Planning decides East Bank has Downtown Energy, moves it to D19.
The next decade’s major development corridor will be governed from across the river rather than by surrounding neighborhoods.
With Map C approved by the Planning Commission, it’s virtually guaranteed that the East Bank will move from D5 (East Nashville) to D19 (Downtown/Germantown) for the next decade. This annexation comes despite overwhelming public comment in opposition by East Nashville residents and D5 CM Sean Parker, who will lose the population-less development hotspot. Planning hasn’t budged. Council will vote on Map C but its passage is a functional guarantee—if it’s voted down, CMs have to come up with their own map and pass it by (!) referendum.
Read Map A and Map B feedback here and here. With comparative silence from D19 residents and D19 CM Freddie O’Connell (who is term-limited and would not run for this proposed district), where exactly is the pro argument coming from? In a text, O’Connell said:
“If East Nashvillians feel strongly that it should stay in an East Nashville district, that’s fine. But as it evolves to a downtown form, it’s reasonable to have a single point of contact.”
Vibes are the best way of describing Planning’s staunch position to put the East Bank with downtown. It has been in D19 since the first map was released earlier this fall. The area inside I-24 is basically devoid of residential housing but home to River North (Oracle’s HQ corporate campus), Carl Icahn’s TBD Scrapyard, TopGolf, and the Titans stadium, among other spots. The city and state are full steam ahead on creating a better-planned East Bank to facilitate its speedy growth into a corporate-anchored, mixed-use hub where residents can live-work-play-gentrify an area like the Gulch, Nashville Yards, soon-to-come North Edge, or The Finery (Wedgewood-Houston).
It is, of course, important to build more units in a city that needs units. But developing (or greenlighting development) without concern for the obvious effects it will have on surrounding neighborhoods recklessly contributes to the city’s growth crises so many politicians purportedly care about solving. These developments remake the city into a series of isolated, identical pockets functionally available only to wealthy people. They are not places that current residents are proud of, save the few residents who make a lot of money building and leasing them. Others fear them as harbingers that, soon, home may become prohibitively expensive or hostile. Some of us make fun of these places, a way to mourn the real estate bonanza that has homogenized swaths of the city. Recently, Rutledge/Rolling Mill Hill made headlines not for how great it is to live there, but for being the neighborhood that closed Hermitage Cafe. Developing more units at more price points will be accessible to more people and create economically diverse neighborhoods. These have become basically novelty stops for new residents whose lifestyles align more with Frothy Monkey, Whole Foods, and Pinewood Social.
Consolidating the East Bank into D19 paves the way for this same development east of the river. Residents are well aware of this. East Nashville will absorb the shifts in class, income, and racial demographics that come with this development, specifically the neighborhoods between Dickerson and Ellington now in District 5. It would make sense that residents in McFerrin Park or
Cayce get a say in how that development happens. Their participation highlights the squishiness of public comment—sometimes, input can change decisions that are small or insignificant. But it’s not clear how many people giving what kinds of arguments will sway big decisions. It makes sense that so many showed up to ask for the East Bank to be moved back to D5, and that their councilmember did, too.
“Part of what is going on with D19 is a lot of transformation, and we expect that transformation to continue to a dense, urban environment,” Metro Planner Gregory Claxton told me over the phone about Planning’s decision to include the East Bank in D19. “It worked as a single district to us.”
The area has almost no population, if any residents at all. Population-balancing is the main argument when Planning shifts lines around to keep districts even across the county, making the decision to draw the East Bank into D19 purely based on a vision for how the city will develop. Because Planning put the East Bank in D19 from the beginning, the burden of proof was on residents to get it back into D5. However, Planning never had to argue the East Bank out of D5 to anyone. Based on a phone call with Claxton, that’s a good thing for Planning, because the argument as to why the East Bank fits in the urban core does not extend much past the desire to streamline development. It was also confusing that the commission (members appointed by the mayor) did not spend time in its 5-hour meeting on December 9 to discuss this change, despite its significance to the city and pushback from the CM and residents.
The annexation of the East Bank will shift decision-making and directly affect how the East Bank develops. Rather than develop at the discretion of a councilmember elected by the area’s neighbors, the East Bank will be governed from across the river. It will develop within a cohesive vision of greater downtown (loosely the 24-40-65 loop) championed by stakeholders like the Mayor’s Office, Oracle, a handful of large downtown developers, and urban property owners. The future of the urban core can and should be debated further, both its urban design principles and its cost to the rest of the city. With the move of the East Bank, it becomes more clearly what we head towards.
The redevelopment of this area is very much still in flux—contracts between the State of Tennessee ECD and Oracle have not yet been executed, according to a public records request I made in mid-November. Last week, Council approved $20m to re-work East Bank roads, a request that got heat from council for how it was (or wasn’t) explained by the Mayor’s Office. Private Equity billionaire Carl Icahn still holds the PSC scrapyard, a huge piece of property near Nissan Stadium, and has already reported friction with Cooper. It also makes the future D19 councilmember a powerful arbiter of this vision, which, with this consolidation, is looking more like a game of monopoly.
-Thistle Farms CEO Hal Cato has officially made some more moves preparing for a mayoral run. He’s been lunching with some people around town, a few councilmembers, etc, talking about…. stuff. Thank you to the esteemed writers at Axios, the Tennessean, and the Scene for the shoutout.
-Developing story: Colby Sledge is following 256 people on Twitter, not one of whom is Nicole, despite more than a few @startleseasily quote-tweets and referencing @startleseasily content. Why, Colby?? Seeking comment.