Hey Nashvillians, What should they develop on the site of the old thermal plant?

The following is a guest post. I never have guest posts, but I made an exception this time as the guest post is written by someone who has me wrapped around her little finger. She is part of a group of university students participating in Vanderbilt Owen School of Management’s Accelerator Summer Business Institute and is on a team that is making recommendations to a local architecture firm. She’d really appreciate your help. Also, if you share your opinion, it could prove to her that someone actually reads this blog:

I need some advice from Nashvillians who are concerned with the future development of downtown. I’m a part of a team of university students involved in a month-long business program at Vanderbilt’s Owen School of Management.

Currently, our team is involved in a project to consider viable alternatives for the 10-acre waterfront property between the new Gateway Bridge and the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge. You may know this piece of land as the site of the former thermal plant. And you probably know that it came close to being developed as a joint-use baseball stadium for the Sounds along with a retail, office and residential development before the financing package of the project fell through.

Our team is working on a project that asks (and we hope, answers), “Now what?” So I wanted to ask the best experts — Nashvillians — what your ideas are for what should become of this city-owned prime location? What’s missing from the downtown experience? As a Nashvillian, what are your thoughts, ideas or concerns for the future of the site?

Post your thoughts as a comment below (we will credit you in our recommendations) or email our Accelerator Program group if you prefer at annparker2008@gmail.com. Thank you for being a part of our “community focus group.”

Your ideas are greatly appreciated and I look forward to my dad the RexBlog updating you with our progress!

Ann ParkerThe 20-year-old & Team (Vanderbilt – Accelerator Summer Business Institute)

  • Hey Ann Parker! What a great question.

    I have several thoughts. My favorite ideas are problematic, money-wise.

    This sort of development in downtown areas is still trending toward mixed use — retail on the bottom, residential on top. However, I’ve gotten kind of bored with that. There are a lot of retail/residential developments in and around the downtown area now, and so I’d like something different.

    This is such prime real estate, but what I’d really like to see the city do is something civic-purposed. An outdoor amphitheater. A park or botanic garden. These things aren’t sexy and they cost money instead of generating it, of course. But I think they are so important to the fabric of a great city.

    I will say, whatever is built there, I would hope that it’s environmentally sound, and that parking is either underground or off-site. Let’s not waste lots of valuable riverfront property with even more parking spaces. Ugh.

    I’m not opposed to retail-residential, however.

    Oh one more point: Wonder if your class can do anything to get the incredibly unsightly Phillips metal recycling [across the river] to relocate?? Ha, just thought I’d ask.

  • Jon

    I dunno, I hear we’ve got an energy crisis .. seems like a good place to build a thermal plant 😉

  • Shannon

    While not a current Nashvillian, I do love the city and think it’d benefit greatly from a fabulous park. How many established major cities get a chance to create a park in in the middle (sort of) of downtown? I could see walking/biking trails, water areas (where kids and dogs can play in fountains), outdoor music venues…the possibilities are endless. How great if Nashville would make such a green choice! Good luck with your project!

  • daizee

    Concert venue and don’t say it’s too loud, cause I can hear the speadway, the fireworks at the sounds games and the hustle and bustle of downtown until 3 am.

    And can we also get rid of the junk yard and bring back Opryland?

    Lovin from the East Side

  • Blair

    I think the Bicentennial park and Riverfront park cover most of the above wants (concerts, fountains, green space). This part of SoBro is prime real estate and yet unaffordable for many. I can imagine a development with both affordable (probably rental) housing and chic urban housing peacefully co-existing here. A balanced development could include green space rather than become a concrete jungle. Trees could serve as a buffer from Riverfront concerts and the metal scrapyard across the river.

  • nicole

    IKEA!!!! please 🙂

  • Here’s my opinion.

    This is a unique and rare piece of property. It belongs to the citizens of Davidson County and is along the waterfront in one of the most strategic spots there is.

    A new convention center is planned nearby. One of the finest new symphony halls in the world is adjacent to the property.

    This is not a site for a development that is focused on the short-term return on investment, but should be viewed as a city treasure that is our generation’s gift to the future.

    That’s a lofty goal, I’m sure. But nothing less is worthy.

    That said, I think it should be something that is beneficial to the travel and tourism business — it should be something that people want to travel to Nashville to experience. And also, it should be one more thing that draws Nashvillians downtown.

    What can we do that is a grand celebration of Nashville — known around the world as Music City — that must be experienced to truly understand?

    I think it should be something on the scale of the St. Louis Archway Park — Something that celebrates the American common man (and woman). The Arch celebrates the westward movement of Americans. Nashville’s grand gesture should celebrate the art of the common person. Nashville is synonymous with music from the “folk” (country, bluegrass, gospel, even barbershop) We also host numerous folk art events and are geographically located at the center of the population heartland of America. We should build on that foundation and create a symbol and gathering place and celebration of all forms of folk art.

  • Ryan

    I’ve travelled quite a bit over the past couple of years and the one common element I’ve found in the “cool” cities is a vibrant downtown. Over the past couple of decades, many downtown areas have suffered from businesses and residents moving out of the core downtown areas into more suburban areas, causing vacant buildings, decreasing property values, and increasing crime rates. Over the past 5 years (I moved here 5 years ago, and have little knowledge of Nashville prior to this period), Downtown Nashville has been very much just a tourism hot spot. Few locals ever visit the downtown core, although the Gulch and Demonbruen upgrades have brought the locals closer to downtown. Whatever ends up at the thermal site needs to focus on one objective….”Bring the local residents back to downtown”!! I think the baseball stadium was a great idea and plan, but the Sounds owner and developer wouldn’t cooperate and ante up for the better good of Nashville. I’ve beeen a baseball fan and player for almost my entire life (32 yrs), but I haven’t been to a sounds game since the deal fell through.

    I’ve recently visited Chicago and Charlotte and they both have great amphitheatre sites in downtown. In just the two weekends I’ve visited these sites, I’ve seen yoga sessions, graduations, and concerts held at these venues and you can just feel the energy as you walk through these parks.

    OK, I need to quit rambling and get back to work, but to summarize I think the focus of this area should be to try to bring local residents back into the downtown area. I work for a land planning/landscape architecture/civil engineering firm, so if your class wants to come discuss this topic with us, please let me know.

  • tom

    concert amphitheater.

  • Chris

    An amphitheatre is a great idea, however, I was thinking that Shelby Park would be a great location for that…. Whatever it is, some green space should be part of it. Lots of trees!

  • Jake Reeves

    An Arboretum….or, due to the size, I agree with Laura, a botanical garden.

  • Diane

    A concert amphitheater, now that Starwood is gone.

  • Jocelyn

    I agree with many above. This site should bring people back to downtown Nashville and it should be pleasing to the eye. I don’t think we need more mixed use condos/retail. I would love to have a concert amphitheater. A new baseball stadium would have been nice as well.

  • Realist

    Well, if we’ll be going to electric cars and electric books/magazines, why not build a power plant there? The good Lord knows we’ll need the electricity. Oh wait…er, maybe a solar power plant, then?