Thursday, August 26, 2010

MDHA fails to finish Salemtown streetscape project as promised

If there is any Metro government agency that validates every conservative critic of bumbling big government, it has to be the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency.

In what seems to be a never-ending, half-decade, grit-ground crawl to the end, MDHA steadfastly refuses to bring effective closure to the Salemtown streetscape project. The project was supposed to be done 3 years ago. After helping MDHA formulate the concept for the project, which was federally funded by a community block grant, citizen advisors like myself documented and reported conditions needing MDHA attention over the past couple of years. Some of the conditions were addressed, especially when they had the potential to blow up into embarrassing dramas for the housing authority. However, MDHA left many other reported problems of the construction phase broken. These are all conditions that MDHA has promised from the beginning to fix because they happened during the construction phase.

As an elected streetscape advisor to MDHA myself, I reported a damaged traffic bulb at 5th Avenue North and Hume at a dozen meetings at least. The bulb had been damaged when first installed by a driver who likely was not accustomed to it. No problem, said our MDHA project leader. On numerous occasions she told me it would be repaired. I have yet to see it repaired, although she sent me an e-mail this asserting that private contractor, Sessions Paving, did repair it. Considering I pass by the damage several times a week, it appears to me to be a phantom patch.

Other conditions that I have been reporting for months (if not years) include elements like lampposts and signs that were built right into overhanging tree branches, some of which are not small, without any pruning being done. In my opinion the lamppost installers treated their craft with hasty heedlessness that suggested a blatant disregard for our neighborhood, transitional though it might be.

When I asked MDHA to follow once again to have the contractor trim the tree branches back to prevent damage, the project director told me that the final inspection had been done, the limbs were now considered "ongoing maintenance," and thus not MDHA's responsibility. She said an inspector had already been with a "punch list" and certified that all of the conditions (including the damaged traffic bulb!) had been met satisfactorily.

I found this response unacceptable, given that at our last meeting MDHA promised to communicate with us about solutions and we were left with the impression that inspectors would be coming around with CAC members to verify that things had been fixed. So this is where things stand now: MDHA is washing its hands of the laundry list of items that they asked Salemtown to generate for them before the end of the project. We have no paper work from them that authenticates claims that inspectors when through and made legitimate reports addressing each of the conditions they asked us to identify. Their project director is assuming the bureaucratic posture that the conditions are someone else's problem.

So, I feel it my obligation to bring someone else into it to try and persuade MDHA to live up to their responsibility to Salemtown. The day before yesterday I e-mailed CM Erica Gilmore thusly:

CM Gilmore:

MDHA is claiming that they have done a final inspection of the Salemtown streetscape project and are closing it. As an elected Citizen Advisory Committee member I did not find out about this from MDHA project manager Linda Howard until I e-mailed her directly this week letting her know that some problems that I and other CAC members had identified for months still had not received a solution. Linda responded that the project was over and the solutions had already been provided. It was our understanding that MDHA would make an effort to have CAC members at the final inspection. That did not happen. We were also told there would be a final ceremony at Morgan Park. That did not happen.

Despite MDHA's unannounced closure of the project, I believe that as a CAC member I have an obligation to look at all final reports including the punch list that Linda Howard used herself to certify that all the problems had received solutions. Please intercede with MDHA and ask them for copies of all documented conditions and proper documentation of contractor solutions to those conditions, including Linda Howard's punch list.

CM Gilmore responded that she has followed up with MDHA and that she will get back to me.

As their elected representative to this MDHA committee, I ask my fellow Salemtowners to back me up by contacting CM Gilmore ( and asking her to intervene and help bring MDHA back to finish the project that they have poorly managed. MDHA is dumping loads of their disposable income into the huge new Downtown convention center hotel project. With all of that money floating around it seems like they could come up with the pittance to solve the Salemtown problems they said they would address and finally close this project to everyone's satisfaction.


  1. I'm on the CAC of a neighborhood in South Nashville that received a block grant nearly 7 years ago. We have had just as frustrating a time with MDHA. While our rotting community center awaits renovation, they keep telling us "next month". Months have turned into years.

  2. What should've been an intersection of civic and community pride has turned into a surprising exercise in frustration. Being patient is one thing; accepting inadequacy is another.

  3. If anyone reads the history of this project for the last 3 years, it has been one MDHA misstep after another.

    There was even a point where they were not going to repour sidewalks that they had demolished, opting instead to seed over the dirt left (in my opinion, to cut costs). There was even a point where they considered removing improvements the neighborhood wanted in deference to another Metro agency who didn't want them.

    This latest failure to complete what MDHA said it would complete would be minor but for recent history, all of which can be read here at Enclave. It is also exacerbated by the fact that they can find money for the business community in a snap. I have to wonder whether the costs they cut in block grants eventually goes to commercial capital projects in another form.

  4. they've moved on to Buena Vista

  5. "Lies and damn lies" has got to be one of the best tags ever. copyright that shit before someone steals it @tagdef

    We'll have to have a #hashparty for those who #KnowWords