Posts tagged with "Nashville":

Nashville mayor unveils details of $5.2 billion transit plan

Nashville’s Mayor Megan Barry has announced the ballot language for the city's much-anticipated transit referendum. The referendum, which will be voted on in a May 1, 2018 election, would bring a completely new expansive light-rail system to the city. At a cost of $5.2 billion, it would be one of the most ambitious transit plans in the United States, and the largest single project Nashville has ever taken on. The announcement included the full 205-word ballot measure, a broad overview of the proposed referendum. Those projects would “improve and expand its transit services to include: expanded bus service countywide; new transit lines; new light rail and/or rapid bus service along Nashville’s major corridors, including the Northwest Corridor and a connection through downtown Nashville; new neighborhood transit centers; improvements to the Music City Star train service; safety improvements, including sidewalks and pedestrian connections; and system modernization.” The wording also outlines the city’s plan to raise four taxes, in the form of surcharges, to fund the projects. These include, “a sales tax surcharge of 0.5 percent for the first five years, increasing to 1 percent in 2023; a hotel/motel tax surcharge of 0.25 percent for the first five years, increasing to 0.375 in 2023; a 20 percent surcharge on the business/excise tax; and a 20 percent surcharge on the rental car tax.” The next step for the referendum will be gaining the approval from the Metro Council for the ballot language. The plan includes 26 miles of new light rail, additional bus services, and most dramatically, a rail tunnel that will stretch under the downtown 40 to 50 feet below the street level. The 1.8-mile-long, 60-foot-wide tunnel would contain two tracks, and would cost an estimated $900 million. Above ground, five light rail corridors will run to the downtown from all directions in the city. While the rail portion of the project would take until 2032 to complete, the improvements to other parts of the system could be implemented much quicker. In particular, 25 miles of rapid bus transit and “neighborhood transit centers” would connect the bus system to the future rail network. Another aspect of the proposal is reduced or free transit fares for residents living below the federal poverty line. This consideration would help offset the increased sales tax burden on the poor, who are often disproportionately affected by such taxes. If Nashville residents approve the referendum, the city will join the likes of Seattle, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, who have all recently passed extensive transit plans. Critics of these types of plans question the return on investment of the billions of dollars, while proponents argue that they are needed to attract the types of companies and workers 21st-century cities need. An example often cited is the call from proposals for the Amazon HQ2. Amazon specifically requested a robust mass transit system for its workers, a requirement that many midsize cities are unable to meet.

Nashville plans elevated greenway above Interstate 440

Nashville, Tennessee is planning a 7-mile elevated pedestrian and bicycle greenway. The $40.2 million dollar project would run along Interstate 440. Located in the state-owned right of way, the greenway would link area parks and possibly link to another new greenway near the Fairgrounds Nashville. The exact design and location of the greenway has yet to be determined. Early imagery of the project shows it immediately alongside and rising above the interstate. To fund the project, Metro Nashville has applied for a $30 million grant from the Federal government. The grant would come from the Department of Transportation’s Tiger Grant program which is expected to release $500 million for similar projects this year. Tiger Grants are specifically designated for alternative transportation infrastructure. Nashville already has over 80 miles of greenway bike and pedestrian paths. Most of these are located along waterways and natural areas. This new path, integrated into the freeway system, would be decidedly different given its location next to an interstate.  

Not a car in the world: Nashville neighborhood abstains from use of cars for a whole week

While major cities in Europe and across the world are experimenting with the car-free lifestyle, the American South is not likely on anyone's radar as the next to embrace the trend. A neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee, however, has promised to not use cars for an entire week, leaving them at home as part of the "Don't Car Campaign."

Having started on September 19, 30 participants will go carless until the 25th. “Parking has been a big issue here,” said Jamie Brown, a member of the Nations Neighborhood Association (NNA) board speaking to the Nashville Business Journal. “The residential density is getting higher. One [house] goes down and two or three go up,” she said. “Now we’re starting to see condominium and apartment units." Elaborating on the parking difficulties in the area Brown went on to say: “We’re worried about how [new development] is going to affect our overflow parking in the street. We don’t have sidewalks in our neighborhood. The developers keep telling us this is a walkable neighborhood, saying it’s close to downtown. … We wanted to test that concept.” The NNA campaign to go car-less highlights the outdated transit system currently in place, adjudged by the Nashville MTA as insufficient for the growing local population. The city, according to the Nashville Business Journal, is fortunate in that it is walkable and pedestrian-friendly with plenty of bike lanes. Abstaining from car usage then shouldn't be that much of an issue. “People in other neighborhoods have reached out and told us this is a great idea,” Brown said. “We hope the campaign could be done by other neighborhoods.” The team of 30 who will record and document their experiences seeks to be a leading example of how a population can get by without being dependent on cars. They also want people to start seeing how capable their transportation infrastructure really is.

Historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville reveals new look following $14 million expansion

An historic epicenter for music and stage performances in the “Music City” of Nashville, the Ryman Auditorium, has unveiled a new face following a $14 million expansion by Nashville-based firms Hastings Architecture Associates and R.C. Mathews Contractor. Improvements included a new restaurant named Café Lula, after longtime Ryman promoter and manager Lula Naff (1904-1955), a custom-built 100-seat theater on the second floor, a gift shop double in size, and a ticketed tourist attraction, The Soul of Nashville, an interactive video experience that gives visitors a crash course on the “rollercoaster” history of the Ryman and its emblematic hometown. “This expansion is a testament to the strength of our music industry and our cultural significance,” said Nashville Mayor Karl Dean in a statement. The statue of Thomas G. Ryman, the riverboat captain and businessman who built the Ryman in 1890, has been returned to the plaza after being removed for protection during the renovations. Ryman built the auditorium portion of the building, untouched by the 2015 renovations, after being so moved by a speech by evangelist Samuel Porter Jones that he named it the Union Gospel Tabernacle. Its famed church pews and stained glass windows remain unchanged, with renovations limited to the portion of the venue that was added in the early '90s. The Ryman’s status as one of the most sacred live music rooms in the country was sealed—and revoked—when it became home to radio show Grand Ole Opry, which moved to another location after 31 years at the Ryman. The auditorium did not host another show for 20 years, and fell into irrevocable disrepair. When it returned in 1954, equipped for the first time with dressing rooms and the latest sound and lighting technology following an $8.5 million revitalization, it resumed hosting sold-out shows, but its overcrowded facilities were stretched to breaking point. The expanded box office, more restrooms, and bars and concessions stands recessed into spacious nooks in the lobby should help to manage the overflowing crowds, and keep the Ryman’s world-class acoustics, originally built to project the voice of Sam Jones, at the forefront.

How the Koch brothers helped stop Nashville’s plan for Bus Rapid Transit

The plan to build Nashville’s first-ever bus rapid transit (BRT) system is dead and the billionaire Koch Brothers helped kill it. The Tennessean is reporting that after months of controversy, the city has ceased all planning efforts for the Amp, a 7-mile BRT system that would have connected Nashville’s neighborhoods and given the city one of its first major pieces of smart mass-transit policy. Like many major public transit projects, the Amp had its detractors from the beginning. In Nashville, a local auto mogul, limousine company owner, and attorney joined forces to form “Stop Amp”–a group dedicated to pressuring the city into pulling the plug on the plan. That coalition was reinforced by Republican lawmakers and, yes, the Koch brothers. In March, the Tennessean reported that the state chapter of the brothers’ right-wing political advocacy group Americans For Prosperity (AFP) helped create a bill that would “make it illegal for buses to pick up or drop off passengers in the center lane of a state road.” It was a thinly veiled attempt at killing the Amp outright. AFP’s Tennessee director, Andrew Ogles, told the newspaper that the Kochs’ organization didn’t funnel money toward the cause; rather, “the [anti-Amp] bill grew out of a conversation he had had with Senator Jim Tracy, the sponsor.” A compromise bill that was pushed by the mayor softened that language and allowed the plan to move forward. But still, the plan to give Nashville its first bus rapid transit system failed. With the Amp dead, city officials say they will be looking for new “transit solutions” for Nashville.                  

The Music City’s New Urbanism: The Nine Projects Leading Nashville’s Transformation

For many, architecture isn't the first thing that comes to mind when considering Nashville—it's called the Music City for a reason. But there is more to Nashville than country songs, barbecue ribs, and the eponymous show on ABC. In recent years, the city of 600,000 has become a regional leader in smart urban design and distinctive architecture. New riverfront parks are transforming Nashville's connection to the Cumberland River, bikeshare docks have appeared around downtown, bus rapid transit is in the works, and the city's tallest tower is set to rise. And that's just the start of it. Take a look at the city's dramatic transformation and a peek at where it's headed. Music City Center One of the most significant new works in Nashville is Music City Center—a 2.1-million-square-foot convention center, which the mayor’s office called “Nashville’s  beacon of momentum.” The center is the work of tvsdesign, Moody Nolan, and Tuck Hilton Architects, and is as sprawling as it is striking. The structure is covered with an undulating roof that is meant to evoke the rolling hills of Tennessee. Below that curvy topper is a primarily glass facade and prominent, idiosyncratic, paneled forms that pull the building out of its own skin. The $585 million convention center also includes a public art collection and a 6,000-seat ballroom. “The defining character of Music City Center is how design—from large scale moves to the smallest detail—can tame an immense structure,” said tvsdesign in a statement. “The building communicates warmth, intimacy and an attention to detail that belies its 2 million square feet and reflects the distinct character of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.” Nashville Convention Center Redevelopment With the shiny new Music City Center open, Nashville’s existing convention center is no longer needed, so out with the old and in with the new. The city has proposed replacing the existing structure with a one-million-square-foot, mixed-use development. By the numbers, the project includes 840,000 square feet of office space, a 673-room Nashville Renaissance Hotel, 244,000 square feet of retail, and 50,000 square feet for the National Museum of African American Music. Gresham, Smith & Partners is designing the project, but, according to the mayor’s office, its “scope and design elements will be refined in 2014 through community input.”  The latest renderings show a multi-story retail base with glass towers above. NACTO Street Design In June, the Tennessee Department of Transportation became the first southern state to endorse the National Association of City Transportation Officials’  “Urban Street Design Guide,” which serves as a blueprint for safe, multi-modal streets. This campaign was launched in October by then–New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan who was serving as NACTO’s president at the time. “The Tennessee DOT endorsement of the Urban Street Design Guide is part of an exciting movement among states,” said Linda Bailey, NACTO’s Executive Director, in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with Tennessee and other states to build economically vital, safe and inviting streets going forward.” What does this mean for Nashville, specifically? That’s hard to tell right now, but it underscores the state’s commitment to public transit and safe streets in a region known for its car culture. The AMP, Nashville's Proposed BRT  In 2016, Nashville could have its very own, world-class bus rapid transit system that cuts through the city's urban core. Plans for the 7.1-mile system, known as the AMP, have been in the works for a few years and initially included dedicated center lanes and medians for quick boarding. As these things go, the project received some strong public backlash and was almost entirely derailed by a conservative state legislature, with a little help from the Koch Brothers. In March, the Tennessean reported that the billionaires' Americans for Prosperity group helped the state Senate pass a bill to block the $174 million project. But the AMP isn't dead just yet. The final design details of the project are currently being hammered out and construction could start as early as next year. While it’s not entirely clear what the AMP will look like, Ed Cole, the executive director of the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee, is optimistic about this project and Nashville’s transit future overall. “The principles behind new urbanism are clearly part of our future here,” he said. 505 Church Street Adrian Smith—the man behind such projects as “the tallest building in the world”—has now designed what would be the tallest building in Tennessee. While not Burj Khalifa height, the tower proposed for 505 Church Street, which is designed by Smith’s firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, climbs its way up to 750 feet. Last August, AN reported on Smith and Gill’s plans for the site, which called for a mixed-use tower that gently bends and twists its way to LEED Platinum designation. That scheme has since been scrapped, but Smith and Gill have released an alternate design for a glassy, residential high-rise. Since a portion of the site was sold to the city for a parking garage, the firm created a more slender tower, which has balconies and horizontal louvers etched across its exterior. “The tower’s shape is based on a parallelogram which has been softened at the corners to maximize river views to the South and East,” said Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill in a statement. “The curved corners minimize the tower’s true East and West facades in an effort to reduce harsh East and West solar exposures.” The project’s developer, Tony Giarratana, told AN that the tower should get underway once the garage is completed some time next year. That puts 505 Church's opening somewhere around late 2018 or early 2019. Virgin Hotel While Sir Richard Branson is all about space travel these days, the knighted billionaire isn’t done with earth just yet. In April, Virgin Hotels announced plans to open its third outpost at One Music Row in Nashville in 2016. There are no renderings for the project just yet, but it is expected to include 240 rooms, a recording studio, and, according to a press release, “multiple concept suites, food and beverage outlets.” In a statement Branson said, “Nashville's time is now, and we want to be part of that excitement. We hope our first venture in Nashville will open the doors for more Virgin opportunities and more global travelers to enjoy Nashville's southern hospitality.” Nashville B-cyle Bikeshare In late 2012, Nashville fell to peer pressure and did what all the top cities are doing these days: It launched a bikeshare program. The 23-station system is known as B-cycle and, according to the program’s website, is an “absolutely stylin’ way to get around town.” Hear that? Absolutely stylin'. Peddle forth Nashvillians, peddle forth. Ryman Lofts In 2013, Nashville opened the colorful Ryman Lofts—the city’s first subsidized housing designed for working artists. According to the mayor’s office “the idea for Ryman Lofts grew from the Music City Music Council, which recognized that making quality affordable urban housing available to emerging artists can spur small business development, reduce transportation demands and help nurture the city’s creative workforce.” The project was designed by Smith Gee Studio, which bookended the primarily, brick-clad structure with bright, colorful panels that frame—and climb on top of—the main facade. Riverfront Amphitheater By this time next year, the good people of Nashville should have another venue to get their country music fix. Construction is currently underway on a 35,000-square-foot amphitheater right alongside the Cumberland River. The structure, and accompanying green space, is designed by Hawkins Partners with Hodgetts + Fung and Smith Gee Studio, and is intended to resemble the Cumberland's limestone cliffs. According to a press release from Mayor Karl Dean's office, "the amphitheater will accommodate up to 6,500 people with semi-fixed seating for 2,200, a 300-person greenway pavilion, and 4,000 lawn seats—all within a natural bowl providing optimal lines of sight to the stage and downtown." The amphitheater anchors the the new 12-acre West Riverfront Park, which replaces the city's old thermal transfer plant. The new space includes, greenways, gardens, a playground, and a dog park. 

Rockefeller Foundation Issues Grants To Support Bus Rapid Transit

The Rockefeller Foundation has announced that four cities will receive a combined $1.2 million in grants to foster research, communications, and community outreach efforts in an endeavor to educate local stakeholders about the advantages of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems. The Foundation’s solution to “Transform Cities” and promote fiscal growth and quality of life proposes better mass transit investments. Boston, Chicago, Nashville, and Pittsburgh will participate in the project. The high performance mass transit system, referred to as BRT, offers much of the permanence and speed of a rail system in addition to the flexibility of bus systems for a smaller investment in initial infrastructure costs. BRT systems operate high-capacity vehicles that rely on dedicated lanes and elevated platforms to deliver efficient service. For years, the Rockefeller Foundation has supported Chicago’s attempts to build a city-wide BRT. With the grant, the city could potentially assemble and operate the first gold-standard BRT in the country. Currently, Cleveland operates the nation's highest-ranked BRT system at the ITDP's Silver designation. Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Port Authority’s Transit Development plan recommends a BRT system to link downtown to its Oakland areas. At least forty stakeholder companies are working together to consider BRT system options for Pittsburgh. A projected BRT system in Nashville would run directly through the city’s downtown hub, although the project remains in the planning stage. In Boston, transportation supporters and state officials are currently considering a BRT system amid alternative transit modernization enterprises. The Rockefeller Foundation selected public affairs firm Global Strategy Group to handle the grant by teaming up with local partner organizations in each city. For the past three years, the Foundation has made over $6 million available to encourage the expansion of BRT.