Tuesday, April 20, 2010

North Nashville Community Plan: Salemtown Scenarios, Part I

For weeks now I've had questions from Metro Planning sitting on my desk regarding community plans for Salemtown for the next 10 years. I got them because Planning scheduled the Salemtown-Germantown community meeting during the week of Metro Schools spring break, when we were on spring break. I attended the meeting before that for the Jones-Buena Vista neighborhoods, since I am a Jones Paideia parent. However, I was told that I should either answer the questions for Salemtown either by e-mail for Planning or attend a later meeting with MetroCenter "neighborhoods." It made no sense to me that I could have input at the MetroCenter meetings, but not with the Jones-Buena Vista meeting, which was not exactly well attended, so I did not attend the MetroCenter meeting even as I played by the rules at the earlier meeting.

All that is to say, I'm going to give my feedback to Planning's questions via e-mail and I'm going to publish them on this blog. I've already given some of my input at the Jones-Buena Vista meeting: sound barriers for the I-65 corridor that cuts through Jones & Salemtown, a spoke-like greenway that connect the Jones neighborhood to the Looby community center and beyond that through MetroCenter to the Cumberland Levee greenway, making Buchanan Street a more sustainable business area. But I have many more ideas for Salemtown. So, here we go.

Where are the existing parks in your community? Do the existing parks in the neighborhood meet your needs? If yes, how do they meet your needs? If they do not meet your needs how can it be improved to do so? Open space does not always have to be a park. If other open space exists or is needed what type of open space would it be and where would it be located?
The existing parks in Salemtown include Morgan Park and the Downtown Connector Greenway. The greenway system meets the pedestrian and biking needs of the community well. It is prone to some abuse by vehicular traffic as I have seen cars parked on walking paths at Morgan Park for athletic practices and on the Cumberland River for people who fish. Also, trash is dumped at some spots along the river, which calls for both surveillance and receptacles. Finally, there were some young trees planted along the connector during the drought a couple of years ago that were not watered in a way to match the harsh weather. They have been taken out and should be replaced.

The changes at Morgan Park over the past few years seem to minimize children's participation. Greenway development, a new fountain, and landscaping attract adults, but the baseball diamond that existed for generations was removed a couple of years ago and the field remains undedicated to anything but random use. It took us years to get a dangerous old playground demolished and a new one put in, but the new one is small. The playground could use a few more features dedicated to children of various ages.

Another greenspace that needs landscaping work is the strip that runs in front of Metro Water Services on 3rd Avenue, North from I-65 on the north to the Magdeburg greenway spur on the south. Salemtown residents have an ugly view of the Central Wastewater plant. Either the plant needs to do more to conceal its sewage tanks or someone should put up screening trees and shrubs along the green 3rd Avenue strip.

The 2002 neighborhood plan called for this green strip to be a civic open space. To become civic, it is going to need sidewalks or paths, landscape architecture, seating, and an attractive blocking wall instead of a chain link fence running the length of the plant's edge. These are some of the basic ingredients that make small public spaces attractive. Other possibilities include water features (which could recall the plant-obstructed Cumberland River) and a possible Riverfront Redevelopment Plan Transit stop (perhaps a trolley driveway). Research indicates that elements like these make urban spaces social. 3rd Avenue has been the neglected part of Salemtown. Converting the MWS strip could turn that around.

Finally, another green strip that needs some attention is that abutting Coffee Street and I-65 from 3rd Avenue to Rosa Parks Boulevard. A previous neighborhood plan called for pocket parks in that area. Regardless of whether that happens, some sort of sound-blocking screen should be constructed between Salemtown and the interstate highway. West Nashville residents enjoy a sound wall along I-440, while chain link fences seem to be TDOT's answer for North Nashville. Either a sound wall or a screen of large trees and shrubs should be installed to block Salemtown from noise and sight pollution.

Metro Nashville needs to spend at least as much energy and effort on the North Nashville parks and greenspaces as it does on the public jewels in West Nashville and the East End.

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