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Nashville Tennessee Fairgrounds Back In The News:

Guest 5th & Main Urbanite

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I am beginning to think the Fairgrounds will be a tough sell. It is a large site, which would be a plus for development...but it requires a bit of work. First of all, the razing of all of the current buildings and the race track. Second of all...Browns Creek (I think that's the one) runs through there...it is prone to flooding, so that already makes some of the land not unsuitable for development (not that the proposed green space would be a bad thing). And, of course, for development, there would have to be a fairly significant infrastructure investment on the part of the city.

But the big things that I think will deter any near future development are the location and the citizens.

The location as far as proximity to the city is fine. Actually pretty good. But it has a number of things working against it.

1) visibility - The only real visibility comes in the from the perhaps 1/4 mile stretch of Nolensville Rd on the eastern edge. Craighead is a 4/5 lane road, but not all that well traveled.

2) access - The Fairgrounds do have relatively close interstate access via Wedgewood @ 65 and Nolensville Rd @ 440. However, it is in what I describe as a dead zone. Nolensville/2nd/4th north of 440 is not nearly as well traveled as the section to the south, and Wedgewood is not a main artery east of I-65. It's not that there is nothing over there...but due to its nature as a primarily industrial/secondary single family area, it just doesn't get a lot of through traffic. The funky transition to 2nd/4th doesn't help. 4th has an at-grade crossing of RR tracks (a very active line), and 2nd has that old school 90 degree turn underpass of the tracks. While I enjoy driving through there, it is rarely crowded.

3) The neighborhood. I don't mean this as a slight to Wedgewood-Houston -- it's actually a decent looking little neighborhood...but the rest of the area leaves a lot to be desired. Again, a lot of industrial/warehouse uses in the area (and not so much of the cool gritty urban kind). It is littered with train tracks, and I think in the eyes of many citizens (and likely developers), it's not as safe. Aesthetically, it is arguably the ugliest stretch of Nolensville Rd, and that is saying quite a bit.

4) Public support. For some reason unknown to me, there are some absolute die-hard Fairgrounds supporters out there. These people breath fire when you discuss any alternative other than fixing their beloved Fairgrounds up to what it was in their glory years. Ah...nostalgia. If you ask them, the flea market is a vital part of the Nashville culture and economy, and the race track should be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. On the flip side, there are certainly folks who are determined to redevelop the Fairgrounds into something else...really...anything else. It's trashy, and the racetrack is noisy. But anecdotally, I have found that the former group outweighs the latter...perhaps considerably. However...I get the feeling that most people don't know what they want, or simply do not care. By default, the pro Fairgrounds people win. --sidenote-- someone commented on a Tennessean article related to a Fairgrounds mixed use proposal "why do we need more apartments? We already have more than we need!" SMH.

I think it COULD be a lucrative site in the future...but I think that will require the Wedgewood-Houston area improving, and perhaps some daring investment on some smaller scale developments to improve the area. It wouldn't hurt if Chestnut Hill (or whatever it is called) takes off a little bit, too. I think the fact is, right now, that large of an investment would be viewed as very risky, as opposed to spending the same for a potentially smaller return in one of the 'hot' neighborhoods.

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I absolutely agree that investiment in the Fairgrounds property would make that whole area take off.  South Nashville is the next East Nashville.  Sort of like, Chestnut Hill is comparable to Edgefield in terms of scattered old houses - some as old or older than those in Germantown - with a variety of newer things mixed in and very convenient access to downtown, and particularly to Metro offices for those workers.  At this moment, even a couple of 1960s-era multifamily housing units are being renovated on 2nd Ave South.  Wedgewood-Houston has a lot of coolness factor, although many of the modest, mid-century houses could and probably will be replaced if the area's growth looks promising.  And Woodbine could almost be like a Lockeland Springs-type area.  Lots of quality early 20th Century homes in there along shady streets.  Investment in commercial use in the Fairgrounds site, along with a greenway and a proper bike trail along Brown's Creek, will accelerate all of that activity.


Actually, I disagree with UTGrad a little bit on the assessment of Nolensville Road's traffic.  The traffic is indeed pretty light in this stretch most of the time until you get right next to I-440, which is immediately past the Fairgrounds.  But realistically, that's true of quite a bit of Nashville other than 21st.  James Robertson Parkway is almost always dead and it's downtown!  But back to Nolensville traffic, even the traffic light on the street where I work, Melrose, gets backed up from Nolensville all the way to Bransford on most days starting at about 4:15 PM.  I take Craighead up to Nolensville to bypass that.  But at 5:00, traffic southbound on 4th Ave South is backed up from I-440 all the way to downtown.  Nolensville and Thompson Lane is a crazy busy intersection at almost any time of the day.  And Nolensville and Harding is I believe the busiest intersection in Nashville that doesn't involve the Interstates or Briley.  The Nolensville bus route is also one of the heaviest used after Gallatin and Murfreesboro and I think is next in line for the BRTlite.  So working a BRT stop at the Fairgrounds are would be a no-brainer if commercial development looks promising.


But I absolutely agree with UTGrad that people are what are going to keep anything from happening.  I agree with your assessment that the people who are adamant about keeping the racetrack and the flea market are red hot about it, while the people who want to redevelop the site are more lukewarm about it.  Passion wins out.  Which means that nothing is likely to happen here.  The consultant study is going to say exactly what they said before:  redevelop the darn thing with office and multi-famiy residential. But the local council member, Tom Tenpenny, along with Duane Dominy, won't support that recommendation.  My thought is that the Fairgrounds issue is going to become a big question in the next mayoral race unless Dean forces something to happen there before he leaves office.

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