Thursday, February 03, 2011

Very little serious planning went into the plan for a new South Nashville park

Christine Kreyling underscores just how impetuous and regressive the plan for a new park at the old Fairgrounds was. We can sympathize with neighborhoods who want more green space at the Fairgrounds, but the desperate logic that any design is better than current conditions seems to produce more risk than benefit:

Tim Netch, Metro Parks' planning superintendent, confirms, "We will not proceed with the current park design [as requested by Mayor Karl Dean's office]."

This is good news, because the prospectus for the park-only plan could have produced a questionable result. For starters, the budget for design and construction was $2 million. That works out to 87 cents per square foot — a laughably low sum.

In addition, designers would have had to start planning while lacking key site information. No environmental, archaeological or geotechnical subsurface studies, no soil analyses, no searches for hazardous materials have been conducted for the property.

Under these circumstances, the joke circulating within the local design community was that the finalist firms should pray they'd lose.

All of this raises the question: Why didn't Mayor Dean initiate a master plan for the entire fairgrounds himself, rather than wait for Metro Council to do so?

....wouldn't it be nice for the Decider to have some objective basis for his decisions? The belief that scraping a site and starting over will necessarily produce positive results was the faith of urban renewal. Cities across America are still trying to recover from its effects.

Did it ever occur to any local journalists to interrupt the "racers-vs-neighborhoods" meme long enough to disclose these important planning details earlier than after their defeat in Metro Council?

One thing that Kreyling did not touch on was the risk of a new park to the Metro Parks budget that faces mayoral demands for cuts on an annual basis. I guess higher risks explain Metro Finance low-balling the cost of design and construction. If Metro cannot fund an existing park system toward growth rather than contraction, is it really responsible leadership for Mayor Karl Dean to propose a new, inadequately planned park that might further drain revenues that he is unwilling to raise?

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