My husband often jokes that he would rather live in a ‘real city’ than another “ville”. He associates the tag name ‘ville’ with smaller cities. Meanwhile, he believes that larger cities have cooler, more direct names, like ‘Chicago’, ‘Miami’, ‘New York’. These cities, he believes, also encompass better transit, more culture, and fun neighborhoods. While he is correct that larger cities have better amenities (as our travels to all three of the aforementioned cities have revealed), I believe that the ‘villes’ of the world are also becoming cool cities in their own rite. They too are receiving upgrades in transit, more diverse populations, and better neighborhoods. It is fact that every city has to grow into what it will ultimately become; buildings change uses, people migrate to and from, and transit systems grow. So how does our own city of Nashville, measure up? Is it growing, or staying the same? And how do the residents of this city adapt to the natural growth that will take place? Are Nashvillians ready for their city to become…a City?
Nashville currently has a train from Lebanon to Nashville. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is proposed along West End – Nashville’s growing employment and retail center. The BRT may have dedicated lanes and platform stops. Other similar bus/transit enhancements are active on Gallatin Pike, and are planned along Murfreesboro Pike, both suburban corridors. When density increases (the number of people working and living along the corridor), a true BRT system with dedicated lanes and platform stops could be a reality on these corridors as well. In other cities transit has boosted economic development around train stops. Cities like Washington DC have been very successful with Transit Oriented Development – residential and commerce have developed around the transit stations boosting employment and residential opportunities for various neighborhoods.
Rendering of the Proposed East West Connector - Bus Rapid Transit Nashville http://www.eastwestconnector.org/
In the very near future, Nashville will be a majority minority population. Governing magazine reported in a recent article (http://www.governing.com/topics/economic-dev/gov-new-black-south.html#next) that African Americans are migrating to suburbs in large numbers. This is happening across the country and in Nashville. In one of Nashville’s suburban communities the African – American population has increased by 83 percent. Other races and ethnicities are growing as well; Hispanic/Latino population and Other Races (Middle Eastern, etc.) have both increased by over 200 percent.
Density and Housing…
The housing market has changed – baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964), young adults, and people affected by the housing downturn are looking for similar product – rentals and neighborhoods with amenities. This new product looks like neighborhoods in the Gulch, Germantown, and the suburban version, Lenox Village. Old neighborhoods are becoming new – 12South, North Nashville, East Nashville are going through revitalization as new homes are renovated and new commercial services serve new residents. Get ready too, because suburban areas will see new residents as people look for more affordable housing, near good schools, and open space.
Are you ready?
This is an exciting time for Nashville, but how can you as a current resident, or resident of any ‘Ville for that matter, get ready for changes that your city may see. Here’s my take on how you can embrace the change.
- Embrace your new neighbors – They may look a bit different from you. They may be older, younger, and they may not speak English. Despite these differences remember that they want the same things you want – a safe place for their family, and a place to call home. Diversity has its benefits. In the last several months, my husband and I have had dinner with his business partners who are from India, who are neighbors with a family from Africa. In the Green Hills library (an affluent section of Nashville) my husband helped an older Jewish woman sign up for an over 50 dating site. :) Get ready and embrace diversity – it opens your mind and senses in a way that is rewarding for everyone involved.
- Hop on the train, or bus, or trolley - Many great cities have great transit. In many places transit is no longer an amenity, it’s a necessity. Imagine if you could not afford a car – but you could afford a $40 monthly train or bus pass. In many great cities, that’s all many people have. Also think about this, as tourist don’t you love leaving your car at the hotel, and getting around with ease on the transit system? Well think about having that feeling all the time. Leave your car at home, and travel with ease to work and to major events on great transit. If you like that idea, understand this, transit doesn’t just happen, it takes political will, and the will of the people to invest in it. So when the time comes to support transit in your city, hop on board and wiz by the drivers siting in traffic – I promise you – it will feel great.
- Say “yes” to great design – When that new apartment building or condo project is planned in your back yard, don’t fight it - work to make it work for you and your neighbors. Everyone needs a place to live. Remember your first apartment out of college, or the studio you lived in as newlyweds? Yes, everyone needs a starting point. The difference however between a really great residential development and a bad one is simple...it's the design. Therefore, you should require great design to make sure it fits in with your beloved neighborhood. Look for pictures of great development online, catalog pictures from vacations to your favorite city. Give them to your political representative, the planners in your city, or the developer. I promise – they will work with you. Request great design, but don’t count out a multi-family project just because it’s not a single family house.
Grow with Nashville…
Great cities don’t just happen - they are grown. Chicago, Miami and New York grew by innovation and residents who supported change. Mass transit, diversity, and great neighborhoods with housing for everyone, were all on the growth agenda. If Nashville residents follow the three tips above, then one day you may hop a train, have a conversation with a business man from Latin America, and visit a friend in a new high rise in Midtown. Then there will no doubt that the city of Nashville would have grown into…a City.