Friday, October 18, 2013

6 important questions I would ask planners of a new Sulphur Dell ballpark

These are questions I am hoping will be answered at next week's community meeting on a new Sulphur Dell ballpark sponsored by Metro Planning. They are in no particular order:

  1. Please tell us how you are going to incorporate the idea of "Complete Streets" (that is, making streets safe for all forms of transportation besides cars) into the ballpark development.

  2. Complete streets at Fenway:
    2 sidewalks, 3 planters & 1 rain garden!
    • Karl Dean paid lip service to Complete Streets consistently throughout his tenure. He should not have a problem demonstrating that the redevelopment around the Sulphur Dell site will place limits on auto traffic while installing amenities for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. In their stories on Dean's ballpark designs, the news media is fond of dropping the factoid that the Mayor is a big Red Sox fan. If Dean fails to include complete streets in his design, would it be too much for the media to point to redevelopments around Boston's Fenway Park that have aggressively incorporated Complete Streets and to ask about the lack of consistency at Sulphur Dell?

  3. How does a new Sulphur Dell fit alongside the North Nashville Community Plan?

    • Pick your plan. 2002: traffic calming along the major roads and a diversity of housing stock to attract diverse groups of residents including lower density options. 2010: parking solutions for busy urban corridors, leaving flood plain undeveloped, conserving green space, restricting taller buildings to major corridors. The community has a clear track record of expressing how they would prefer growth to be managed rather than be permitted to run amuck. A new ballpark plan should be consistent and sensitive to already formulated community plans, which represent the most significant democratic brake on the power of money and on Johnny-come-lately political influence.

  4. What measures are taken to incorporate flood mitigation into this ballpark plan? What will be the impact on the North Nashville neighborhoods of Sulphur Dell flood mitigation in the event of another catastrophic flood?

    • This is a simple equation: the old Sulphur Dell flooded because the ballpark sat on flood plain. In May 2010 the area flooded again. Metro plans to do what it tries to prohibit Nashvillians from doing since 2010: build on flood plain. If they do not take measures for mitigation, the new Sulphur Dell will likely be inundated in a catastrophe. If they do mitigate future floods, the water will have to go somewhere. The most obvious place it will go is higher into the surrounding neighborhoods.

  5. What is the mass transit plan for the North Capitol area to MetroCenter on game and event days/nights at a new ballpark? If the only plan is to build more parking for car owners on site, what plans do you have for alleviating overflow parking and congestion in the nearby neighborhoods?

    • Parking is already becoming a huge challenge with the rapid wave of mixed-use developments sweeping the area, including massive apartment complexes. The stadium plan includes even more mixed-use residential along with the entertainment complex itself. The strain on on-street parking, our primary mode of parking, will only grow more intense. If the Mayor is committed to Complete Streets in more than just words, Jefferson Street will become a choke point of cars, bikes and people without a mass transit strategy that he has yet to divulge (if he has one).

  6. Besides uncertain, pie-in-the-sky predictions of local job growth with new businesses around a new ballpark, what job strategies do you have for hiring people from North Nashville for every phase from construction to team operations?

    • Watchdogs of another of Mayor Dean's immense capital projects, the Music City Center, discovered during the construction phase that Hizzoner did not follow through on promises to extend contracts to local companies and that jobs created by MCC looked lousy. The planners of a new ballpark should have to explain why North Nashville can expect more from the development than Music City Center offered our community.

  7. What commitments can we get from the Nashville Sounds baseball club that they will provide programs and service opportunities for North Nashville youth (for example, inner city baseball training programs)?

    • I am not aware of anything that the Sounds are working on with neighborhoods around Greer Stadium. North Nashville needs the ball club to commit to be more involved here.

Those are six I have off the top of my head and a good start toward formulating other important questions. Look forward to hearing from others who are concerned about our quality of life.

UPDATE:  Nashville Scene reporter Steven Hale gets Metro Planning to explain why they would schedule a community meeting on the ballpark in the middle of a weekday afternoon when most people cannot attend the meeting. Planning's response to Hale indicates to me that this meeting may be more of a pitch of a done deal to the community and less of an invitation to influence the ballpark plan:

This was the first meeting Metro and the State could schedule that could work for all of the speakers, and we wanted to get the conversation started.

For those unable to attend, we plan to tape the meeting so that they can view the presentation online and make comments and ask questions. We also hope to offer more community meetings as this process continues to give additional opportunities for community questions and comments.

So, there is a slate of speakers and they are going to tape for the "benefit" of those who cannot attend. It does not sound like to me that they are enlisting the community's participation in the formulation of this plan. In fact, it is reasonable to assume that since the unnamed speakers' attendance is more important than the community's attendance, the plan has been agreed upon between Metro and the State without reference to community planning. Yesterday in an email exchange with Planning's Craig Owensby about the meeting I asked him whether such a perception was correct. I received no response from him on that particular question.

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