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nashvillwill

Is lower Broadway big enough for the crowds?

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I was speaking with a friend recently, whom is not into development as you and I, but very intelligent. He made the observation that the lower Broadway entertainment district is beginning to get too busy and too crowded. It's already busy enough with tourist, hockey fans, and residents. As he put it; "It's not just a Saturday night thing. Even on a rainy Tuesday night, it's slammed down there. Add in several thousand convention goers and it will just be too much." He should know, he works in a major restaurant on Broadway.

I'm beginning to think he is right.

I love lower Broadway, and it can't be replicated, but is it time to expand its entertainment boundaries just a bit? If so, where/how?

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Lower Broadway can definitely handle the current and even larger crowds as long as there is effective crowd control. Routing through traffic out of the District area is pretty essential to ease pedestrian crowd flows. I mean, just signs and public service announcements about alternative routes would help. Opening KVB so that drivers can take James Robertson Parkway to 8th/Rosa Parks to either LaFayette or KVB and vice versa will no doubt help in the near future.

But realisitically, downtown can be busy along Broadway/2nd but dead in other areas (the Capitol, Rosa Parks, etc) on even a busy weekend night. I think that activating 5th Avenue to bring an additional North-South axis is a pretty good idea, but so far that only seems to happen on Art Crawl nights. Maybe the Avenue of the Arts streetscape plan will help. The same is true with War Memorial Plaza on non-TPAC event nights - it's a great venue but is a ghost town when TPAC has nothing going on. So these are existing areas that maybe could be tweaked to attract the crowds to different pockets and spread things out a little bit north and west of the existing cluster on a more regular basis. Plus we will see what happens in Sobro now that ground-level retail is starting to take shape in Encore and now that things are happening with the other former parking lots. Theoretically, depending on the quality of the street activation on some of these new buildings, we could give pedestrians as much reason to go south on 2nd or 3rd as they currently have to go north.

By the way, I am wondering how long the Hocky lockout deal is going to go an and how that lack of crowds/revenues is going to impact Metro's negotiations with Bridgestone regarding the Predators. Not to mention how this lack of those hockey fan revenues will play in to the politics of future Metro investments in sports/events venues.

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This might be a little too unrealistic, but I dream of Lower Broadway someday looking more like Market Square in Knoxville.

For those unfamiliar:

_10_0033.jpg

And during an event (Sundown in the City):

5888775788_67e920f5fc_z.jpg

Obviously it's not nearly the same in terms of traffic...for one, Market square is about 1-2 blocks in length, whereas Lower Broadway takes up 4. Market Street (the street that is essentially cut off by Market Square) is just a single lane one way street, where Broadway is 6 lanes plus street parking...and there would be several streets that would have to cross through the middle.

So here would be my outlandish proposal:

-Eliminate all car traffic from Lower Broadway

-Have a 2 dedicated bus lanes that continue through, with a median and trees.

-Take the space currently allotted to street parking and widen the sidewalk, and line the street with trees.

-Have cut out loading zones on each side of the street (connected to the bus lanes) for truck loading (in the early part of the day) and taxis.

-Raise the sidewalks that cross 2nd-4th Aves (essentially making them "speed humps" for car traffic)

In order for this to be done, I think it would be essential for a large parking garage to be constructed close to Lower Broad...if at all possible, in the former current Convention Center site (as that would be where Broadway "ends"). Another possibility would be to add angled parking between 5th and 6th/7th. That would take another lane up, but would add quite a few spaces, and be easier to utilize than parallel parking.

It might be difficult to convince the business owners that this would be a good idea in the beginning, but I would imagine that their patrons would really appreciate it.

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I love downtown Knoxville, but it's tiny and seems kind of completed, while, as much as Nashville has developed, it still seems to be mostly potential, that's what makes it both exciting and frustrating.

The new hotels with their restaurants and bars will draw activity southward, I expect we're going to be seeing rapid development in that big expanse toward the interstate in the next few years, hopefully lots of apartments and restaurants.

I wish something could be done to bring some activation to that bad 60s-80s urban design to the North. The work that's been done on TPAC and Deaderick has made it look a lot better, but there's only so much you can do with those fortress-like concrete walls. My hope is that someone with vision and deep pockets will make Regions into apartments. There's room in the base of that building for all kinds of retail/restaurant/theater or whatever space that could completely transform that area.

Hopefully in not too long we'll be seeing several areas of high activation close to each other, and Lower Broad won't have to carry the whole load.

But yeah, I don't see why it should be carrying unrestricted car traffic.

A wide paved/landscaped median would make it feel safer to cross.

Not a fan of the angled parking idea.

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I love downtown Knoxville, but it's tiny and seems kind of completed, while, as much as Nashville has developed, it still seems to be mostly potential, that's what makes it both exciting and frustrating.

The new hotels with their restaurants and bars will draw activity southward, I expect we're going to be seeing rapid development in that big expanse toward the interstate in the next few years, hopefully lots of apartments and restaurants.

I wish something could be done to bring some activation to that bad 60s-80s urban design to the North. The work that's been done on TPAC and Deaderick has made it look a lot better, but there's only so much you can do with those fortress-like concrete walls. My hope is that someone with vision and deep pockets will make Regions into apartments. There's room in the base of that building for all kinds of retail/restaurant/theater or whatever space that could completely transform that area.

Hopefully in not too long we'll be seeing several areas of high activation close to each other, and Lower Broad won't have to carry the whole load.

But yeah, I don't see why it should be carrying unrestricted car traffic.

A wide paved/landscaped median would make it feel safer to cross.

Not a fan of the angled parking idea.

Well, of course I did say it was outlandish...haha.

I get your point about Knoxville...and yes, it is a quite small downtown. Sort of like a "boutique" downtown. It's not filled with big corporate towers or chain restaurants -- more cool little local joints. So it's not a perfect comparison. And no, I don't want Nashville's downtown to be *like* Knoxville's. And while I don't feel Knoxville's downtown is completed, I do agree that ours has a lot more unrealized potential (primarily in the form of surface parking lots)...theirs is also more constricted by freeways as well as the UT campus.

My point about Market Square is that it is a pedestrian's dream. I know we can't just shut down Broadway (that's why I would propose public transit as well as taxi traffic continuing to use it)...but as a large tourist area -- as well as a large gathering spot for locals going to arena events -- I think making it much more pedestrian friendly would ultimately be a good thing.

The main issue to me would be A) parking (which I think could partially be addressed with a new garage close by) and B) alternate routes for traffic.

Most of the traffic would have to be rerouted to Commerce Street (which doesn't have nearly as much pedestrian traffic) and Demonbreun (which probably will have a lot more pedestrian traffic in coming years and KVB. I think KVB will make a big difference. It would create a noticeable squeeze on car traffic...but perhaps the new BRT line will help assist, especially with the tourist traffic (which hopefully will be flocking to the new downtown hotels rather than the outlying suburban ones).

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Personally, I see Broadway as a functional street and can't really see too many modifications. I would love this idea for 2nd Ave. I've been saying for a while that 2nd Ave needs to be permanently closed to auto traffic. Cobblestone the whole street for pedestrians only. 2nd doesn't serve a "vital" link to any other streets like Broadway does.

Also not a fan of angled parking. I hope that trend never comes back.

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Going to move this to the main board. This has a lot to do with the urban and built environment and is a great topic.

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I agree with making it like something akin to Market Square in Knoxville, or, like a promenade (Santa Monica, CA comes to mind). I think you can expand out ot Demonbreun where available if you wanted more "width" to the entertainment district, and that is the direction I would take it (picture 5th Ave as the boundary down Demonbreun to 1st Ave). While I agree, it's busy on just about every afternoon and evening I do think it is currently equipped to take on a few additional people from conventions and more tourism.

My question is - do you think that having the ability to drive the lower 3-blocks of Broadway is essential? My idea would be to make Broadway from 2nd to 4th a pedestrian-only zone. 1st Ave stays open as a cross street and maybe 3rd Ave (since it's bi-directional), minimizing disruption to the grid... thoughts?

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^^^thats the concern I would have, is disrupting the grid. 2nd Ave isn't really necessary IMO, but 3rd, 4th, 5th are. 1st Ave is so lightly used, I could take it or leave it.

I would really like to see 5th Ave come back to life.

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I disagree. If there are 2 important streets between 1st and 12th (besides 8th Ave), it's 2nd and 4th Aves.

4th runs from James Robertson (next to the Municipal Auditorium) straight through downtown, past the I-40 exit, eventually turning into the SB lanes of Nolensville Rd.

2nd starts off as the NB lanes of Nolensville Rd and runs through the I-40 exit all the way to Union St just before it makes it's turn to cross the river and become Woodland St.

And while 2nd runs through an entertainment district (one that I wouldn't bother trying to navigate after 5pm), it is a pretty important connector other times of day. There really aren't too many north/south roads in the grid that connect like that.

1st spends a relatively short time in the grid, and doesn't connect to the interstate.

3rd definitely goes the distance, but feels insignificant until you get to the north side of downtown.

5th is bounded by the interstate at each end.

6th and 7th are just choppy.

8th is the major north/south thoroughfare.

9th and 10th don't connect to much

11th has a nice short run through The Gulch...but every major street between Division and Charlotte passes over it.

12th runs along the boundary, and is really only relevant from Broadway south.

Edited by UTgrad09

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I think you'll see a different 5th ave in a few years. Heavy interest in developing this area. Check out some of the pictures from the MCC facebook page of what it might transform into soon. I think you'll see this area developed, and the entertainment district greatly expanded.

I like the idea of making broadway much more pedestrian friendly. It'll add to the whole feel of downtown.

^^^thats the concern I would have, is disrupting the grid. 2nd Ave isn't really necessary IMO, but 3rd, 4th, 5th are. 1st Ave is so lightly used, I could take it or leave it.

I would really like to see 5th Ave come back to life.

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i use first avenue at least once a day. one of my favorite things about it is that it IS so lightly used. i take it to get to crema then to the interstate every morning and use it to get home when i'm coming in (my two best friends' families live south of downtown). i'd be pretty sad to see it go, truthfully, but if it's in the name of progress then so be it.

eric b

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Something as simple as turning it into four lanes (two each direction) with a small, planted median, widening the sidewalks along with some planting and landscaping, and doing away with the majority of left hand turns will go a long way towards making it much more pedestrian friendly, while still maintaining traffic flow and accessibility.

I would love to see a dedicated BRT route down Broadway eventually, but I think that aiming a little lower could be productive for the time being. And, while I do like the idea of pedestrian centric areas, the bustle and energy of cars on Broadway can have it's own certain charm, if properly managed.

Instead of converting lower Broadway to a pedestrian-only zone, I think that I would much prefer to see the area in front of the Schermerhorn turned into a large pedestrian only plaza ringed with shops and cafes. That's where it's truly needed.

Edited by Nathan_in_PHL

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If NYC can remove vehicle traffic from Times Square, why not a few blocks of Lower Broadway? If not, I agree with the prospect of removing two lanes of traffic, widening the sidewalks and adding street trees. I mentioned the possbility of closing off 1st Ave along the river front several years ago. (I'm so ahead of the curve) Bars, cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating would be awesome along that street. I also agree with the Nathan_in_PHL about a plaza fronting the Schermerhorn. Imagine a nicely detailed residential building with restuarants and cafes on the ground floor where that narrow parking lot is north of the Schermerhorn, the pedestrian bridge to the east, and an intimate plaza in between. That would be a simple, and simply huge, boost to the quality of life downtown.

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i agree with all of the above comments with one exception. I can assure you that the business owners on Lower Broad want nothing to do with wider sidewalks and trees. They carry a HUGE stick in this conversation. BRT will not run through here and there will be few changes if any to the traffic pattern. they like it just fine.

Edited by producer2

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I used the example of Times Square in NYC and I've sited the example of Cheonggye Stream in Seoul, South Korea in which multiple lanes of traffic were removed to uncover a stream and add a pedestrian amenity in the heart of the city. Local business owners were upset over the percieved loss of traffic but what they came to find out was that cars speeding by didn't add up to business in their stores and restaurants but that people ambling by at their leisure did. There is always resistance to change but good arguments with sound precedents can overcome this resistance. I'm not saying there is any movement underfoot to change Lower Broadway as this thread is totally hypothetical.

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i was on lower broadway last night and the bears fans coupled with the normal tourist foot traffic was insane. i don't think i've ever seen so many people in that stretch!

eric b

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