June Urban Design Forum - Healing the Grid and Reconnecting Communities

While there have been some positive results of less cars on the road due to the pandemic, we are systemically experiencing the effects of pollution in our neighborhoods. Data has revealed that residents in areas that are close to polluted centers are likely to have lower life expectancies. That data coupled with the racial disparity of mortality rates due to COVID-19 tells us a story about how reinforced red-lining and segregation contribute to a vulnerability to viruses. Urban renewal projects in the 50s and 60s brought highways into downtown centers and along waterfronts, but they also drove through residential neighborhoods, like North Nashville, bringing pollution into residents’ backyards. North Nashville is also a historically black neighborhood. In other cities around the United States, neighborhoods with high concentrations of people of color have major highways as their boundaries. It’s time to talk about earning trust from those neighborhoods by healing the grid. Returning greenspace with air-purifying elements to neighborhoods could contribute to more positive health outcomes in the future. Capping highways with public parks could be one way to mitigate the effects of pollution from adjacent interstates. GNRC is currently formulating plans to do exactly this in Nashville, so now is the time to hear from those who have successfully implemented this method in other cities.