This morning, when I took the dog out, it was damp from the thunder storms that kept me up all night, and I was standing in the back yard, looking over the AT&T building to the hills to my north. The mist was coming up off the hills in that way it does, like it’s tangled in the trees and it can’t quite decide if it wants to rise up or settle back in. And it’s beautiful. So beautiful. But it needs the combination of the trees and the hills and the mist, you know? A bunch of houses on those hillsides and the mist doesn’t linger all morning unless it’s willing to commit to being fog.
S-Town Mike wrote last night about how the May family donated money and a bunch of land to TSU, if the May Town Center development goes through. If you click through on the site, you can see what that development means–that somewhere where there is nothing now, just farms and a park, will become almost a second downtown. Never mind that we have a downtown. Never mind that we have riverfront on the east side that could be developed into something like this. Or riverfront down Lebanon pike, not a minute from towntown that could be developed into something like this. We have places in town that would be served by being revitalized.
But the Mays and their developer are determined to “vitalize” this swatch of land.
I was thinking, again, of the Battle of Nashville. How difficult it is to imagine how the battle took place because the battlefield has been developed. There are houses and shopping centers and interstates and Krogers and ball stadiums and schools over the battle field. If you weren’t a history buff, you’d never know that anything happened here, because nothing was set aside.
A city’s job is to balance its past and its future. To help the people who are here now understand that they are just the newest in a long line of brief visitors.
Bell’s Bend, according to the map, used to be called “White’s Bend.”
There was a mill there, about where May Town would go. This whole area, as you can see, had “very good farms.” Still had very good farms. It’s open and green and rural in a city without a while lot of rural stuff left. We have so little that lets you really see how we were even 150 years ago, but you can go out to the park now, or drive up Old Hickory to Beaman park and get a real sense of the kinds of landscapes other Nashvillians were nestling our city in.
It’s special in the Bend and we, as a city, deserve to have it remain so. We have urban areas, we have suburban areas, and we can have rural areas, too, even that close to downtown.
I am biased, of course. I don’t want where I live to become busier or more urban. I don’t want more folks to move out here and build new houses. I would lose the pasture behind me. And not everyone who hypothetically works in May Town would live there. Why would they? There’s nothing out there and, even with a bridge over to Centennial Blvd. it’s still not really convenient to shopping or the rest of the city. Better to live nearer to me or nearer to Ashland City and drive in, which means that their talk about OHB remaining a rural two-lane road is proved bullshit merely by thinking about where people will want to live, or which directions they’ll go to shop.
And West Nashville, you can believe now, if you want, that there will never be a road that cuts through your neighborhood or another exit off 40 or a bridge, but it defies logic. Traffic is like the river. It wants to go the easiest route and having to come clear up to White Bridge Road (remember, there is not yet an exit from the west north onto Briley) and get off and wait for lights in order to get on Briley is going to be a mess. One just as easily fixed by putting up a bridge where Bell’s Bend dips near 40 as by fixing the Briley interchange.
But last, let’s talk about the TSU offering. I agree with S-Town Mike about the obvious bribe that it is, but I’d also like to point out that giving TSU 250 acres along the river is nice, but let’s not kid ourselves. We have one dam upriver from us that the Corps is extremely concerned might break and they’ve just decided that the Stone’s River dam that holds Percy Priest Lake back is not performing like they’d like it to.
Now, I invite you to look at the terrain map of Bell’s Bend (if this Google link works). The Mays family is giving TSU land along the river front. They, however, will be building May Town Center up on the hills. Hmm. Gee, I wonder why that is? And really, how much of a gift is it going to be to TSU if it’s in the floodplain. Yes, you will be able to do agricultural work there, especially if you keep in mind that you could lose some of it to minor flooding pretty frequently and all of it to a major flood. Unless you’re going to put up levees, but then we’re really talking about changing the landscape.
But the truth is that the May family gets to look generous–“Oh, we gave 250 acres to TSU, aren’t we great? See, we do love Nashville!” while really giving them 250 acres that are designed by nature to flood (and, frankly, as someone who grew up along the Mississippi can tell you, are necessary to the health of the river to be allowed to flood). I guess if TSU is gung-ho for studying agricultural techniques for floodplanes, this will be a great boon, but as an outside observer, I find it a little strange that this seems to be being framed like the May family is giving up something that they otherwise would have used. For what? The only thing a sane person would put there would be farmland.
Jesus Christ, I’m babbling. Anyway, Senator Henry is trying to protect everything from Beaman Park up by me, clear down into the Bend, not just from May Town, but from all kinds of crazy over-development (SB2217) and I really hope it passes.