Monday, September 30, 2013

Will a new Sulphur Dell ballpark bring more gentrification or will it spur sensitive revival?

The tensions that come with profound change and growth are mirrored in the comments of two North Nashville leaders with very different priorities and visions for "nexting" along Jefferson Street.

Jefferson Street became great once from humble beginnings and could do so again in the future, said [Ed] Kindall, who was born in a house on Jefferson Street in 1945 and has lived in the community most of his life.

He just wants to see some of the past preserved when the community comes back.

“It’s not that we don’t want Jefferson Street to be pretty,” he said. “We just don’t want it to be gentrified.”

Sharon Hurt, president of the Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership, sees hope for Jefferson Street in the plans for a new Sounds stadium at the Sulphur Dell location.

The proposed Sulphur Dell project would border Jefferson Street near Fourth and Fifth avenues. Hurt said the project would bring jobs to the community and could spark a revival for Jefferson Street.

“This could be the beginning of the rebirth of North Nashville,” she said.

I generally find myself on the opposite side from Sharon Hurt on most issues affecting the neighborhoods just a few blocks from Jefferson Street business corridor.

She supported the failed plan to build a "second Downtown" (May Town Center) on North Nashville's urban farmland, Bells Bend. She supported the decision of the National Museum of African American Music to abandon its logical location on Jefferson Street for honky-tonked Lower Broadway. Now Ms. Hurt raves about the Mayor's ballpark project without expressing any of the questions former school board member Kindall raises about untrammeled, insensitive gentrification.

I share Mr. Kindall's concerns on this score. I wonder how a new ballpark can help but destroy historical and cultural qualities of North Nashville in a headlong rush to drive up real estate prices and gentrify without careful planning and input by the whole community beyond business interests. Growth at all costs based on the ambitions of the few will do us more harm than good. The history of Jefferson Street deserves better treatment and consideration.

10/01/2018 UPDATE: based on the latest news reports, the answer to the question I asked 5 years ago is that the new ballpark, called "First Tennessee Park," has ushered in gentrification at a brutal pace. According to one report from last July:

Development is changing history in a local neighborhood, but Belinda Campbell's home has stood the tests of time.
"There's history here, and they're not looking at the history. All they're looking at is coming in and making a quick buck," Campbell said.
Change has come to the neighborhood.
"Down the street there are two houses, one $999,000, one is over a million, one's got elevators in both of them," she sid.
Development is driving up property taxes and the cost of living. Campbell's family has been in the neighborhood since the 1960's.
"They are fixing it where we can't even stay in our community. I think they're pushing us on the outskirts of town," Campbell said. "It really hurts me deeply that something that you've been having for years, they're trying to force you out of your own home."
Belinda works from 7p.m. to 7a.m. as a caretaker. She then feeds the neighborhood kids at her son's church camp. She sleeps two hours a day just to make a living.

Another follow-up report from last week continues to paint a dire picture for North Nashvillians:

As developers buy up properties, elderly residents are being forced to move. Aline Lyles, 85, must leave the Buena Vista neighborhood, the place she's called home her entire life. A developer bought her building on Monroe Street, and she was told her lease will be terminated.
"These new homes is driving the old folks out of their homes," Lyles said.
She looked at half a dozen places. The retirement home in Buena Vista is full and she said she was placed on a waiting list. 

In the past year Metro Council approved funding for a new major league soccer fields at the Fairgrounds. If North Nashville is a barometer for the future, neighbors around the Fairgrounds should expect accelerated dislocation and displacement of those who cannot afford to keep with up the skyrocketing land values spurred by real estate deals brokered between politicians and tycoons.

These are the salad days for builders and developers. For regular Nashvillians times are getting tough.

1 comment:

  1. I think there is a definitional need here, as some people don't know what "gentrification" means. I might encompass the following - the middle class moving in to where lower classes had lived. Also - additional refinement and rising property values; a changing of the character of the neighborhood is typically implied.

    "Untrammeled" and "insensitive" are two words that are the opposite of "gentrification." I would say you can't have "gentrification" with those two words. That would be something else, like if a bunch of Brentioch cul-de-sacs replaced whatever is currently in North Nashville.

    Ed Kindall is right that "gentrification" includes becoming more "pretty." I suppose he has the right to oppose his idea of "gentrification" as he defines it.

    If that idea includes having something forced on him (especially by the government), I agree with him.

    If that idea is that property values will go up in his neighborhood so much that all friends and neighbors sell out (and up), well, I can't agree with him. In that instance, his decisions are being made by individuals in their best interests. Individuals that are unlike him may move into his neighborhood, and they may change what has just become their neighborhood.

    I agree with your last paragraph.