About a month ago I mentioned in passing that I had attended one of the Riverfront Development public meetings held here in the North End. I did not take the time to say much more about it because it did not strike me as significant enough that it could not wait. Now that holiday hubbub is past us, I'll give it the reflection it is due.
I did not see anyone from Salemtown in attendance, and there were a handful of Germantown people there that I could identify. Most of the rest seemed to be consultants, developers, business leaders, and urban designers from various places. Therefore, the tenor of the meeting seemed very different than if those in attendance would have been more focused on how neighborhood issues might affect or direct plans to "connect" Nashville (à la "The Plan of Nashville").
I sat in one of the small groups clustered around a table looking at a map oriented to the river almost exactly like the picture above, but without the detail (the map above is actually an imagined blueprint of the Riverfront). We discussed the things we would like to see along the Riverfront in the area from Shelby Bottoms on the south to the Cumberland River Greenway at I-65 on the north. And we made notes directly on the map. At the end of the discussion time, each small group presented its ideas to the others and then everyone voted for their three favored ideas for developments.
As I said before, if the discussion had involved more neighborhood people it might have been very different. I raised some eyebrows when I spoke of neighborhood boundaries and identity. Others had grander designs. But the conclusions reached would have also been different, in my opinion, if the orientation of the map had been different. The center of the map seemed to be the East Bank/Coliseum area with the Cumberland curving toward the left-side of the map, leaving a relatively smaller swath of North Nashville, Downtown, and South Nashville in view.
I believe that the map's orientation had a good deal to do with the group spending most of its time talking about developing neighborhoods on the East Bank and connecting them with others on the East End. The only time our group focused on North End development was to talk about the old Neuhoff Complex, the Central Wastewater Treatment Facility, and "Nashville Island" (which used to be "Burns Island"). By my unscientific tally, there were perhaps 10 East Nashville development ideas for each North Nashville idea. Even the discussion of the possible new ballpark had to do with whether to build it on the old Thermal Site on the West Bank now or to build it on the East Bank south of the Coliseum later as a spur for East Bank neighborhood growth. I concluded that the total lack of discussion about the South End beyond SoBro and Rolling Mill Hill also resulted from the eastward orientation of the map.
I do not know if the Nashville Civic Design Center oriented the map because they intentionally wanted to focus the discussion the East Bank, but our chat did focus in that direction, and I could not gather that there were more East Enders present than anyone else. The whole NCDC emphasis on connecting Nashville neighborhoods into one city seemed undercut by the NCDC map itself.