Housing affordability has been at the top of my priorities list throughout my first term on the Council, especially as District 17 has grown. I was proud to sponsor the first privately-built affordable and workforce housing on public land in the city, as 150 units of new housing are underway at 12th Avenue South and Wedgewood Avenue. As a result of a year of negotiations with residents and developers, 290 units of affordable housing will be replaced with brand-new units at no rent increase at the Park at Hillside. And 580 units of affordable housing at Trevecca Towers are undergoing $25 million in privately funded renovations, thanks to a funding mechanism bill I sponsored in Council.
As the Council-appointed member on the Housing Trust Fund Commission, I have helped approve more than $20 million in affordable housing projects, including a new Friendship House in Woodycrest to serve residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I supported a zoning appeal to build future homeless veteran housing on 12th Avenue South. I secured voluntarily deed-restricted, for-sale workforce housing in Wedgewood-Houston, where I also supported an incoming 150 microunits that feature all-inclusive rents.
And I greatly supported the community benefits agreement between Stand Up Nashville and Nashville Soccer Holdings (and passed the related rezoning bill) that will create up to 180 units of affordable and workforce housing, including new three-bedroom units for families.
But these efforts alone won’t solve the problem of affordable housing, and we must continue to do more, especially when it comes to for-sale units that help residents build equity and move up the economic ladder. All kinds of hurdles are in our way, like when the Council created an inclusionary zoning policy that was overturned by the state legislature. Thanks to your support, we’ve been able to do a lot together in District 17, but there’s more to do in the years ahead.
The last several years in Nashville have continued to reveal a fundamental truth: we are not growing equitably. Communities and segments of our population are being left behind, and it is up to local leaders — both elected and within our neighborhoods — to correct that.
In District 17, I was able to secure funding for the renovation of the Berry Head Start Center, which provides meals and education to very young children in low-income households. I worked with a Chestnut Hill congregation and the administration to secure $50,000 in private funding to begin restoring the Hubbard House, which will become home to a medical and dental mobile clinic. (I’m currently working with the Friends of Hubbard House on grant applications to complete the work.)
Equity extends beyond economics, however, into how our government interacts with its residents. Unfortunately, too often that interaction comes with law enforcement, as recent studies have shown a disproportionate number of traffic stops involve black Nashvillians, and that they are ineffective in crime suppression. The high-profile fatal police shootings of two black men in the last three years have underscored the need to reevaluate how policing is done in Nashville.
In my first term, I was one of five Council members to vote in favor of a police community oversight board, and supported the successful referendum effort. I voted against asset forfeiture agreements, as they are inequitable and constitutionally questionable. And I led a Council letter supporting the release of Calvin Bryant, a former District 17 resident who spent a decade in jail under enhanced sentencing laws that have since been repealed.
I also led legislative efforts to stop using local tax dollars for federal immigration enforcement, a move that seems all the more necessary now given the president’s hateful rhetoric and actions toward immigrants and refugees, and our state legislature’s attempts to turn all local police officers and sheriff deputies statewide into immigration officers.
I have said many times that my interactions with our local law enforcement officers have been overwhelmingly positive, and I believe they should be paid more, which is why I voted for a police pay increase in Council. But I also believe we must improve accountability within the department and interactions with residents, and especially with Nashvillians of color. We have much work to do.
Perhaps the most visible and talked-about item in District 17 during my first term has been the future of Fairgrounds Nashville. Having lived less than a half-mile from the property for the nine years, I’ve been involved in countless discussions about plans, real and imagined, for the property. When I entered office, I wanted to see immediate improvements for the property, and was able to obtain $18 million in funding for new green space and much-needed repairs.
When talks about Major League Soccer considering Nashville increased, the Fairgrounds became the focal point of those conversations — and the stimulus for revitalizing a long-neglected asset in our district. It’s no secret to those who know me that I’m a soccer fan, but the benefits of a stadium and franchise needed to stretch far past the field. I passed the initial bond resolution that helped secure the franchise, and then requested that the team’s parent company, Nashville Soccer Holdings, meet with a coalition of Nashville community leaders known as Stand Up Nashville to create a Community Benefits Agreement between the two sides.
After a year’s worth of community meetings, private negotiations between NSH and SUN, and Metro board and commission votes, I carried the final legislative package to Council. It included an additional $25 million for new buildings and improvements for current Fairgrounds uses, most notably brand-new flea market and expo facilities. It included another $25 million in stadium-related infrastructure improvements, which will benefit the entire property. And it included a mixed-use development rezoning bill, upon which SUN and NSH agreed on $75 million in community benefits that included affordable housing, fair wages and safe working conditions, a daycare, small business incubators and a host of other community items.
Because of a charter amendment a few years ago, one of the pieces of legislation required 27 votes from the Council (instead of the typical 21). I’m glad to say that all of the legislation cleared that threshold, signifying overwhelming support for a new, vibrant Fairgrounds Nashville that will serve the communities around it, as well as the entire county and Middle Tennessee. The years to come will require continued community involvement, and I look forward to participating in and guiding those conversations.
As our city grows, our infrastructure has been lagging behind — especially in parts of District 17, which were county farmland as recently as 60 years ago. I requested the consolidation of multiple phases of water infrastructure replacement in 12South, so we could get more pipes replaced faster while turning 10th Avenue South into a multimodal, neighborhood-friendly street.
I’ve become a fixture at the Traffic and Parking Commission, where I’ve filed multiple constituent requests for 4-way stops in order to slow speeding cars and create more walkable neighborhoods. As a result, we have new 4-way stops throughout the district, including in Walden Flats, Woodycrest, Wedgewood-Houston, Music Row, Edgehill and 12South.
We also saw the reopening of Fire Station 5 on 8th Avenue South, a major victory for our growing district. Now, we’ll have even more fire and emergency services located closer to our communities, which will result in better response times and care for everyone, especially our seniors.
District 17 job growth has exploded over the last several years, with major employers like Major League Soccer, Publix and Apple Music moving into the district. Combined with new and growing small businesses, thousands of new jobs are coming to District 17, almost all of which are located near bus lines and new affordable and workforce housing. We must ensure that, as we become a denser, more populous city, we continue to provide access to well-paying jobs close to transit and neighborhoods in order to maintain our high quality of life and moderate cost of living.
Additionally, I took a hard look at our hiring practices in Metro government and discovered we were still asking for salary history in many of our jobs, which perpetuates a wage gap for women, who historically make less than men for no reason. I worked with the administration to eliminate salary history from all Metro job applications, because if you can do the job, you deserve to be paid for the job, period.
Finally, the biggest jobs victory in District 17 occurred with the announcement of a community benefits agreement between Stand Up Nashville and Nashville Soccer Holdings regarding the mixed-use development that will accompany the new Major League Soccer stadium at Fairgrounds Nashville. As a result, hundreds of workers will be paid a living wage, receive training they can use for years to come, and work in a safe environment that respects workers. I was extremely proud to pass the legislation for the rezoning for the mixed-use development, knowing that such an agreement was in place.
I have worked hard to upgrade parks throughout District 17, as our green space becomes more vital in a growing city. Our biggest addition to green space is at Fairgrounds Nashville, where 23 acres of asphalt, concrete and pollution have transformed into multi-use fields, pavilions and a dog park, all of which will be open for public use in 2019. I secured $6 million in funding for this space, and will be working to get the additional funding for the next 23 acres along Browns Creek that will add to the greenway and further repair the creek.
We also saw the addition of a new park in District 17: Azafrán Park, next to Casa Azafrán on Nolensville Pike. This beautiful park features tons of equipment for the children at the Pre-K next door, as well as a wonderful pavilion for meeting spaces and events. A traffic signal is being installed on Nolensville Pike to provide pedestrian access to the park from the Woodycrest neighborhood.
Park improvements also occurred throughout the district. I secured new lighting and trees for Reservoir Park, new trees for Dudley Park, and got the water fountains installed that the Friends of Sevier Park had purchased for Sevier Park.
Finally, the saving of Edgehill Park at the Murrell School ranks high on the list of community accomplishments during this first term. This critical green space was listed for sale in the budget, but I worked with community members and Council members to remove it and keep it as green space. Neighbors have since planted trees on the site, and I’m working to place it in the hands of the Parks Department to preserve it permanently as green space.
Preservation efforts in District 17 have been a huge success over the last several years, with about 900 residential properties entering into two new neighborhood conservation overlays — the Waverly-Belmont and Edgehill NCZOs — and the expansion of the Belmont-Hillsboro NCZO. These guidelines mean the character and history of these wonderful neighborhoods will be preserved for future generations.
In Wedgewood-Houston, I have worked with the current and new owners of two very historically significant, privately owned properties: the May Hosiery Coop and the Merritt Mansion. The May Hosiery Coop has added several new tenants, and I rezoned the property to support the mix of uses emerging in the area. As part of that effort, the property owners have entered a preservation letter into the deed for the property, and we will install a historical marker for this incredible building in 2019.
We passed the initial design funding to renovate Sunnyside Mansion and the outbuildings for public use, but more funding is needed. I’m continuing to work to secure it.
One of the most public discussions about historic preservation in our city occurred around the future of Fort Negley, and specifically the old Greer Stadium site. I initially supported a redevelopment plan that I believed would help preserve a large amount of green space while drawing more visitors to the site, but an archaeological study revealed the likelihood of remains throughout the property. As a result, I supported $1 million in funding to demolish the stadium, and am now working to secure more funding to master plan the property as a park. This was certainly a learning experience for me, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to help create a new future for the park that hopefully will provide opportunities for education and reconciliation.
Mass transit is a fundamental necessity for a growing city like Nashville and for the entire Middle Tennessee region. We will add a million people to the region in the next 25 years, with more than 200,000 of them in Davidson County alone. We must create a robust, multi-modal transportation system that allows our workers and residents a variety of options, including reliable, expanded bus service, protected bike lanes and sidewalks that connect neighborhoods to transit.
Transit in District 17 received a major boost with the funding of the Nolensville Pike BRT Lite line, which is one of the Top 5 most-used bus lines in the city. Additionally, Murfreesboro Pike’s BRT Lite line will benefit from a major overhaul of traffic light timing that allows buses to “line-jump” ahead of traffic and get riders to work and home faster. I successfully fought for the reinstallment of Route 17 on 10th Avenue South when it briefly moved, because this central location is critical for seniors in the area. As a result of those efforts, the line received its first sheltered bus station at 10th Ave S. and Halcyon Ave.
We still have a long way to go. As one of six districts to vote in favor of the Let’s Move Nashville transit plan, District 17 needs and expects a robust transportation network. I am working regularly with WeGo Transit to increase sheltered bus stops on major lines, especially as we see continued residential growth along our corridors.
For many residents in District 17, a bicycle means freedom, independence and self-reliance. A bicycle is often the only mode of transportation our residents can access readily and depend upon to get to work and family functions. And it’s a great way to get around!
We have made a lot of progress on walking and biking infrastructure in District 17. I worked with residents in 12South to install protected bike lanes on 10th Avenue South, which now is a lively neighborhood street instead of a cut-through. In 2019, we’ll see similar protected lanes in Edgehill on 12th Ave. South, from Wedgewood Ave. to the Gulch. These infrastructure improvements create a safer environment for everyone: drivers, bikers and pedestrians alike.
New sidewalks in 12South and Chestnut Hill have connected residents to schools and transit, and there are more on the way. I am still a major advocate of a shared sidewalks program that neighborhood nonprofits can buy into and that the city directs to ensure sidewalks are equitably placed throughout the city.
We have also increased greenway connectivity in District 17, with the soon-to-be-opened Browns Creek Greenway at Fairgrounds Nashville. This piece of the greenway will spur additional lines, including those I have already rezoned for along the creek. My service on the Greenways Commission for the last four years has helped grow greenways throughout the county, including the new I-44o Greenway that opened in 2018 and will continue into District 17 in the years to come. All Nashvillians should have access to greenways that provide interconnectivity throughout the city, and we’re well on our way.