What’s next for Nashville?


What really is Next for Nashville? Well, I’ll tell you.

Nashville has been making “headlines” around the country over the past 18-to-24 months. Our fair southern city has quite suddenly become a town where people supposedly want to be. Who knew?

That’s not really true. Nashville is a city where people have desperately wanted to be for years and years. However, our bustling mini-metropolis has been gaining attention for reasons other than country music, and this is apparently cause for national news in the eyes of The New York Times, Forbes Magazine, Gentlemen’s Quarterly, Garden & Gun, Southern Living, and the unparalleled Charleston City Paper. Thank goodness we’re being offered nicknames like “Nowville” (courtesy of GQ), or being referred to as America’s “It” city (less than sincere thanks to the NYT).

I don’t speak for every Nashville resident, nor for my generation, nor for transplants to Nashville, or any other group. But I can’t help feeling like Nashville has been a pretty great place to live for a long, long time.

Not that we don’t have a lot of work to do. In fact, if we’re really honest with ourselves – Nashville needs to grow up in a few ways.

Davidson County might not be huge (pop. 625,000+), but the general Nashville-Area (CSA, or combined statistical area) is not small (pop. 1,615,000+), certainly not by Tennessee standards. Our statewide population is smaller than New York City. By more than 2 million people.

Despite our size, Nashville is home to some pretty big/great things. Music. Healthcare. Publishing. Tourism. Education. Nashville has pro sports thanks to the Titans and Predators. Nashville has incredible concert venues like The Ryman, The Schermerhorn, the Bridgestone Arena, War Memorial, and countless others. And still, Nashville is a small city that looks and acts like a big town.

Over the past two years, Nashville residents have watched as places like BurgerUp, Imogene & Willie, The Catbird Seat, Patterson House, Oak Bar, No. 308, Holland House, Corsair, Belle Meade Bourbon, and other distilleries, CityHouse, Frothy Monkey, and many other local spots made headlines in newspapers and magazines around the country. We’ve seen people like Ke$ha, Ben Folds, Nicole Kidman, The Black Keys, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jack White, Taylor Swift, Gillian Welch, Lady Antebellum, Kings of Leon,and many others bring even more people to our city. Things like Bonnaroo, Third Man Studios, the Station Inn, Grimey’s/TheBasement, and tons of other music-related locations drive even more eyes to the city.

While Nashvillians were just happy to have multiple options for grabbing a nice dinner, a coffee, a rockin’ pair of jeans, or an obscure vinyl LP, publications across the country felt it merited a story about how cool Nashville had become.  (Note: I know some of these places/people have been around for years. They just weren’t nationally recognized or connected to Nashville.)

For what it’s worth, I think we all WANT people to visit our city. Tourism is an enormous part of our tax-base in Nashville. Why else would we endure 10 days of country music fans destroying our downtown during CMA week? Follow the money. That’s why we do it. And we will continue to do it. While Nashvillians might vacation to the Gulf or Atlantic Coasts, or even the West Coast, a lot of people visit Nashville for their vacation. And we want them to continue visiting.

We also WANT people to move here. We want entrepreneurs to come to Nashville to set up shop and start businesses that will help grow our city, state, region, and nation. We want college students to be educated here, and spend what might be the most fondly remembered years of their lives in Nashville.

Neither of these can happen if Nashville stays on the same path. We’re not primed for additional growth right now. We’ve probably close to maxed out our growth under our current city model. Sure, we can build more houses and roads, more schools and commercial complexes, but that’s only going to make our lives less enjoyable. More traffic, less green space, etc. We need a plan.

Our city Government wants to take Nashville into the next twenty-five years with a serious plan to help grow our city with purpose. The plan is titled “NashvilleNEXT” and is a three-year commitment to engaging the community in where Nashville is headed.  You can choose to follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and the main website (under construction). NashvilleNEXT wants to work with residents of Nashville to figure out how this works, what it involves, and how we engage people who can help make it a reality.

That’s why I’m writing this post. I’ve been asked to be part of that group that attempts to engage my circles of influence and figure out what people think we should look like in twenty-five years. Here are just a few of the items Nashville is planning to consider:

  • Land Use
  • Development
  • Education
  • Safety
  • Equality
  • Environment

Some of these things aren’t like the others, but that’s ok. I was told that the community group was “missing a younger, conservative perspective.” I’m happy to be helping, though I’m certain many wouldn’t call me a real conservative. I feel like a few wouldn’t call me “younger” either. Still, this is an important conversation. What should Nashville look like in 2040?

So, help me out. I want to help the city, and I believe you do too. Nashville is great (apologies to Charleston which I visited for the first time in 2012 – it is beautiful, but is no Nashville). Nashville just needs to set a course. We need to plan for our future, and the people running the city want your help. We should give them all the help they want.

So, let me know what you think. You can find the General Plan for Nashville here: General Plan. Follow that twitter. Like the facebook page. You’ll see articles, PDF’s, and more coming from me to explain what’s happening, and I hope you’ll all play along to some extent.

ONE MORE THING – There’s a big kickoff event happening next Saturday, February 16th from 10:00am until 1:30pm at the Downtown Public Library. Mayor Karl Dean and former Maryland Governor Paris Glendening (President of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute) will speak beginning at 11:30am.

“Nashville has received a lot of well-earned recognition recently as a thriving, vibrant city, and NashvilleNext hopes to build on that foundation,” said Rick Bernhardt, executive director of Metro Planning, which is spearheading the project. “We are excited to hear from community members about the future of their city.”

Come be part of this big day, and let’s get to making Nashville a city that is prepared for the next twenty-five years.


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6 responses to “What’s next for Nashville?”

  1. pacellaml says :

    I would love to see Nashville take steps to become a more walkable town in the coming years. More sidewalks, better public transportation, safer roadsides. East Nashville is an easy place to get around, and I walk to my favorite spots often (Portland Brew, Village Pub, etc.), but it’s not easy. I really believe that the combination of better transportation and safer sidewalks would convince far more people to leave their cars at home.

    • Wes Hartline says :

      That’s a great point. I believe that is one of the things Nashville is planning to pursue. A more walkable city should be a healthier, more connected, more effective community.

      • pacellaml says :

        Geez. What I meant to say there is that the places I like to go in EN are in close proximity to my house, but the lack of sidewalks makes it difficult to walk to them. Even though I frequently try. I was way distracted when I commented earlier.

  2. joe martin says :

    I’d like to see the streets marked as to which way you can travel. Its very confusing getting around Nashville because many streets are one-way… then they change when you cross Broadway!! Then the street you’re traveling on, changes names along with the address numbers!

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. How can we love Nashville? « Wes' musings - February 20, 2013
  2. Favorite things from 2013 | Wes' musings - January 3, 2014

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