Power Poll: Nashville's boom brings economic promise, but challenges, too07.17.19
Nashville has experienced an economic and population boom over the last decade. According to census population estimates, an average of 83 people moved into the Nashville area every day from July 2017 to July 2018, and this number is down from the 100+ per day recorded in previous years.
Companies such as Amazon and AllianceBernstein, just to name two, are recent additions to the Nashville market that will have a significant impact on the city’s economy. Healthcare, finance, construction, and a number of other key industries are alive and growing in Nashville.
This growth was the subject of a panel discussion, hosted by Waller, Power Poll and DVL Seigenthaler, featuring local industry leaders from public and private sectors. Their position was simple: While all this growth is generally an economic positive, unrestrained growth can eventually have a negative impact on infrastructure and resident quality of life.
What growth pitfalls are Nashville facing?
Five years from now, Nashville will either be the model or the mockery of city growth, according to Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. Nashville is at a crossroads, and further growth without addressing some of the city’s most concerning issues could mean failure on a large scale.
Here are three of the biggest issues Nashville faces as the city grows:
- Limited public transit
- Excessive traffic congestion
- Lack of affordable housing
At the core of Nashville’s growth issues is insufficient infrastructure. The goal of making Nashville “a city of shorter distances,” as described by Lucy Kempf of the Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson Country Planning Department, is only achievable if the roadways and neighborhoods are placed with care.
Additionally, Freddie O’Connell, a member of the Metro Council, argued that there simply isn’t enough housing construction going on. “Vacant lots don’t do any good,” he argued. People want to live close to their respective roadways, so building near transit lines is the best way to create successful, growing neighborhoods.
What does great growth look like?
Great growth can take on a vast number of realizations, but in the end, great growth does these four things:
- Improves quality of life
- Makes people unafraid to keep growing
- Creates a sustainable system in which issues that arise with continued growth are addressed
- Supports and cultivates diversity in growth, leaving no communities behind
If growth isn’t improving residents’ quality of life, then it’s growth gone wrong. If new restaurants, parks and housing communities aren’t being added in a way that is both equitable and accessible, growth is not being done in the right places or the infrastructure is insufficient to support it.
Having a lot of restaurants, activities, and entertainment make Nashville a popular and attractive place to live. In the words of John Seigenthaler, a partner of DVL Seigenthaler, “Nashville is still Nashville, but it has a lot more to offer.”
Yet, it’s hard to enjoy Nashville’s activities and amenities when residents have to fight excessive traffic to get there, typifying the swing between blessing and curse that is a boom in city growth.
At the heart of city planning is the goal of protecting and promoting the characteristics that are unique to Nashville and that can’t be found in any other city.
Planners and policymakers must come together to solve Nashville’s problems, remembering that our city is something to protect, cherish, and promote.
Growth is great, but let’s do it safely and sustainably. And let’s cut some of that traffic, too.