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AronG

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Everything posted by AronG

  1. Rooting for Brett on this one too, but I have to respectfully disagree that "design accountability and an opportunity for Public discourse" have anything to do with what made East Nashville special. At least as it pertains to the built environment, almost everything that's great about East Nashville pre-dates the era when it became normal for John Q Public to weigh in on every decision that somebody makes before they build on their property. Neighborhoods like Five Points, McFerrin, Lockeland, Cleveland Park, etc. are special, and are highly sought-after because they were built out in the old style, before our urban design was reworked around cars. They're built in walkable street grids with sidewalks (mostly), and various types of residential and commercial uses interspersed together so that you don't have to walk a mile to get to a restaurant or market, and people can interact easily with less friction. I love reading about the old neighborhood; here's a great history (https://lockelandsprings.org/lockeland-history/) from an early resident of Lockeland mentioning a broom factory at 16th & Boscobel, and a cigar factory at 19th & Lillian. It was a blue collar neighborhood then, friendly to people experimenting with what they could fund and build on their property. If you tried to build out an area like Five Points today with our public feedback as it is, you wouldn't get the good stuff like 3 Crow, Cumberland Hardware, 5P Pizza, etc. in a dense row (possible because they were built for people, not cars). You'd get big parking lots with tiny buildings. You'd get lots of lanes to allow traffic to move quickly, and correspondingly dangerous crosswalks. With enough funding you might be able to push for a very restricted amount of hotel/residential units, which would necessarily target the very top of the market. I get that people like to be heard, but almost every public feedback meeting I've been to devolves into the same predictable complaints, and they are objectively terrible criteria for urban design. Why does anything have to change? What are you going to do to make sure there's enough parking? Are the roads even big enough to handle this much traffic? Why don't you just build something with much lower density? None of these are beneficial or contribute to the special-ness of East Nashville in the slightest. On the contrary, every time developers update their plans based on those criteria (or cancel them), we get less special. We get more Cool Springs suburban-style development: soul-destroying wastelands of car-centric strip malls, fast food chains, and income-stratified residential developments. Maybe I've just been to the wrong meetings, but I would love to know there are examples of actual constructive public feedback that resulted in a better end product. Instead it's almost all depressingly unconstructive sniping, which our politicians hear and respond to, and developers factor into their plans and price tags, and we're all worse off for.
  2. The framing of the Tennessean article ("developers cheering", etc.) plays to the worst elements of our public feedback process. We have plenty of people that want to believe there's an option to pause everything and preserve the neighborhood in amber, and this kind of thing tees them up to get blindly angry about the decision in front of us without stopping to understand it at all. The reality is, as long as Nashville's star continues to rise, demand for this neighborhood is only going to keep growing, and nothing is going to stop developers from pouring money in to meet that demand. Our zoning certainly shapes how and where they apply those resources, but there is no option to stop everything and preserve the neighborhood with no changes. We can incentivize good development that will result in a pleasant neighborhood, or we can incentivize poor development and live with the results. Neither option is going to save Fond Object though. Right now most residential zoning in the neighborhood is ridiculously restrictive. The result is that developers pour money into gutting & rebuilding the few available houses for the ultra-wealthy, gradually pushing out the middle class, and now the upper middle class. That's why we get to listen to The Promise making us all squirm because the local elementary school is 96% white. When you have to be a millionaire to afford to live within 10 blocks, that's what happens. It's depressing to hear everybody contort themselves trying to come up with ways to plaster over that problem without addressing the root cause. Allow more housing! (Or I guess admit that resegregation is an unfortunate but acceptable consequence of our desired restrictions.) Now we have to make a decision about Five Points, and it looks like it's getting caught up in the same kneejerk resistance. What's sad about it is that it's our process that's broken. Taking every single development decision to public meetings for review and assent is an absolute recipe to bring out the cranks and the haters who love to exercise that veto power. 90% of the neighborhood lives here because it's walkable and has local shops and restaurants and great neighbors, and they would love the results of mixed use development of the RM20 variety. But they're leading busy lives, not monitoring every development so they can show up to all these meetings and provide counterweight to the regular protestors. So a small section of loud angry voices dominate the feedback process, and we get a crap result like a dozen bland condos planted smack in the middle of Five Points. This update is, in my opinion, a conservative effort to update a small area of our zoning into something that makes more sense. But it will 100% result in a wildly better Five Points in 10 or 20 years than reversion to crappy 80s-style commercial zoning, if it happens. So here's hoping you get it through Brett. I'm sure you'll be exhausted if you do, but we have many other neighborhood centers that are crying out for something similar.
  3. Love the genre of drivers chiding dead pedestrians for their "illegal" behavior when we've built a system that would necessitate a half mile hike just to cross the street. I see people every day take insane risks in their cars to shave a few seconds off their commute, but sure, let's put the blame on someone who didn't want to add 10 minutes to their trip home to travel 50 feet *and died for it*. Once you notice the weird terminology we use for these (i.e. https://usa.streetsblog.org/2019/01/14/six-ways-the-media-is-still-blaming-the-victim/) it's hard to ignore. An entire framework we've built just to avoid assigning any culpability or responsibility for a system that results in the violent death and injury of hundreds of thousands of people every year.
  4. Wow. One story!?! Well I am truly sorry to hear that. We have so much to be thankful for in this neighborhood, so much history and creativity around us, so much interest and energy to channel into positive development. Instead, many of these meetings are dominated by people who show up with a lot of bottled up fear and anger. The current Edgefield group seems like an example of that category. I don't know how you deal with it. There are plenty of people in the neighborhood with a more optimistic outlook, and with actual constructive feedback on how to channel the development energy. Most of them don't have the time or motivation to show up to all of these meetings, but we'd all be a lot better off if we could find a way to encourage and focus more on that type of feedback and less on the pitchfork mob. Barring that, I hope some semblance of sanity can be preserved for this property. That intersection has evolved a lot over the last few years. 10th St felt like a drag strip there before the "Shoppes" were built and the stop sign was put in. Now it feels like a decent project here along with some street improvements could really extend the walkable fabric of the neighborhood. Here's hoping... Thanks for your efforts, as always.
  5. Doubt if I'll make it to the meetings, but I'm further down on Fatherland, and my feedback is that R8 is way under-zoned for S 10th (or 11th, or a lot of the area within a few blocks of 5 points). We have less and less diversity of price point in this neighborhood every year (remodels in Edgefield are listing for north of a million $ now!), and the only way to do anything about that when demand is this high is to let the density increase from these old R6/R8 lots to encourage a lot more townhome-style developments, which are currently stifled by processes like these gauntlets of public hearings before anyone can plan anything. If they're gonna go commercial instead of residential it will still be a big amenity for the neighborhood *if* it's built to fit into the overall walking district (i.e. doesn't have a bunch of parking to solicit traffic from outside the neighborhood etc.). Speaking of which, can this project be used to bring forward some of the improvements to 10th St? Either a bike lane, or calm the traffic by going down to one travel lane all the way from Shelby to Main, bulb out the curbs so drivers will slow down as they come around the corners, better crosswalks, etc. Thanks for your efforts Brett.
  6. Isn't that kind of the point of having a council person though? To represent district priorities to the administration and call out the metro bureaucracy when it's falling short? I try to "lean" on public works and the mayor, but the difference in an individual citizen and a representative of a district is pretty stark.
  7. When I drive down West End these days, with all the density turning it into a canyon, it is so blatantly obvious that we should have dedicated bus lanes with buses going both directions every 5 minutes to distribute people along all the 3 or so miles of mid/high-rise residential, hotel, office, and retail developments from the river to at least Centennial. There are so many destinations within a few blocks of that route... People need a chance to use regular, predictable transit in Nashville that doesn't get stuck in traffic, and doesn't require you to look up a schedule to see what time to show up. And the kicker is, it wouldn't even cost much. The politics tho...
  8. Each unit will provide a sink. The building will offer a community bathroom on each floor for those residents who want to undertake any significant bathing.
  9. Appears to be ~42 residential units and a small retail spot.
  10. I still don't understand how this works structurally. I just can't remember other projects that fundamentally changed the building's massing like this.
  11. Is he? I hope so, but I can't shake the feeling that all this "regional" talk is just going to lead to some giant interstate project (like the $2.6 billion beauty in Louisville), maybe with a few sidewalks and walking trails thrown in to make it "multi-modal".
  12. Hi Brett, thanks so much for your efforts here. The feedback that communities give when we're looking at long term vision (NashvilleNext, etc.) is so much more thoughtful and valuable than the feedback that comes in on specific projects. I know people have valid concerns about neighborhood development, but in practice they seem to quickly lose perspective and end up just resisting any and everything. This is a fine example, with the goalposts moving from MUL-A to MUN-A to straight R6 or whatever. This wasn't a single-use neighborhood of pat, single-family homes when it was built in the 1920s and 30s. I'm always regaled when I come across references to stuff like the broom factory at 16th & Boscobel, or the cigar factory at 19th & Lillian. Our factory days may be over, but the restaurants, markets, shops, and variety of residential densities are what separates us from boring suburban subdivisions. Plenty of the neighborhood feels that way, although they're generally not the ones that are motivated to write letters and show up at Tuesday night Planning Commission meetings. Anyway, it's refreshing to see you trying to keep us between the lines on this, and it's great to see a few neighbors taking the time to write in favor. I would've done the same if I'd been paying attention. Speaking of which, is the alcohol license for the new Frothy Monkey in doubt? I saw signs about an upcoming hearing, is this something that we need to sweat?
  13. Are any of the new developments in MetroCenter mixed use at all, with any retail/restaurant? Seems like as the density increases people would appreciate the ability to have at least a few walkable amenities.
  14. Meanwhile, Atlanta has seen the light and is adopting a $27B transit expansion plan including heavy rail, light rail, expanded bus service, and sidewalk upgrades: https://atlanta.curbed.com/2019/12/16/21023213/atlanta-atl-marta-gdot-transit-expansion I stayed near the BeltLine a few months back, and for my money it's the most interesting project in American urban development in decades. We're currently somewhere around the population Atlanta was 40 years ago. What can we learn from them? They spent decades building enormous interstates that just served to spread everybody out so they could sit in bigger traffic jams. Here's hoping we can avoid at least some of that pointless endeavor and skip ahead to the part where we put our money towards more efficient and pleasant ways to move people around.
  15. Didn't make it either, but did you see this blurb from @bwithers1 on facebook last week?
  16. I mean, who knows, but these people paid $5 million for a similar size parking lot at 2nd & Broadway, and that was 4 years ago: https://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/blog/real-estate/2015/05/downtown-nashvileland-prices-just-hit-a-crazy-high.html. I think they were going to use it to stage trolley bus tours or something? Point is, sticking a bunch of money into urban parking lots is an easy investment strategy for rich people who don't want to have to pay any attention to it. But it's not beneficial for the city, so it seems like tax policy should discourage it. One could also apply the higher rate to under-utilized land (e.g. giant car lots across from skyscrapers).
  17. Yeah, I bet it's less than $1K/day, but it's all gravy anyway, because he can still sell the land for more than the original price. Nashville should apply a higher property tax rate on downtown surface parking lots to discourage land speculation/banking.
  18. Isn't the phrasing kind of suspect though? Like, obviously Cooper's doing everything he can right now to generate media coverage with the theme that he's cutting, slashing, we're bankrupt, etc. But if you dig into a lot of it, it's almost all cosmetic or rhetorical. For example, this statement could just as easily mean that they're negotiating with Oracle with an expectation to announce in July, right? 6 months is not that long.
  19. Isn't this part of where they're envisioning a "walk and roll loop"? Is that just a wide sidewalk?
  20. Found that oddly depressing. 9.6 miles (very similar to our inner interstate ring), 17 stations, new public squares, 24-hour service, fully automated so it's low cost to operate, peak frequency of *100 seconds* between trains. Took 8 years to build and cost $3.2 billion. The rest of the world is getting better and better at building vibrant cities that move people around without storing their 4,000 lb vehicles everywhere they go. We're getting better and better at building... these:
  21. I cross 8th there to get to the Y and it definitely needs some attention from public works. People treat Rosa Parks here like an interstate on-ramp. At some point they're gonna have to re-engineer RP/James Robertson so it doesn't feel like a super-highway.
  22. Downtown's certainly gonna have lots of parking in the mix for the foreseeable future, but it seems like there's at least room now to reconsider the way we approach it. In a lot of ways it seems like perceptions on the topic are locked in based on conditions 30 or 40 years ago, when downtown was blighted and crumbling and the city was desperate for anything that would keep the lights on during the day. Back then the only developments we got were 100% built around suburban drive-in/drive-out commuters, so that's what the city catered to. They built pedestrian-hostile super-roads through downtown, created MDHA policies to subsidize giant parking garages, and stopped paying any attention to the sidewalk network. But we have a lot more leeway now to decide what kind of city to build. The downtown population is skyrocketing, and it's more viable than it has been in 60 years to start redeveloping a real urban ecosystem of businesses and residential spaces that target local foot/bike traffic and transit riders. But whether and how fast that takes off is going to depend a lot on what kind of developments we encourage. We have plenty (333, LC sobro, 805 Lea, Paramount, various hotels) that are pushing the boundaries of how much parking they need to provide. This one and 1222 Demonbreun seem like the opposite end of the spectrum. To me the city gets a lot more benefit from developments that are focused more on people than they are on cars.
  23. 13 floors of parking in a 25 story building... These towers along the inner loop are really leaning into suburban commuters. Traffic's gonna be a sh*tshow.
  24. Man, do I have mixed feelings about this one. Cooper is on a roll killing things that would have been great for the city if we could've gotten them done. He's indicated that Briley's commitment to fund the Cayce/Napier/Sudekum redevelopment is dead in the water. He killed the gulch pedestrian bridge. Now he's killing this one, which would've been a generational change on the east side. But the thing is, so far he's made a pretty compelling case each time. Briley didn't properly fund that commitment. CSX was allegedly stonewalling the bridge. And as much as I'd love to not have to bike through a long stretch of belching pollution to get downtown, the idea that Icahn is basically shaking the city down for tens of millions of dollars of public money before he does the obvious thing is pretty galling. PSC is an enormous 45 acre junkyard in close proximity to a booming downtown area where land goes for north of $10 million/acre. If the city finances were in better shape, maybe it would be OK to grit our teeth and pay the ransom to get him out of there. As it stands we're just going to have to hope he eventually gets scared of a downturn and sells. It's still disappointing though. My biggest fear is that Cooper's going to spend a year ostentatiously killing off all these potential projects and getting the yearly financial statement cleaned up (painful, but arguably necessary). Then, because all the substantive improvements to the city would cost a lot of money, which would require him to fix the property tax rate, he's going to announce some populist county-wide project that appeals to people but is actually a terrible idea. Like "We're finally going to fix the interstates once and for all by doubling the number of lanes!" People hate their commute and would applaud, the state loves road projects and would probably help pay for it. But the actual result would be detrimental to everyone that lives within five miles of downtown, setting us back a decade in trying to recover the city's livability after decades of blight and sprawl. Here's hoping that whenever he does switch from killing projects to proposing them, he demonstrates a long-term vision that will leave the city better than he found it.
  25. This is kinda fascinating. A 1,000 person "car-free" mixed-use development in Phoenix, built around a light rail stop. They're incorporating rideshare pickup spots around the perimeter, dedicated space for bikes/scooters, a small mini-lot for hourly zipcars, and lots of green space because they don't have to provide parking everywhere. Opens in Fall 2020. https://medium.com/culdesac/introducing-culdesac-3fbfe7c4219c
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