instead focusing on all the beauty and leisure activities that development would bring to the city.”

Following:With Oracle on the Go, Here’s How to Give Your Opinion on Downtown Nashville Redevelopment Plans

Brenda Waybrant, co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Center – Music City, said she spent seven of her 15 years at a restaurant near the East Rim area. She and many of her coworkers couldn’t afford to live close to their workplace, so they covered the costs of downtown parking or Uber rides – totaling $ 25 to $ 30 – each day.

For office workers who could make $ 12 an hour, “that’s two or more hours of work just to get to the building they’re working in,” she said.

For her, the West Bank must prioritize good jobs as well as affordable housing and transport for workers to be successful. Others have pointed to the long-term consequences of displacement as property values ​​increase.

A view of the east bank of the Cumberland River, where the future site of a new Oracle hub is expected to be, as seen Thursday, June 24, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn.

Michael Street, a longtime Nashvillian and owner of an outsourcing company with 25 local employees, said he wanted the city to involve local minority-owned businesses in development projects. Street grew up in North Nashville but now lives on the outskirts of town due to rising housing costs, he said.

“I want to see working class people living in the urban core of Nashville,” Kelly said. “(When) we’re building this development on the East Rim, it shouldn’t be just for those who make more than $ 70,000 a year.”

The coalition made several recommendations, including:

  • Slow down the process, increase transparency in advisory committees and participation in events, and allow open forums for public comment.
  • Include representatives of community groups led by people of color on committees.
  • Support the community’s desire for a Community Benefits Agreement with the Titans as a condition of their lease renewal.
  • Transparency on how affordable housing and commercial space will be prioritized on land owned by Metro.
  • Provide resources to developers to encourage the creation of affordable housing.
  • Engage with small local women-owned and minority-owned businesses during the RFP process.
  • Incorporate resources and incentives into the zoning change process, encourage developers to enter into community benefit agreements before applying for zoning changes, and end zoning that restricts affordable housing (single-family zoning, for example).
  • Put the East Shore zoning changes on hold until “the financial resources, tools and policies are in place to ensure racial and economic equity.”

Sandy Mazza contributed.

Contact reporter Cassandra Stephenson at or (731) 694-7261. Follow Cassandra on Twitter at @ CStephenson731.

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