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Nashville Ten Years Later

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Glad you enjoyed the trip. The City has changed a lot in ten years and will change even more over the next ten. BTW, Where were you visiting from?

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Charlotte, and I plan to make Nashville a semi-regular stop. Feel like we only just scratched the surface this time.

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I was just in Charlotte last month exploring the city. IMHO, the traffic was worse there, but I also came in at rush hour and had been in Rush hour traffic in Raleigh the day before and Austin the month before. It just seemed as if there was a backup up in bound way out of town which we don't have here. That was my experience in Raleigh as well.

Charlotte's core is a lot more compact than Nashville's too. I am afraid we are following a smaller Atlanta model here. I did ride the Lynx and enjoyed, but the leaders in the area and State here are too short sighted and should have done something along those lines 25 years ago.

I also will add Charlotte to the list of cities I will visit from time to time.

 

Let us know when you are back in town and one of us can give you the grand tour.

 

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Charlotte's CBD is surprisingly compact. And it is in the early stages of a roughly two to three billion dollar boom that will transform the skyline 3-5 years hence.

Yes, I think that by objective standards Charlotte traffic is heavier than Nashville's. Honestly, I zipped around while in Nashville.

And thanks for the open invitation. It would be nice to come back soon and do the place right!

 

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, smeagolsfree said:

Charlotte's core is a lot more compact than Nashville's too.

^Remember that Charlotte was not a substantial city until the latter half of the 20th century. Chattanooga, for example, was more populated from 1870-1950. Both had just over 130,000 people in the latter year.

When I visited there back in 1995, I was surprised how small downtown ("Uptown") was, even with its impressive skyline. One local lamented to me that the only thing "historic" about Uptown Charlotte was the dirt, because of all the new construction.

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In addition, until fairly recently highrise development in Charlotte was confined to the Tryon and Trade axis. So, you had a cruciform spine of highrise development ringed by lowrise and parking lot.

But that is changing RAPIDLY.

 

 

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I have been lurking, observing the construction updates thread and noticed this topic. I've been in Canada since the end of summer, will be coming back to the Nashville area for a few months in the next week or two. As some of you may know, I spent half a year in Memphis thanks to a job earlier this year and have gotten to know Nashville again in the past year.

As a native of the region who saw Nashville while growing up in the area, then spending a better part of the years between 2007-2014 away and seeing it again today, I'll give you my thoughts just on the city. In the late 90's and early 00's, I considered Nashville a failed city, not much different than a Detroit quite frankly, other than the much smaller scale of course. Just like Detroit, the only desirable areas were really newer single family homes in far flung suburbs like Hendersonville or Bellevue, just as in Detroit you have the beautiful homes and wealthy lifestyles out in Oakland County or Royal Oak and Birmingham... All there was in Nashville in the year 2000 was 2nd ave, the Broadway-Capitol corridor and that's it. You go south of Broadway and it was mostly concrete cinder block buildings and empty lots, you cross what used to be I-265 and it was so poor you'd see people walking around barefoot and cracked out on drugs. It made you ask what kind of zombie apocalypse happened here?! LOL What is now called midtown and the West End area used to be generally okay, but that's it outside downtown. And West End has always relied on Vanderbilt and its jobs core to anchor its nicer atmosphere. Today it feels like it has expanded far, far beyond that and has grown into a more diverse area in its own right.

You saw demonstrations of renewal in the 1990's, like 2nd ave coming of age when I was growing up, the BiCentennial mall really cleaned up a seedy area north of town while I was in high school. But honestly, let's face it, Nashville was a kind of disgusting city. It had a few business workers in the Lower Broadway-Capitol downtown core and they left at 5pm and other than the few honky tonks on 2nd ave and Lower Broadway, there was nothing there. Since I personally can't stand country music (most of it sounds like a whining drawl fest), I had little reason to go down there. I was always seeking out electronic music venues and other things and that was never Nashville's style.

 

Anyone who knows me knows I really didn't care for Nashville for a very long time; however, just about the time I left town in 2007 (I lived in Antioch at the time and left for Chicago that spring), something did happen. Developers took note in the city, they saw something, and the city has been transformed. There is still an awful lot of poverty in East Nashville, north of downtown, and south of downtown across the highway system, but you can tell the city is on the move and has a building boom that is hard to match, and I'd say for cities in its class it is the most booming and fastest growing urban core of its class. You don't see the same activity going on in Columbus, Kansas City, Raleigh, or even Charlotte. What I'm talking about is the sheer number of urban housing development and businesses that cater to the lifestyle of an urbanite, I'm not talking about metro GDP/GMP or how big an airport is or how many Fortune 500 companies the city has. Quite frankly Nashville's economy has not always been the greatest, Charlotte still has a larger job base, higher paying jobs, and it seems more economically well off. But Nashville has grabbed onto something most cities have not: urban housing.

To be honest, I'm shocked and surprised, but in a good way. I didn't expect a city I had written off while growing up to become kind of a miniature Toronto with condos popping up as an alternative to the traditional single family house. But, that's what is happening in Nashville, and I like what I've seen. Luckily I've gotten things to work out in my life in other directions, but if I had stayed permanently in the region I grew up in, I have to say I'd be impressed with the turn around I'm seeing. Well, I don't even live in Nashville and I'm impressed so I think everyone who visits and has a connection there is impressed.

At the same time, I do give it context. Nashville is not an urban paradise, it is turning the corner and becoming an impressive place very quickly. It isn't there yet, but its working hard to get there. I still think cities like Minneapolis or San Diego have more urban amenities and would opt to live in those areas over Nashville. It'll take Nashville probably 20 more years of growth at the same pace its experiencing today just to catch up to a place like Minneapolis, as just an example. San Diego has a real condo lifestyle in the center city as well, even better than Minneapolis-St Paul. I could see Nashville maybe catching up in 20-30 years if current trends remain.

But, I like what I see, I think Nashville is finally becoming something. It should be proud of the past decade, but at the same time address some major issues that still exist. For example, there is no mass transit system and the arguments over AMP cannot stand, it simply cannot happen again. The next time a serious proposal comes along - as imperfect as it is - it needs to be accomplished. Don't like buses? Well swallow your pride and be happy if a real BRT system is proposed again. It is better than doing nothing. If you get a monorail started, GREAT. But whatever it is, the community needs to support it. 

NIMBY'ism, petty arguments over mode and style, and special interest groups need to step aside and let the city build SOMETHING. It cannot continue to grow into a major multi-million metro area AND have an urban core without a reasonable public transit system. And a commuter rail line from Lebanon to downtown that carries a few hundred suburbanites back and forth is not a reasonable public transport system. You need a viable option to park your car and get around the core without a car and so so with frequent, reliable service. All real cities have the option.

This is one thing other cities are running miles and miles around Nashville on, and Charlotte is the perfect example. Not only did Charlotte see this in the 1990s, they even voted themselves a higher sales tax and added on the pennies needed to the local tax to fund their LRT system. Nashville needs this vision before it is too late. Even Chattanooga - CHATTANOOGA - saw this vision in the late 80's and 90's and built a nifty little downtown circulation system with their nifty electric bus system. And their system is FREE. Memphis' trolleys were installed in the early 90's (and yes I'm aware they are having problems with the fires that occurred, but when they rebuild the system it'll be back online soon). So many cities had the vision to create something.

Why Nashville doesn't have this vision I'll never understand. Something is odd about how hard it has been to develop a viable system.

 

That's my observation as a native of the region who comes back enough to observe what is going on. I'll be in town for a few months into the spring starting in a few weeks so I'll do a few more tours to see what is new in the last half year. I think Nashville is becoming something great, but it needs to smooth out some of these rough edges to really get all the way.

 

And as a final note, while I couldn't see myself living in Nashville in 2005, in 2015/2016 I could say - provided a good job to pay for the urban lifestyle - yes I could actually come back on a more permanent basis. It is a city that has a feeling of positive movement, things feel like they are headed in the right direction. But in order to buy that $250-350k condo in the city, I'd have to have economic incentive to do so. And Nashville's economy is - still - all over the map. Nashville is no San Diego and pay is still quite low overall. When I was looking for work last year, I didn't find any meaningful job offer in Nashville (despite looking quite a bit) and got an offer down in Memphis first and even though that job wasn't worth keeping and I left it - at least it was a viable option for a half year. I was able to rent a 9th floor loft in Memphis and not a single potential employer in Nashville had returned so much as a phone call... So, I've yet to see this impressive economy that Nashville has so far. In order to buy a well built urban condo, you have to have that jobs base, and I never got lucky in the Nashville market on the jobs front.

 

I certainly hope the local economy continues to improve!

Edited by BrandonTO416
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