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The Imagine East Bank plan includes the framework necessary to responsibly create a more equitable and walkable Nashville. The plan includes the foundation for basic infrastructure needs; many in which the City can’t always leverage through private landowners in surrounding communities. Prioritizing pedestrians, multimodal transit, mixed income housing, wide-open public space, and utility upgrades are just a few of the needs the East Bank will address.
The plan creates an opportunity to create a brand-new Downtown District using one of the city’s most valuable resources. There are 4 major plan components discussed in the Imagine East Bank Plan and it includes:
- Developing an East Bank implementation strategy.
- Advance livability through implementation.
- Place multimodal transportation at the forefront.
- Invest in performative and resilient outdoor spaces.
A link to the full plan is at the end of this article. Here’s the quick rundown:
Nissan Stadium is the catalyst that will determine the look and feel of the East Bank. The initial plan included renovating the existing stadium and developing the surrounding parking lots. In more recent news, it was determined that the cost to build a new stadium outweighed the cost to renovate. Some of the drivers behind the stadium decision include the age of the existing stadium, the economic opportunities of a new stadium, and how either gets paid.
While no formal decisions have been made on the future of Nissan Stadium, this plan primarily provides the framework for design around a new stadium. The previous plan has detailed the East Bank with the renovated stadium, a link to that plan can be found at the end of this article. Regardless of the stadium decision, both options provide the major key plan components for successful implementation.
The current community character policy for the East Bank is primarily T6-Downtown Neighborhood (T6-DN). This was set forth in the Nashville Next Plan. A large portion of Civic (CI) exists where the Metro-owned land is. The East Bank Supplemental Policy covers the entire East Bank.
The Imagine East Bank vision can be translated into the zoning code through the adoption of an Urban Design Overlay (UDO); or another design-based zoning tool(s). A UDO is a zoning tool that requires specific design standards for development in a designated area. It can be used to create a character above and beyond what is required by the base zoning district. Each UDO is unique and uses different development standards to achieve its goals. A good example of a current UDO is the Beaman Site in Midtown shown in the image below.
Following the adoption of the Imagine East Bank Vision Plan, all proposed zone changes on the East Bank will be evaluated for their compatibility with the vision.
Through planning and community engagement, the Vision for the East Bank can be summarized through the following:
- Equitable & affordable East Bank.
- Safe & simple connections.
- Respect for the river.
- Metro-owned land in focus.
The plan intends to advance equity through resiliency and high quality of life for all Nashvillians. This is accomplished through the creation of accessible and affordable places to live, work, and play. Having a large centralized open space Downtown will also become a major factor in the quality of life in Nashville.
While the work & play aspect will likely take care of itself, the affordability is still in question. The plan truly incorporates equity and affordability into almost every aspect, although, it will prove challenging especially for a riverfront development. The plan notes that while it is too early to identify housing goals for the East Bank it has established guiding principles for when the time comes.
Utilizing a portion of the East Bank’s Metro-owned land to create housing is key to ensuring affordable units are available. However, Metro will need to use many tools to achieve this. On top of aggressively pursuing state and federal funding, local funds will be a critical component. It’s no secret that while these funds already exist that it will be a challenge getting buy-in. However, it’s not impossible. There are mission-based developers such as Holladay Ventures who is already developing affordable housing in East Nashville. This can also be achieved by other developers if a more streamlined process is in place on state and local levels to create reliable proforma data.
The plan includes multiple studies on how people and vehicles will get in and out of the East Bank. There are, however, a few distinctions to note about the plan. There are 4 types of street designs to be implemented which include Primary Streets, Secondary Streets, Tertiary Streets, and Local Streets.
Primary streets have the widest right-of-way at 110 feet. However, it’s important to note that unlike current roads which could have 5-6 lanes of traffic and 4 feet of sidewalk; the streets in the East Bank allow for dedicated transit lanes, 20-foot sidewalks, as well as accommodations for biking. All other streets will have varying right- of-ways but are only proposed with two lanes of vehicle traffic.
Aside from bike lanes, the plan also considers mobility use and environmental protection as a function of the larger bikeway network. On the East Bank, greenways will be integrated into the landscapes along the Cumberland River. Another greenway segment will connect the East Bank to McFerrin Park, and Frederick Douglass Park in East Nashville. Additionally, the East Bank will include a new bicycle/pedestrian-exclusive interstate underpass, that will connect bicycle facilities in River North to Grace Street, Dickerson Pike, and the McFerrin Park neighborhoods on the east side of the I-24 corridor.
To address flooding, the plan proposes riparian edge framework (shown in the image above) for the Cumberland River on the East Bank. This approach mitigates flooding by restoring a channelized, urban riverbank back to its natural, healthy condition. Laying back the riverbank provides more space for the water to spread, thereby reducing the velocity moving through the channel, encouraging groundwater infiltration, and reducing erosion. The plan also includes storm water optimization practices to further manage the flow of water.
Activating and connecting the river is also a key component of the Vision for the East Bank. During public visioning, community members expressed a desire for more active and passive recreational opportunities on the Cumberland River. Nature trails, boating facilities, event spaces, and play areas were a top priority. Stakeholders noted that more walking paths, river front greenways, and overlooks were ways to make it more appreciated as a community resource.
The public comment period for the draft vision plan will take place during August and September of this year closing on September 16. Based on comments, a revised plan will be presented to the Metro Planning Commission in the fall. For more information on community engagement, to sign up for emails, and for information on previous plans click the link (here).
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