Monday, December 15, 2014

Is this Salemtown development designed for people or for cars?

Over the past year--whether concerning a new bus rapid transit line or an $18 million pedestrian bridge--the Mayor's Office has drummed into our heads that the strapping millennial generation is different than others in that they want more walkable neighborhoods and more mass transit. In short, they don't care for cars.

What's good for public dollars ought to be good for private dollars, too, so why is Dale & Associates builders planning a high-density build in Salemtown with what looks like parking for at least 40 cars? New builds are marketed to millennials who don't subscribe to car culture (unlike baby boomers), so why do these the developers of "The Row at 6th and Garfield" plan to pave/build over what looks like about 80% of the land across 5 properties?

Accommodations for 40 cars?!!

It seems brash enough to demolish 8 units across those 5 plots and build 20 in a neighborhood zoned mostly for medium density. However, I can grasp the logic that the urban core is going to become more, not less dense over time. What I fail to appreciate is taking out what are currently modest rentals that accommodate working-class folk in are increasingly being pushed out of Salemtown. What I fail to fathom is why one more project is being built for upwardly mobile millennials, with no mention of affordable options to hang on to diversity. What I fail to respect is the idea that the space will be more devoted to servicing cars than people; in an age where we are told that millennials are giving up their cars.

Current configuration: 8 units, maybe a dozen parking spaces.

Some in the new urbanist klatch refer to this corner as the "last remaining corner at 6th and Garfield," even as it continues to be occupied families with children. Part of the problem with the gentrifying mindset it that it renders people of modest income invisible. The more profound attribution to me is that if The Row at 6th and Garfield is built as currently planned, then the last patch of considerable green space at this intersection will be paved over. It is not uncommon to see children playing on the grassy areas whenever I pass this intersection.

The builders of each of the other three developments (one is Dale & Associates) at the intersection took vacant lots with nothing but green space and built town homes with completely paved car ways in the back. They left thin slivers of green space ringing each of the developments. So, The Row at 6th and Garfield would complete the trend of orienting intersection completely to car traffic regardless of environmental and stormwater run-off impact.

While the question of 20 units may not be as much of an issue in the urban core, the question of parking for 40 cars in the core makes 20 units too much for this intersection. The owners of these properties are allowed to build what they wish within the current medium density parameters, but they are requesting rezoning for 40 cars. They have to have community support to be permitted to build for 40 cars.

In my opinion, it is unwise for Salemtown to support to the idea of parking for 40 cars in one development. We need to ask the developers to scale down their build more practically for the people they are marketing to. Why not double the number of units from 8 to 16 and reduce the number of car provisions to 32 (or less since millennials don't prefer cars)? And they should be required to include affordable housing components in the project.

If the men of Dale are going to ask for our support in their bid to maximize land owners' investments, then they should be willing to give something back to our community.

UPDATE: I took a photo of the MTA bus stop closest to the properties where The Row at 6th and Garfield would be built. The blue sign marks the stop. The red brick duplexes in the center background of the photo are the properties in question. We are talking about a few dozen feet to walk to catch a bus that runs straight down 5th Av N to downtown's central station in around 5-10 minutes (yes, I have picked up a bus there before), where other buses can take riders anywhere in Nashville.

Again, if mass transit is a comer with potential buyers, and they do not have to walk even a block to access mass transit, why should developers include 40 parking spaces at The Row at 6th and Garfield?


  1. I was set to disagree with you and point out that whatever the zeitgeist says about millennials (that they are green, go carless, want to work for themselves and make a difference) doesn't mean squat to someone putting up their own money. That someone is actually 2 sets of people - the developer and potential buyer. They will act in their best interests and it need not conform to conventional thinking.

    Then, you mentioned re-zoning. You should have led with re-zoning. A request for re-zoning should be just that - a request. Acceptance of a plan should not be pre-determined, and those who grant zoning waivers/changes should listen to all those potentially affected. By all means, make new developments conform to community standards, not the other way around.

    I'm pretty sure the building at Hillsboro and Richard Jones in Green Hills contains fewer parking spaces than 2x the number of residences. Of course, it's a bit different development in a different area of town.

  2. Can you name a downtown-area townhouse development built in the last 10-12 years that didn't have a similar parking configuration, two spaces per home, behind each home? I can't think of any. Either way, you neglect that a truly car-centered development would not go to these lengths to conceal the cars - it would be a street-fronting parking lot with homes toward the back of the lot. I don't see a problem with the programming of this development, aside from possible over-density. If you're going to make cars the focus of your complaints, it should be better articulated.