Thursday, February 26, 2009

May Town Doubles Down for a Second Downtown

How cynical is this one?

Rather than donating $400,000 to Tennessee State U. to endow a faculty chair in sustainable agriculture because sustainability is vital and because it would simply be the right thing to do, the May family and Tony Giarratana are so donating contingent on Metro approving May Town Center. Announcement of the May donation comes on the heels of news that State Senator Doug Henry has introduced a bill to the General Assembly to preserve Bells Bend from May Town's urban sprawl by converting it to Rural and Natural Resource area.

The Mays have practically bought the support of TSU, their alumni, and any state interest connected to them. They're offering TSU the chance to enter the debate, and expand westward in order to occupy an unblighted Bells Bend neighborhood under the auspices a noble cause. They're tossing out the bone of token environmentalism to get their second Downtown built, and sustainability is just punch line in the gag.

It is a sardonic, obscene, and empty display.

UPDATE: Isn't allowing greedy developers to build a second downtown on farmland under cover of endowments to a university to start a sustainable agriculture program kind of like expanding the coal industry so that TVA can supply more electricity to new solar panel factories in Tennessee?

UPDATE: According to the Tennessean, the Bells Bend land donated to TSU is not contingent on approval, while the endowment for the establishment of an academic program is.

UPDATE: Jack May tells WSMV that the TSU donation has nothing to do with the May Town Center development. Yeah, right. And the curious timing of the donation announcement had nothing to do with Doug Henry's introduction of a bill that could protect Bells Bend from the May family development or with giving developers more green cred.

UPDATE: Nashville Biz Journal spins the conflict too crassly, suggesting that Bells Benders do not want any change. I've heard lots of motivations for resisting May Town Place, including:
  • preservation of natural resources
  • controlling urban sprawl
  • maximizing already developed spaces around the downtown we have
  • defending the democratic process in zoning and development issues
  • respecting a neighborhood association's deliberated and long-term expectations for their community
  • saving taxpayers from expensive infrastructure and maintenance costs
  • protection of endangered species
Clearly each of those involve some level of social change. Compared to the singular drive for money of the Giarratana development team, the Bells Benders who oppose the development look a lot more nuanced and progressive than they are portrayed by business media.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that Senator Henry opposes this project, but House Democratic Leader Gary Odom is a major proponent.

    Don't guess that would have anything to do with all the campaign cash that Odom rakes in from his developer cronies, like new TNDP treasurer Bill Freeman, who also happens to be Odom's campaign treasurer.

    I've heard that Freeman's firm, FreemanWebb, is neck deep in the May Town Center.