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.