Jeff Syracuse Metro Council District 15
Our Donelson Library is Finally Moving Forward, an Update on the Donelson Transit Oriented Development District and a Day of Trewth to Honor Frank
Dear Friends –
It’s been a long time coming… When I was first elected, I became aware that Donelson was at the top of the list as part of the strategic plan for our library system that identified the needs as far as facilities and services throughout the county. Our Donelson Library was celebrating a bittersweet 50th Anniversary at the time, knowing that its 5,500 square feet built in 1965 had become insufficient for proper 21st century library services, which have grown far beyond just about being about books. 21st century libraries are community centers with modern technology and places to access multi-media elements such as music, movies and the internet. As discussions began about a new library, so were discussions of how to implement our Urban Design Overlay, which envisioned a walkable, mixed-used, transit-oriented future. It occurred to me that if we are to reimagine the heart of Donelson as a walkable town center, what the vision truly needed was a civic anchor at the heart of it. Also during that time going back a couple years prior when I was President of the Donelson-Hermitage Chamber of Commerce I began a focus of trying to find a new owner for Donelson Plaza. Holladay Properties stepped up in a big way and embraced the vision for the heart of Donelson and also agreed to begin working with Metro towards the possibility of incorporating our new Donelson Library as part of their plans for the Plaza’s future, which is also an aging property that is a prime opportunity for bringing the vision of the community to fruition. Since we don’t have a town square per say, centrally locating the new library was important as an anchor. The former Castner Knott / Ace Hardware location of the Plaza seemed perfectly situated. As these discussions continued, the JB Estille Road sidewalk project became an important aspect to implement as a boulevard-style pedestrian-friendly street that would ultimately connect the new Library with Donelson Station (which is another project that has been moving forward that will be discussed in more detail in the months ahead with community engagement as it takes shape).
My heartfelt thanks to Holladay Properties and the many Metro Offices and Departments (Mayor’s Office, Library, Finance, Legal, General Services, Water, Public Works, Planning, and Arts) that worked together towards creating a very special opportunity for Donelson to build us a new beautiful 25,000+ square foot library. It was a complex project that took some time to engineer and cost out all the various infrastructure elements and including how to structure the financing arrangement. As you know, we have been going through meetings regarding our potential Transit Oriented Development District. One costly element of this project was the entire related infrastructure around the library to include a relocated Cliffdale Road connection, sidewalks, shared parking, storm water and other relocated upgraded NES, Piedmont Gas, AT&T and Comcast utilities. One element of the TOD District is the availability of Tax Increment Financing, which allows a developer to invest more into the project in lieu of deferred property taxes that will be higher as a result of what the new development will generate. The TIF financing availability is there to incentive infrastructure, economic development and affordable and workforce housing. The expense of the infrastructure around library was a perfect first opportunity to utilize the TIF availability and rejuvenate the heart of Donelson.
Thanks to everyone who attended our five community meetings about the Donelson TOD District. As Donelson will be the first in the State, it’s been a learning experience to put together and balance the relationship between Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency and Metro Government (specifically Metro Planning). I have said often that Donelson offers opportunities to address Nashville’s biggest challenges. Transit, housing affordability, continued economic development and sustainability are all critical issues for fast growing cities like Nashville. Forbes recently named us the seventh fastest growing city in the United States. The Nashville Business Journal recently did a story about how our TOD will mean smart development in the years ahead as part of Nashville incorporating better transit, whether the transit referendum passes or not, improvements in Nashville’s transit future must be a priority. I believe Donelson will stand out as an example of how other areas of Davidson County can continue to grow in a sustainable way and support the vision of the community. As part of the legislative process, there are two public hearings as part of it. The first will be at the Planning Commission on April 12th (meeting starts at 4pm and this one is located at the MNPS School Board room at 2601 Bransford Ave. Second Reading at Metro Council will be on April 17th (Council Meeting starts at 6:30pm). The legislation for the sale of the property to Metro to build the new library will be going in soon and take three successful readings to pass.
I’m relating that history to highlight that this has been a four-year challenging but successful private-public endeavor that is finally becoming a reality. In the months ahead, we will have a community engagement process to discuss what programming and services you all would like to see at our library, as well as review the overall plan for the first phase of the revamped Donelson Plaza. While the physical nature of the heart of Donelson will change, it will always be the heart of Donelson, only enhanced with a true civic anchor. Exciting times ahead… The JB Estille Road sidewalk project will likely begin this Spring, which will serve as the “boulevard” that connects Donelson Station to the revitalized Donelson Plaza. Stay tuned for more details.
As mentioned in my last newsletter, Saturday, April 21st will be our annual Spring Clean-Up Day as part of Nashville Earth Day. We are also going to make it something special for Donelson and honor Frank Trew with a “Day of Trewth”. Thanks to Hip Donelson and Michele Mazzu, 15th District Beautification Commissioner, we’re looking to make this a day of service beyond beautification for all our non-profits and neighborhoods in the community. We’re asking neighborhoods to schedule their own clean-up off their neighborhood (especially at the entranceways) and any non-profit that has a possible project or would like to engage in a project, we’d like to help connect you with volunteers. Later that evening, we will have a Donelson Block Party to celebrate the success of the day and Frank at Nectar: Urban Cantina. Thanks for your volunteer spirit in making this a special day that captures the “Trew” spirit of Donelson with service to others.
Also as mentioned in my last newsletter, the section of the 15th District from Spence Ln to Briley Pkwy along Lebanon Pike (part of City Side) is being studied by Metro Planning. Thanks to a team of 10 neighbors who live or work in that area for helping be the community liaisons and Donelson View Baptist Church for hosting. Here are some dates for your calendars. I hope you’ll make plans to attend and give your input.
- Monday, April 16th at 5:30pm at Donelson View Baptist Church – Participants will sit in small groups around maps with facilitated discussion.
- Tuesday, April 17th from 1:30 – 3:30pm – The Metro Planning Design Studio team will have open hours for folks to come observe their work and talk with planners.
- Wednesday, April 18th from 9:30 – 11:30am – Open Design Studio hours for folks to observe and discuss with planners.
- Thursday, April 19th at 5:30pm – Public Presentation and Work-in-Progress meeting to discuss information gathered during the week and solutions / vision identified.
- Thursday, June 28th at 4pm – The Metro Planning Commission will be presented with the recommendations from the community and planners to update the Community Plan.
All aboard the Music City Star for the Rock and Roll Marathon and Toast of Tennessee events. See flyers below for details.
As we approach early voting, I know the Let’s Move Nashville transit proposal is getting contentious as any election does with robust discussion. Please be sure to take some time and click on “The Plan” at the website and read the Transit Improvement Program 55-page document. The Donelson-Hermitage Neighborhood Association is hosting a Transit Forum and Candidate Meet & Greet on Tuesday, April 10th. I can’t be there as my neighborhood is having our annual Spring meeting that night at the same time about transit as well, so for everyone else not in Donelson Hills, I encourage you to attend. There will also be a transit meeting in the Music Valley area hosted by SmART Supplies on Wednesday, April 18th. Also below is the early voting schedule.