click to enlarge
From Bells Bend correspondent Brenda Butka:
So what is it those obstructionist Luddites out in Scottsboro and Bells Bend really want? The past is past, change is here, so get over it! Yes, we have heard this: that change inevitably means gigantic instant urbanism a la May Town, and that opposition is simply foolish nostalgia. It ain't necessarily so.
Good country folk are not idiots--no one here is frozen in an impossible past--and there is a third way: gradual development, right for the neighborhood.
So, what do I see, ten years down the road, if May Town goes down forever and Scottsboro is allowed to grow at its own pace in keeping with the third vision? The crystal ball is murky, but gradually a picture appears.
I see a row of stores, with some apartments and condos at the highway intersection. The old Wade School is a restaurant and home to a cluster of art studios, and the city historian has an office and a small museum there, which is usually packed with schoolkids for storytelling sessions. There are quite a few more houses, mostly. tightly clustered in the crossroads area...
Bells Bend Neighborhood Farms is feeding more than two hundred families, and has a big restaurant supply business and a full-blown Organic Agricultural Institute that's busy with schools, education, and healthy food initiatives. The farm's interns still get a kick out of delivering bamboo leaves to feed the zoo's elephants, just like the very first interns did in the spring of 2009.
At least one goat farm and one dairy (there used to be eight in the area) is sending milk and cheese to the Farmer's Market and shipping to Knoxville, Atlanta, and Memphis. Trucks are hauling produce from the dozen farms to supermarkets and restaurants.
Ten years down the road, the Mays will have actually visited the area, and perhaps even have attended some neighborhood meetings, talking about their new venture, an elite inn and restaurant modeled after the fabled Blackberry Inn, to great local enthusiasm. The Community Club is working with the Agricultural Extension service to bring other community clubs back to life, hosting teaching sessions in canning, bicycle repair, solar energy, and fashion design.
Vanderbilt and Meharry are publishing the results of a study showing the dramatic benefits, including cost savings, of bringing inner city diabetics and farmers together to teach gardening and cooking.
TSU will not actually own land in the Bend, but their scientists are working with the grass-roots institute to document nutrient content of locally grown foods, and the institute is assisting with the management of the two farms TSU already owns.
On weekends, the place will be crawling with families, children, hikers, and bikers, and music-lovers will come for food and jazz at Wade School, food and country music at Lewis' Store, and line-dancing at the Community Center. Friday nights are big at the Dyer Observatory, which was moved to take advantage of the only night-dark skies in Nashville.
The next new tech breakthrough--crystal ball is low on detail here, or I'd be calling my financial advisor--comes from a delightful trio of geeks living in Edgefield who moved here from California because Nashville's the hot place to be. Their ever-expanding headquarters is in SoBro.
Rick Bernhardt, still head of the Planning Department, is in great demand, giving lectures around the country on "How We Turned Nashville Around," and "Farming Keeps Cities Alive," and gets especially animated at the part about how Nashville now captures $800 million--almost half--of its own food market, and how that money stays in the local economy, powering a resurgence in retail and employment.
Tony--well, I don't see him too clearly--but, wait! Here is a lonely figure, bent over what looks like faded blueprints. I've finally got the crystal ball zoom working--closer--looks like it says "Signature Tower" in the corner. It's been ten years--no one remembers what that was all about. On the dusty bookcase behind him are some cracking binders labeled "May Town Center".
Okay, some of this is fantasy, but what we want is pretty clear: just read our very own Planning Commission's Detailed Design Plan for our area, just look at Nashville's Neighborhood Character Manual, the Plan for Nashville, the Mayor's Green Ribbon Committee report.
May Town? Bad odds--it's an outdated idea, a deadend cowpasture development in the middle of a housing crash, downtown vacancies, and rising unemployment. High risk--it puts Metro on the hook for unknown infrastructure costs, regardless of success. Really low payoff--maybe 1% increase in metro revenue in a perfect world, which Crystal Ball does not predict.
Third Vision? Great odds--this lively neighborhood is halfway there, with a cluster of organic farms starting up, Wade School renovation underway, an active Community Club with a long history of Friday night dances, two metro parks, greenways planning started, and an amazingly cohesive community. No risk--Metro doesn't have to spend a dime other than continuing to support its parks. Payoff--quality of life, a healthier Nashville, and jobs that are a reality, not just empty promises.
True, less glitz, less PR, and those gigantic dollar numbers aren't being thrown around. But, when it comes to payoff, if you're tending to business, it's about odds, risk, and net.
May Town: don't bet on it. -Brenda Butka