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Friday, January 23, 2015

Rapid Development In Nashville: Are Pedestrians About to Be Left in the Dirt Again?

Nashville is developing very quickly!

Have you been downtown, in the Gulch, or by Vanderbilt recently?  We are a 'crane city' with numerous high rises and developments going in.  Greenhills has 3 obvious construction fences in prominent locations and Hillsboro High is slated for a significant upgrade.  There are 28 homes going in across from the Greenhills library.

Similarly, Nashville had rapid development post WWII.  Most agree that during this period the car was king and no one considered the needs of walkers.  Hence, the crazy patchwork of random amenities and the frank lack of sidewalks past the urban core.  

Other cities did not do this.  And, I am not just talking about major cities. My own small hometown had a perfect grid of sidewalks on every single street (and it was fantastic!).  Other cities made sure that ALL citizens could walk safety and comfortably to their destinations.  

Why didn't Nashville?  

And, are we about to make the same mistake?

As we head into another amazing period of growth in Nashville, I want to make sure pedestrian advocates are at the table.  My main worry is that we develop, yet again, so quickly that pedestrians do not have the chance to advocate for ourselves and we do not get the things that make city life worth living.  

We need to have sidewalks and open spaces such as public plazas and parks incorporated into this rapid growth.  Less think less about parking spots and more about how we can walk from point A to point B in a manner that is really high quality.  

Streets today that seem like they will never need a sidewalk may not feel that way in 20 years.  The fact it:  THINGS CHANGE.  This is the strongest argument for changing the sidewalk in-lieu fee (an example of a plan that did not have a pedestrian advocate involved) to make it clear that the preference is, by far, to have developers put in the sidewalk now.   

Put in the sidewalk now 
even if it doesn't really make sense today.  

Put in the sidewalk now 
because it isn't going to be easier in the future.  

Put in the sidewalk now  
because things change.  

The little side streets of today may be utilized very differently in the future.   

Nashville need to think and act progressively and build the infrastructure for walking now.  The post WWII boom in Nashville showed us that it doesn't get easier or cheaper to build in the future.  We should learn from this error.  

Nashvillians have expressed a significant latent demand to get out on foot.  Is it really fair to make walkers wait longer?    Retrofitting sidewalks on roads is very difficult and expensive - at least this is what I hear over and over again when I advocate for sidewalks.

Contact: (coming very soon)

What can you do now?  When you see a development going in:  call to ask them (nicely!!!) to put in the sidewalk rather than pay the in-lieu fee.  Advocate for walking in your neighborhood.  Get out and walk!

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