So we’re coming off a pretty big couple of weeks, huh, Nashville?
The opening of the Music City Center gave us another feather in a cap that is starting to make us look like quite the peacock. With all these people telling us how wonderful we are (I’ll spare you the many links), I guess it only made sense to open a 1.2 million-square-foot building and admit, with a sheepish grin, “Yeah, we are pretty great.”
As I looked out from one of the balconies of the MCC last week, I wondered how newcomers to Nashville would see the city through the prism of this new entertainment district. How would their version of Nashville compare to mine?
We have a great opportunity – and, perhaps, a responsibility – with the Music City Center to ensure our visitors experience the Nashville that we enjoy every day. I think the powers-that-be recognized this, and there are hearty doses of local flavor throughout the building. The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. The $2 million in art installations. The architecture that gives the feeling of being inside a guitar (or maybe a whale). And it’s a good sign that the first big event in the center will be our local Music City Sports Festival.
Is it going to feel touristy? Sure. The MCC is surrounded by hotels, honky-tonks, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Bridgestone Arena. Convention visitors to our city are still going to get the amped-up, ABC television-show version of Nashville, and that’s OK.
But as the city continues to market the MCC and the great new amenities around it, we would do well to incorporate the little things that make Nashville what it is and what it’s becoming. Mention in its promotion that you can escape up to Rolling Mill Hill for great views, some awesome coffee and food from one of the best chefs in the country. Encourage intrepid B-Cyclers to make it over to Five Points, or Jefferson Street, or Centennial Park. Remind them to catch a baseball game at that old college-days couch of a stadium we keep meaning to replace (and to grab a burger at Gabby’s if they’re lucky).
City leaders have made it a point to say that the MCC is for Nashvillians to enjoy. Just as important, let’s make the MCC a place for visitors to enjoy Nashville – the Nashville we know.
By Colby Sledge
On a recent trip to Atlanta to visit friends and catch a ballgame, I saw the city a little differently than in previous trips. Our work with NashvilleNext, the countywide plan to determine Nashville’s civic planning over the next 25 years, has forced me to notice my built environment a lot more. Now, whenever I see new developments or empty storefronts, I think about returns on investment, density levels and public-private partnerships. Really nerdy stuff, I know.
As we drove through the mega-highways that connect Atlanta and its seemingly endless suburbs, I remarked to my wife that such urban sprawl was a planner’s nightmare. On our way to our friends’ house, we passed construction to extend six-lane highways even farther away from the city. As anyone who has been to Atlanta knows, few people (less than 10 percent of the metro Atlanta area population) actually live within the city limits. Residents define themselves by their suburbs and surrounding counties, and attached to those locations are subtexts regarding income levels, demographics and overall quality of life. Those realities are not unique to Atlanta, but they are perhaps more pronounced due to the city’s many tentacles.
In Nashville, we often remark that we never want to be like Atlanta when it comes to traffic and sprawl. But there are positive examples we can take from Atlanta as we consider what kind of city Nashville wants to be. Inside the Perimeter (as the notorious I-285 is called), we found neighborhoods that incorporated housing for a variety of incomes, as well as restaurants and small retail that encouraged foot traffic. Atlantic Station, a mixed-use Midtown development on the site of the old Atlantic Steel mill, has gained attention for its focus on reuse, energy efficiency and density. (It also attracts a jealous side-eye from Nashville toward its IKEA.)
As is often mentioned at NashvilleNext events, our population is going to increase by more than a million people over the next 25 years. Surrounding counties like Rutherford and Williamson will grow at a faster rate than Davidson, but the jobs will continue to be in Nashville. We’re going to have more commuters, meaning we’re going to have to come up with solutions that use our existing infrastructure – our highways – and encourage sensible transit options. That’s where we can avoid a lot of the gridlock and asphalt that Atlanta has created.
But we’re also going to need to create spaces that allow people to live, work and play where they are, without having to spend a disproportionate percentage of their income on transportation and housing. We can look at Atlanta’s examples like Virginia-Highland and Atlantic Station to see what we can incorporate both within our urban core and in our suburbs.
NashvilleNext is encouraging such discussions in a very accessible and open way. You don’t have to be a city planner to get involved; you just have to care about your community. You can join NashvilleNext online on Facebook, on Twitter and through our online conversation hub, talk.NashvilleNext.net. We can learn a lot from cities like Atlanta as we plan for the future, but it’s going to take everyone’s involvement to ensure we create a plan that is uniquely Nashville.
April 10, 2013
by Caroline Claiborne, Intern
I attended my first TEDx event (Nashville’s fourth) this past Saturday, unsure of what to expect. I had seen a few videos from previous TEDTalks, but I had never experienced a room full of eager, ready-to-learn individuals who voluntarily paid for a day of lectures – and I am about to graduate from college.
The experience was like no other.
The theme chosen for this TED event was “Next.” The wide variety of lecturers and performers shared what they know and invited us to use that knowledge in bettering our community. Through the course of the lectures, I began to ask myself, “What is my ‘next’? What am I doing for my community?”
Speakers addressed immigration reform, charter education and community organization, among other topics. With each speaker and performer, I stretched my understanding of familiar topics and planted the seeds of new ideas. Musician Mike Farris performed gospel and blues at 10 in the morning and brought down the house from the get-go. After playing for several minutes, Farris asked the audience, “Are you gonna help or are you gonna hurt?” His question framed my experience for the day and forced me to ask myself, “How am I gonna help? What do I have to offer?”
One speech embodied the spirit of Ted: Dr. John Wikswo’s address “The Homonculi and I: Lessons from Building Organs on Chips.” The explanation stretched my capacity for listening to and finding interest in something science-related. He simplified a complex topic – how living human cells respond to drugs, chemicals and toxins – using a swing set, a stick figure, Dr. Emmett Brown and a sense of humor. Dr. Wikswo broke barriers between science and communication and, in doing so, offered his extensive expertise to the larger community.
Dr. Wikswo retold a story of someone’s advising him, “You really need to be normal,” to which he responded, “Normal people don’t do this!” He is correct: Normal people do not break barriers to better their community.
TED is about more than learning. TED is about sharing information and creating a better sense of community, whether it is the geographical community of Nashville or the digital communities we touch. I do not have answers about my “next” today, but TEDxNashville accomplished its goal – it got me thinking.