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Nashville’s topography and future growth


Binbin98

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I have always wanted to ask this queston in regards to nashville’s current rapid growth and future projected growth (the nashville msa is supposed to have around 4 million people by 2040).  Will the surrounding topography of nashville hurt or constraint nashville’s ability to grow as in building new developments, building new skyscrapers, mass transit, housing etc... While nashville isnt as constrained as cities such as pittsburgh (its so hilly there it’s ridiculous lol), i feel that 440 and fort negley to the south severely restrict nashville’s ability to grow in that direction, with north and east directions being partially constricted by the cumberland river (though not as much). The only direction that growth isnt constricted by anything is west towards midtown. I guess what i am getting at is it seems like topographically we are at a disadvantage to other cities that are growing such as austin and charlotte, and i wonder if that will harm us in the long run. But if i am wrong with this analysis than feel free to let me know. What do you all think about this topic?

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The state never gets estimates even close. Just looking back at 1990, the metro (including all present counties) was apx. 1.1M and apx 1.6 in 2010... growing by almost 500K over 20 years. State data always just forecasts the same growth, without accounting for rate. Rate is a more realistic tool for forecasting, and usually shows a "sweet spot" acceleration during the 2-3 million range. If using the same rate (45% growth), then the picture changes considerably, to very realistically 3M by 2040. If you allow for a slight acceleration to .47-50 (more realistic) then you'll exceed 3M in 20 years. This is a great example of the "science" of forecasting growth and building infrastructure to support it. Tennessee is notoriously bad about its metro area forecasts.  I work with them on occasion and always find questionable data. But we use it anyway (with asterisks) because they're considered the authority on that sort of thing.

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On 10/19/2018 at 4:41 AM, Binbin98 said:

I have always wanted to ask this queston in regards to nashville’s current rapid growth and future projected growth (the nashville msa is supposed to have around 4 million people by 2040).  Will the surrounding topography of nashville hurt or constraint nashville’s ability to grow as in building new developments, building new skyscrapers, mass transit, housing etc... While nashville isnt as constrained as cities such as pittsburgh (its so hilly there it’s ridiculous lol), i feel that 440 and fort negley to the south severely restrict nashville’s ability to grow in that direction, with north and east directions being partially constricted by the cumberland river (though not as much). The only direction that growth isnt constricted by anything is west towards midtown. I guess what i am getting at is it seems like topographically we are at a disadvantage to other cities that are growing such as austin and charlotte, and i wonder if that will harm us in the long run. But if i am wrong with this analysis than feel free to let me know. What do you all think about this topic?

I actually find your perspective very interesting. It's not what I was expecting when reading the thread title. I thought this would be more about suburban growth than urban growth. I'll address this question in two parts.

 

1) While Nashville does have hilly topography in the urban core, I don't think any of it is extreme enough to really inhibit development.  No, it's not really *ideal*, but there are plenty of larger cities where the topography isn't ideal, yet they are densely developed. There is absolutely tons of room for highrise and skyscraper development. The only thing potentially inhibiting it isn't topography, it's zoning. Same with housing (assuming that's also kind of highrise related). 

When it comes to mass transit, however, I think the biggest obstacle isn't topography itself, but it's the grid and infrastructure in place. While Nashville has several gridded sections of the city, there is a lot of irregularity when it comes to the layout/orientation. On top of this, a lot of the corridors are not especially wide (compared with a lot of cities I have visited). West End Ave and Lafayette are really the only continuously wide thoroughfares. A few blocks of Main St and a bit of Rosa Parks/8th are fairly wide, but most of Nashville's corridors are fairly constricted.

The Cumberland River is mainly an issue because of how it meanders and bends. Outside of the downtown area, a lot of the edges of the bends are underdeveloped and difficult to access. There is a lot of lost potential around the river due to flood plains, poor access, and heavy industrial areas.

So in terms of the core of the city -- I don't think topography is as big of a factor as other things, like infrastructure. Most highrises will continue to be in the CBD, SoBro, Gulch, and Midtown. East Nashville, 8th and 12th South/Edgehill, Vandy, Belmont, Charlotte Pk, and Germantown will continue to see a number of low/midrise projects. 

 

2) Outside of the core, there is some topography that most definitely influences -- and hinders -- development.  Most immediately are the rugged ridges to the immediate north and west of the city -- around the Briley Pkwy area. These are rugged and irregularly shaped (unlike foothills, for instance) and not friendly to any type of large scale urban (or even suburban) development....though it wouldn't surprise me if over time a few smaller, pricey developments emerge due to the privacy and proximity to town.

What is north and west is actually part of the Highland Rim, which completely encircles Nashville (though Nashville is located in the NW corner of this feature). 

There are a number of hills on the south side (especially Oak Hill/Forest Hills/Radnor Lake, and Brentwood/Franklin. The ridge starts just north of Hendersonville and Gallatin.

But also looking at a topographical map, it should be obvious why areas like Rutherford County have gained so much in comparison to other peer counties. It's pretty flat through quite a bit of that county.

 

4 million in Nashville by 2040 seems way too ambitious. Nashville is right about 2 million. I think 3 million by 2040 is a more realistic -- unless we start growing like Austin.

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