Nashville’s Shifting Intown Neighborhoods

NeighborhoodEverywhere you look in Nashville’s intown neighborhoods, developers are building multi-family housing or replatting existing lots for greater density. One can see this all over Green Hills, Music Row, Hillsboro Village, West End, East Nashville, 12South, Sylvan Park, Germantown and other intown neighborhoods.

The market speaks for itself. This type of urban-infill development is doing very well. For example, in Hillsboro Village, there are plans for an 18-unit residential development. 12 South Flats, a retail and apartment development by H.G. Hills Realty Co. and Southeast Venture that is currently under construction, already has85 percent of its retail space leased. The development’s marketing materials describe it as “an urban location with neighborhood charm.”

With increased density, it is vital that the city, developers, and builders act carefully and thoughtfully. Increased density creates many issues that must be dealt with prudently to ensure success for all involved, including affected neighborhoods. Traffic is the most obvious issue. What alternative transportation options are available in Nashville? Not many. Given the high cost per rider of mass transit and our aversion to city buses, the most obvious options to me are more sidewalks and greater use of bike lanes.

Installing sidewalks and allowing people to feel safe walking on the streets would encourage more walkable neighborhoods, which has many benefits other than decreased traffic. People who want to live intown want easy access to retail, dining, and entertainment. What is easier than walking out your front door and strolling to dinner? No car required.

Encouraging walkable neighborhoods also solves other problems associated with density. With greater density comes greater demand for parking. Using 12South as an example again, two 12South restaurants have already sued Metro Nashville for approving permit-only parking. Proper handling of these issues requires collaboration by the city, the developers, the residents, and the businesses. Thriving businesses in high-density areas will promote higher property values and, therefore, more tax revenue for the city. Cooperation is key.

Density is what the market demands. We should use this opportunity to improve the urban landscape to make it more friendly to alternative means of transportation and walkability.

This post was first published by the Nashville Business Journal on May 23, 2013.  To read more commercial real estate articles by Walt Burton at the Nashville Business Journal, click here>