Two years after floods wreaked havoc on Nashville, the city’s prospects look bright. The rebuilding efforts, coupled with numerous new projects downtown, indicate a city on the rise.
While the disaster was an unfortunate occurrence, its effects were not all negative.
“If you look at cities that have suffered natural disasters, what happens is the city takes a deep breath and takes stock of who it is as a city,” said Gary Gaston, Design Director at the Nashville Civic Design Center, a non-profit think tank for the city.
“We became very united. I think it really created a sense of pride, unity and community within the city as we proved that we could take care of ourselves. Everybody came out of the woodwork to support and help each other out,” said Jason Gibson, an intern architect at Smith Gee Studio in Nashville.
The city is really vibrant right now. There’s a feeling of it being a really hot place to be. - Gary Gaston, Design Director at Nashville Civic Design Center
The city has nearly completed its rebuilding process, as indicated by the March 29 reopening of Opry Mills, a mall that received a $200 million makeover due to flood damage, according to The Tennessean.
“It’s really started to make us think more about the built environment and how we need to be planning better to try to prevent things like [the flood],” said Gaston, who also lectures at the University of Tennessee and is an alumnus of the university’s architecture program.
Not only did Nashville demonstrate resilience in its recovery, the city’s population grew 10 percent from 2000-2010, according to U.S. Census data.
Furthermore, the city is about a year from completion of a gigantic state-of-the-art convention center spanning several city blocks. The roughly $600 million Music City Center is set to shift the development direction of the southern downtown area over the next ten years.
“There’s the ability for developers to build larger-scale buildings that could have a lot of amenities that are lacking in downtown right now. The city has just announced a master plan for the area [around the convention center],” said Gaston.
The community will have input in the planning process, which will likely include flood mitigation designs.
A new urban neighborhood built there in the next 10-20 years might also include a much-needed public space for future residents of the planned neighborhood.
The plans may also include a new downtown elementary school, which is “necessary for downtowns as they start to grow beyond just young professionals and the retired,” said Gaston.
A school such as this would lead to a broader spectrum of people living downtown and would encourage young professionals to remain downtown when they decide to settle down and have children.
Additionally, the nearby Country Music Hall of Fame is undergoing expansion that will include innovative vertical integration with the Omni Hotel that is being constructed adjacent to the Music City Center. Visitors will be able to travel between the hotel and museum without going outside.
The city is also in the process of redeveloping the area around the Cumberland River. The renewed riverfront will boost tourism and leave visitors with a better impression of the city.
However, the project isn’t just for tourists.
“You design a city for the people that live there, and tourists will come. People want to visit cities that are great places to live. The convention center isn’t really for the people that live in Nashville. That’s a huge investment to bring people here to spend tax dollars, which is great. The riverfront, to me, is something for the people that live in Nashville,” said Gaston.
Creation of a Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT) is also in the works. The BRT would include a dedicated lane for a bus system with all the built infrastructures, including bus stations, in the middle of the road. It would look similar to a light rail system and would connect East and West Nashville, but would run on rubber tires instead of rails.
Adding this public transit system would signify that Nashville is moving toward the “top of ranking in cities across the country.
“The city is really vibrant right now. There’s a feeling of it being a really hot place to be,” said Gaston.