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A word from Vanderbilt doctor and Scottsboro resident Brenda Butka, on how the Maytown development remains the animal that can't dance, no matter how shiny the PR she wears...
It's baaaack! Maytown, the zombie development--still the elephantine city-in-the-cowpasture, accessible only by helicopter, canoe, and a threadlike country road.
Nothing has changed, except the promises, which are getting more frenetic, and the PR, which is glossier, and the powerpoint presentations, which are even more imaginative: We'll build the first bridge, we'll pay for conservation easements for the neighbors, we'll do telephone pushpolls all over the county (4 different sets so far), we'll send out big shiny postcards promising jobs, we'll donate land, we'll make a clever website, we'll promise to stop building whenever you say, we'll pay for everything-- heck--we'll even farm.
It's just going to be the cutest little city, surrounded by a ruffle of placid agriculture--you'll hardly know we, and our 15-story hotels, 40,000 workers, and 5,000 condos are even there.
We know those other elephants couldn't really dance as promised--Metrocenter, Bellevue, even Reston, Virginia--and in fact went broke, had to be bailed out or sold off. But this one, this one will be different, this one will be airborne on the wings of property tax income for us all.
The facts are these: Jack May and Frank May and Tony Giarratana won't ever develop Maytown--they don't have the experience or resources. They want zoning to change so they can sell to other developers. This isn't a development; it's land speculation, which would bring unimaginable profits to a tiny handful of investors.
Infrastructure costs for pasture-to-Emerald-City transformation are enormous, and neither the planning commission nor these speculators have put forward the first estimate of the taxpayer's burden for water, sewer, interstate access, schools, power grid, fire houses, police, garbage pickup or road maintenance. All of these concerns have been blithely swept away by glittering promises of new tax income.
And, if they build it, who will come?
More than a million square feet of downtown Nashville's 7.1 million feet of office space is vacant--can we really use 10 million more? Thirty-seven percent of downtown Nashville is vacant land. Only 6 percent is over 5 stories tall. Do we really want a new hotel in a pasture? Don't we really want to keep on developing the heart of Nashville? Do we want 5,000 more condos on the other side of Briley Parkway when there are a thousand available right now downtown?
The plan for Nashville calls for distinctive neighborhoods, not generic office parks and concrete boxes for chain outlets. We already have Nashville's most distinctive neighborhood -- the green spaces where gardening never went out of style, whooping cranes drop by, and the neighbor kid graduating from college is coming home to make a living farming.
This is Nashville's back yard--gritty, personal, and quirky. This is part of the real Nashville, the one that has made Nashville a hot spot for the creative under-thirty crowd, the Nashville that's nimble, clever, acknowledges heartbreak, and isn't like anywhere else. Isn't that what we want? Not empty promises, hidden costs, and a fantasy that the tax dollars will roll in?
Maytown is an illusion, a mirage of a city-in-a-pasture, a massively unwieldy and unsustainable thing. Even tricked out with a fringe of green, it's still an elephant in that tutu, and the only people making money are the barkers outside the tent selling tickets to hopeful idealists.
But that dog won't hunt, it's still a turkey, we're being sold a pig--lipstick and all-- in a
poke, and the elephant's never gonna dance.