NCDC asked Nashville’s mayoral candidates to provide their ideas for each of The Plan of Nashville’s 10 principles, that are essential to guide public policy, development practice, urban planning, and civic design. Candidate responses appear in the order they were received by NCDC.
Principle 1: Respect Nashville's Natural and Built Environment
- In regards to Nashville's natural and built environment, how do you plan on respecting and preserving what makes Nashville unique?
“As a council member, I am proud to stand by my record of supporting access to green space and preserving Nashville's unique assets. In addition to fighting to preserve park land at Fort Negley Park and Church Street Park, I sponsored legislation (BL2019-1636) for a Metro Council review process for all specific plan rezoning exemption requests that involve properties listed or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.”
“Thousands of Nashvillians weighed in on the countywide General Plan, NashvilleNext, which serves as the backbone of community plans to help guide growth and development in Davidson County over the next 25 years. It is the tool for aligning spending, regulations, and Metro programs to shape improvements to quality-of-life, so that new development and redevelopment aligns with community values. NashvilleNext reflects the community's goals and vision—such as preserving neighborhoods while building housing close to transit and jobs, protecting our natural resources, and creating walkable "centers" with jobs, housing and services in urban and suburban areas.
NashvilleNext 'Centers and Corridors' are planned as pedestrian-friendly areas with frequent transit service that contain a dense mix of homes, shops, jobs and parks, as well as services, schools, and cultural amenities. These areas are intended to be at the forefront of coordinated investments to both shape growth and support increased transit service over the coming decade. By working with developers and District Councilmembers on faithful adherence to NashvilleNext in our zoning practices –focusing new population and job growth in Centers and along transit Corridors– the idea is that neighborhoods will be able to maintain their unique character and historic architecture, and our cherished rural countryside can be conserved as wide open, green space—even as population and job growth continues.
By charter, District Councilmembers play a formidable role in how Nashville develops over time. Quality-growth advocacy from organizations like NCDC, Transit Now Nashville, Cumberland Region Tomorrow, and the Urban Land Institute is critical to achieving new density-of-development featuring a mix of uses to support walkability and transit ridership, for an iterative achievement of the NashvilleNext vision. Metro Planning is also continually working to ensure that Metro's Capital Improvements Budget (CIB) aligns with NashvilleNext, and is more accessible, transparent, and data-driven.
I chose Lucy Kempf as Planning Director, and the Department has been engaged in new planning work to help define zoning policy to preserve community character and livability in fast-growing areas like Music Row, the Dickerson Pike and Nolensville Pike corridors, and downtown (including SoBro).”
Principle 2: Treat the Cumberland River as central to Nashville's Identity--an asset to be Treasured and Enjoyed.
- Waterways, particularly the Cumberland river, are essential to Nashville's identity. What are your plans to protect and enhance Nashville's waterways and ensure they are able to be enjoyed?
“I support adding more access points to the river to encourage recreational use of what is at this point largely an industrial waterway. We also need to make significant investments in our sewer system to keep pollutants from making their way into our streams and rivers.”
“It's a testament to environmental science and environmental advocacy that the Cumberland River is now clean enough to support human recreational activities such as kayaking. This wasn't always the case, and I am supportive of the work NCDC has done to advocate for more recreational and blueway access so Nashvillians can experience the river up close, appreciate and support continued stewardship of this amazing natural asset.
In a nod to NCDC's reverence for the Cumberland River an asset to be treasured and enjoyed, we added a $1.3M line item to the Capital Improvements Budget that would commission a re-imagining of parcels adjacent to the Cumberland River, currently owned by the Metro Sports Authority but underutilized for their purposes. I am open-minded about what could be programmed there, but additional green space and affordable housing opportunities are of interest. NCDC's longstanding expertise in this area would be welcome during any process to request or review proposals.
I have also recently programmed $25M in infrastructure to help support both the surrounding communities and an ambitious mixed-use development at River North, which will connect downtown with the east bank of the Cumberland and Dickerson Pike – a priority corridor for transit investment.
Finally, I recognize the prominent role the Cumberland plays in whether Nashville is prepared to adapt to a warming climate, as the River has the potential to threaten Nashville's infrastructure, homes, public safety, and major economic assets. Nashville is a signatory to the Global Covenant of Mayors—the world's largest cooperative and measured effort among cities to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change. Green infrastructure abutting the river, both downtown and throughout Davidson County, will help to ruggedize the city to successfully endure extreme-precipitation events that result in (anticipated) more frequent occurrences of the Cumberland approaching flood stage. I am committed to partnering with Metro Water Services, the Army Corps, and the Cumberland River Compact on ensuring we deliver an environmentally-sustainable, holistic, risk-minimizing approach to managing the river and its tributaries. This could involve a continuation of reforestation and adding open/green space along the river, which appropriately dovetails with strategies to effectively connect the county through a system of greenways. Preparing for impending climate stressors like high heat and extreme precipitation gives Nashville a shot at reducing pollution, improving aging infrastructure, and making our city more attractive to residents and businesses.”
Principle 3: Reestablish the Streets as the Principal Public Space of Community and Connectivity.
- How do you view Nashville's street design, and how will you work to promote our streets as places of community and connectivity?
“We need to implement complete streets that include sidewalks, bikeways and public transportation. Sidewalks make walking safer and they encourage people to get out, exercise, and know their neighborhoods. Yet Metro hasn't kept pace with the need for sidewalks. Metro has 1,900 miles of streets without sidewalks, and the WalkNBike plan identified 91 miles of high priority streets. Yet Metro has built only 6.2 miles of new sidewalks since 2016. Improving our sidewalk network is part of making beautiful and functional avenues for vehicle and pedestrian travel that will improve quality of life for residents.”
“My administration is committed to completing our streets and ensuring Nashville's transportation system is efficient, humane, and supportive of our larger goals for improving health and air quality, creating jobs, and preserving our strong and diverse neighborhoods.
As a cyclist myself, I'm committed to continued investments for improving the environment for walking and bicycling in Nashville, connecting people to opportunity on a network of high-quality, comfortable, safe sidewalks and bikeways. An outgrowth of the Access Nashville 2040 transportation plan, Metro's strategic plan for bicycle and pedestrian safety and mobility, WalknBike, serves as the guide for Metro's current and future investments in sidewalks, street crossings, bikeways, and other improvements.”
Principle 4: Develop a Convenient and Efficient Transportation Infrastructure.
- Nashville has, and is continuing to, grow rapidly. Do you plan to develop a transportation plan that improves the lives of all Nashvillians? Please explain.
“Yes. I believe that Nashvillians are ready to address this problem. Doubters will say that it isn't possible to come up with a transportation plan in a year. But we aren't starting from scratch. There were good elements in last year's plan and we largely know what needs to be done. The outline of a cost-effective transit plan is already visible in proposals such as the Nashville Community Transportation Platform. I was the first candidate for mayor to endorse it. I have too much optimism in Nashville to believe that we need another four or five years to come up with a comprehensive transportation plan.”
“As greater-Nashville's population grows, strategic investments in transportation are essential to sustain quality-of-life, allow employers access to the workforce they need, and ensure residents access to affordable housing options. By 2035, Middle Tennessee's population will swell to equal those of today's Denver and Seattle, so the laws of physics dictate that we must depart from the comfort of a one-car-per-person lifestyle (where Single-Occupant Vehicles account for 90% of trips). Roadway widening to add capacity for cars isn't an option, and research has shown that in most instances this actually exacerbates congestion by further incenting people to drive. Meaning, we must diversify investments to shift trips to the spatially-efficient modes that add capacity to our streets: transit, walking and biking.
After two years of community engagement, in 2015 nMotion was adopted as the 25-year plan of the WeGo local and regional Transit Authority, with strategic technical recommendations on how to connect the major pikes of Davidson County with our surrounding counties. nMotion identifies the mobility infrastructure needed to support the growth that's coming. The public conversation about the future transit system and the means to fund it continues, and initiatives adopted in nMotion are moving forward as resources allow.
After voters rejected a proposal to allocate funding toward constructing a first phase of nMotion last year, our administration has been working toward getting a proof-of-concept project for high-capacity transit on the ground, in order to help convey the merits of investing in the broader regional transit system. Nashvillians need to see that transit can work in our city. Toward this end, WeGo, Metro Public Works, TDOT, and my Office have been working to get an initial planning study underway for Dickerson Pike, a prominent corridor leading into and out of downtown, which connects up with SR 386 / Vietnam Veterans Blvd in Sumner County. NCDC's Healing the Pikes publication is a great, foundational resource in this work.
In the latest capital spending plan, I allocated $85 million to streets, paving, greenways, traffic management, traffic calming, and transit – including the long-awaited construction of the Opry Mills Greenway. This major greenway investment will connect Donelson/Hermitage, Downtown Nashville, and East Nashville to Opry Mills. I am committed to finding creative ways to facilitate ongoing capital investments in sustainable modes of transportation, across a diversity of neighborhoods, and consistent with our signature planning documents (that collectively went through years of community engagement)—nMotion, Access Nashville 2040, Plan To Play, and WalkNBike.”
Principle 5: Provide for a Comprehensive, Interconnected Green Way and Park System.
- Our parks and greenways provide places to play, but also to connect with those around us. How will you provide for a comprehensive and interconnected park and greenway system?
“Given the environmental, health, and economic benefits of parks, we should view parks as part of the solution to issues facing our city. Our linear parks, trails, and greenways can connect our green space and public spaces. The existing network needs to be maintained and expanded. I will focus on expanding Nashville's greenway system and the sidewalks and bikeways that connect our neighborhoods to the greenways in order to provide better and broader access to recreation and to encourage alternative transportation. Parks positively inform the character of our neighborhoods, and provide the opportunity for all to gather in shared public space. I will commit to a goal of raising the percentage of Nashvillians who live within a 10-minute walk of a park from 37 to 50 percent. Creating more pocket parks would be one way to accomplish this goal.”
“Middle Tennessee's rolling hills and lush rural landscapes are not only a beloved aspect of our unique identity, they're essential for health, livability, air and water quality, and climate resilience. This connection to the land is important. I recently announced the acquisition of over 700 acres of greenspace in Bells Bend for the city's parks and greenways system – around 17% of Plan To Play's recommended 4,000 acres for park-acreage expansion to be achieved by 2027.
As Metro Parks continues to address its deferred-maintenance needs so that our existing park assets feel safe and well- utilized, we don't need to make the full Plan to Play investment of 4,000 new acres immediately, but we do need to continue making an annual down payment on our parks' system to ensure Nashville remains resilient and livable as we grow. Only 40 percent of Davidson County residents live within a 1⁄2-mile (walking distance) of a park. I'm interested in increasing neighborhood-level park access through policy tools such as a formalized Shared Use Agreement between schools and parks, and developing a pocket- and neighborhood-park acquisition strategy—making targeted investments by continuing Metro's longstanding precedent of support for the Greenways and Open Space Fund at the Parks Department, with an equity- centered focus to serve neighborhoods with current low park-density, health disparities, and increasing real-estate market pressure.
During my time as mayor, we have helped open the following new additions to our parks and greenways system:
- Phase One, 440 Greenway ("City Central")
- Burch Reserve addition to Edwin Warner Park
- Fair Park at Nashville Fairgrounds
- Opry Mills Greenway
- 1,000 new trees planted by Root Nashville to reforest a section of Ravenwood Park
- A major renovation of Oakwood Park in Madison
- Azafran Park
In my fall capital spending plan, we also allocated $24 million to construct the first phases of development for two new regional parks, Ravenwood and Mill Ridge, serving the fast-growing suburban areas of Donelson-Hermitage and Antioch. Mill Ridge Park in particular satisfies significant equity needs in this area of the county, for both park level-of-service and nearby New American communities. I am supportive of a desire to innovate according to the scopes laid out in recently-completed Master Plans for both newly-acquired park assets.”
Principle 6: Develop an Economically Viable Downtown District as the Heart of the Region.
- As mayor, can you share more about your plans to ensure an economically viable downtown?
“An economically viable downtown district is, of course, vital for Nashville. We have a thriving downtown and we want that to continue. That said, we need to invest in all of our neighborhoods and bring the benefits of growth out into the county. I think it is important that we protect the unique character of downtown Nashville -- and all of our neighborhoods -- while adding to our diverse portfolio of residential and family entertainment options.”
“While I favor a balance of focus between downtown and Nashville's unique neighborhoods, there's no escaping the fact that downtown and Midtown Nashville are substantial economic generators not just for the ten-county Middle Tennessee region, but also for the entire state. Our thriving hospitality and music industry, along with a strong concentration of major employers, results in an agglomeration of economic activity, creativity and innovation that continues to build upon itself. As evidenced by the number of cranes dotting our skyline—along with lower-Broad pedestrian counts that rival streets in major global cities like Shanghai, New York, and San Francisco—Downtown Nashville is booming – with projections that today's quantities of jobs and residents could potentially double over the coming years. This is welcome news for supporting quality growth, as downtown's infrastructure is best positioned to absorb additional population, preventing growth from occurring as sprawl, exacerbating traffic congestion even further and consuming our remaining rural lands and forests. I'm committed to working with the District 19 Councilmember, downtown residents and businesses, to ensure Nashville remains a welcoming and safe place for both locals as well as tourists. His ideas include: updates to the Downtown Code; continuing to invest in street-tree planting and care; creative new approaches to solid-waste management and curb management; better maintenance of public space such as Riverfront Park; expansion of sidewalk widths to reduce overcrowding; development that includes a mix of uses to foster place-making; reducing sidewalk obstructions from shared-mobility devices, advertising and construction projects; expanding bikeshare stations and low-stress bikeways; working with downtown employers on alternative (non-SOV) commutes to reduce congestion; nMotion recommendations to improve WeGo's on-time performance; continued support for cultural programming such as Live On the Green; and expanding affordable housing stock so Nashvillians can feasibly live where they work and play.
Principle 7: Integrate Public Art into the design of the City, its Buildings, Public Works and Parks
- Nashville has made great strides towards integrating more public art throughout the city. How will you work to grow this effort and support public art into Nashville's design?
“Metro's Public Art Collection is an impressive and valuable part of our community. As with green space, I think we should expect private developments to incorporate public art into their projects. As mayor, I will continue the practice of setting aside 1% of certain capital improvement project funds for public art. Partnering with Metro Schools is also an exciting possibility for encouraging youth participation in the arts and supporting the development of young, local artists.”
“In 2017, Metro Arts unveiled a comprehensive plan that positions public art as a community investment tool for neighborhood transformation, workforce development, and equity across Nashville. I commit to uphold and resource Metro Arts' strategic vision, which anchors public art as a tool for creative community investment, citizen engagement, and place-making. Building off of NashvilleNext, Metro Arts' 2015 Strategic Plan reinforces how art can leverage and support the city's growth, diversity and prosperity.
The Plan includes four areas of focus:
• Strengthening the public-art ecosystem (Nashville's capacity to produce public art) by catalyzing and supporting a public art ecosystem made up of a broad network of artists, arts organizations, fabricators, museums, schools and galleries;
• Fostering deeper cultural and civic participation so that every Nashvillan has access to and is able to participate in a creative life;
• A recognition that policies for arts access, artist development, and arts education have a better chance of succeeding when they are intertwined with the economic, physical, and social fabric of neighborhoods. Neighborhood identity should reflect culture, history and local spirit; embrace and empower the creativity of neighbors; and foster strong civic and social connections;
• Support for a vital public realm, or a built environment that supports civic life – public places that feel accessible and shared by all, for both aesthetics and function, and an expressed meaning about community identity and purpose.
The Plan also charts process tools to help develop public art in Nashville: artist residencies, place-based studios, recruiting artists to facilitate public planning processes, and temporary installations. Artist Residencies embed artists in the community to develop projects alongside community members. Place-based studios facilitate artist work in accessible studio spaces throughout neighborhoods, in community centers and libraries.”
Principle 8: Raise the quality of the Public Realm with Civic Structures and Spaces.
- Public spaces give cities meaning, and should be spaces where people are welcomed and celebrated. How will you raise the quality of our public spaces and civic structures?
“I believe that Metro needs a stronger partnership with the Civic Design Center. Your group was vital in reimagining Church Street Park as an improved park, not a luxury tower. I also support creating the position of Chief Architect at Metro, to better oversee and coordinate planning and design of public spaces and buildings.”
“In response to Nashville Civic Design Center's seven years of leading Park(Ing) Day, my administration launched a first-ever pilot parklet program for the city, sanctioning the sponsoring of small businesses' conversion of on-street parking spaces to public space in our increasingly densifying urban core.
My office also continues to be a major sponsor of Nashville's Open Streets program. Open Streets Nashville activates people, supports local businesses, and helps Nashvillians to reimagine their streets [inspire the creation of public space] by flipping the script on road use for a day. Instead of cars, the streets are filled with people doing anything but driving.
The 5,880 lane miles of streets under Metro's jurisdiction comprise our largest public space. I support reducing posted speed limits on neighborhood streets throughout the Urban Services District, and specifically earmarked $1.5 million toward a vastly improved Neighborhood Traffic Calming program. NCDC's tactical-urbanism arm, TURBO, has been and will continue to be an essential partner to the Metro Division of Transportation, working with neighborhood groups to temporarily test out new traffic-calming treatments or striping configurations”
Principle 9: Strengthen the Unique Identity of Neighborhoods.
- For many people, their neighborhoods have a significant emotional connection with their identity and sense of belonging. If elected, how would you strengthen and protect the unique identities of Nashville Neighborhoods?
“I am running to be a neighborhoods mayor. People may move here for the city, but they'll stay for the neighborhoods. My job as your mayor will be to ensure that everyone benefits from our city's growth. Nashville needs to remain a great place to live, not just a great city to visit. It's time to put our focus back on our neighborhoods. We need to invest in pocket parks, community centers, sidewalks, stormwater infrastructure, greenways, and traffic calming. We also should enhance the services of the Office of Neighborhoods, increase Codes enforcement, and facilitate greater neighborhood participation in the planning and rezoning process.”
“Neighborhoods are what makes Nashville special, and preserving them is a top priority of mine.
Metro Planning has regulatory tools available to neighbors such as Urban Design Overlays or Historic Zoning which can be used to preserve, revitalize, protect, and enhance significant areas within a community beyond what is specified in the code. For my appointees to key boards and commissions such as the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals, my office has a record of recruiting qualified leaders who champion historic preservation, neighborhood identity, and adherence to NashvilleNext on development projects.
Protecting our neighborhoods' existing tree canopy is of significant concern, and I recognizes how policy can have a major impact on the health of the urban forest. That is why in October 2018, Metro partnered with the nonprofit sector to launch Root Nashville, an ambitious campaign to plant 500,000 trees in Nashville by 2050. The campaign is specifically focused on planting trees in neighborhoods that most urgently need to:
• Meet tree-canopy coverage goals outlined in Metro's Urban Forestry Master Plan;
• Lower rates of hospitalizations attributed to respiratory illness such as asthma;
• Address challenges related to polluted waterways and excessive stormwater runoff;
• Improve equity-of-access to the benefits of trees among vulnerable populations (low-income, elderly, children under 5;
• Reduce high-heat areas within the city (urban heat-island effect).
My affordable housing initiative, Under One Roof 2029, is also designed to significantly accelerate the city's efforts to address housing needs by investing $750 million over the next 10 years, with $500 million of that coming from the city. The initiative is expected to create at least 10,000 new units. Details of this ambitious proposal can be found at: www.underoneroof2029.com.
Principle 10: Infuse Visual Order into the City by Strengthening Sightlines to and from Civic Landmarks and Natural Features.
- How will you work to promote visual order throughout Nashville's design, and highlight civic landmarks across the city?
“I'll promote visual order throughout Nashville's design and highlight civic landmarks by valuing planning and architecture. Metro should have a Chief Architect to help with these matters. I believe that this is one of the benefits of my background in real estate development. One example of how I've valued visual order while on Council: on the Fifth & Broadway development, I unsuccessfully advocated for a courtyard vista across from the Ryman, to honor the importance of that landmark. I also successfully advocated (along with the Minority Caucus) for a Broadway entrance for the NMAAM.”
“An Urban Design Overlay is an excellent tool at communities' disposal that can be requested by the Planning Commission, Councilmembers, or property owners. Working with these stakeholders to facilitate new UDOs, perhaps in concert with new Business Improvement Districts, can help to infuse visual order throughout the city by addressing architectural features of development, streetscape elements, parking quantities and location, landscaping, and signage. The Nashville Civic Design Center and groups such as the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) are essential and prominent voices in helping to facilitate these block-level community discussions, as well as ensuring that new development is respectful of landmarks associated with Nashville's rich and complex culture and history. Metro has also expanded its Historical Marker program in recent years, so that this history is spotlighted at the neighborhood and block levels for both locals and visitors alike.”