Today, Tennessean reporter Nate Rau, wrote an article explaining that Metro Council discussions of the decidedly utopian 500 acre West Nashville May Town Center development could be revived as early as March. Councilman Matthews, whose district includes the potential site, is considering putting the development proposal on a March public hearing agenda. The Councilman was quick to point out that the May Town Center project would be mostly privately funded and presumably provide a significant increase to the city’s tax base.
The timing is curious, the subject is still slightly toxic and if the Councilman and May family are not careful, the backlash could be significant. Why? Simple, the Metro Council has just approved the financing package to build a brand new downtown convention center at a cost of $650 million and quite a few citizens are still mystified by this expenditure. Many still believe that taxpayers will be left ultimately holding the bag for a significant portion of the project’s construction and operating costs. Skepticism runs rampant and to be honest, the project’s organizers did not help themselves by allowing several publically embarrassing mistakes to be made during the planning process.
All of the cynicism aside, there is reason to question any new development that promises not to tap taxpayer dollars. There is also always reason to investigate the proposal further at a reasonable cost. It is no secret that I am a pro growth and pro progress individual, but I am also an advocate of fiscal responsibility and logical thought. From my ten thousand foot view, it would seem difficult for a brand new urban area to sprout and flourish in the May Town Center’s proposed location without significant public works spending on bridges, access points and increase infrastructure. It appears that the Metro Council is committed to revitalizing our current downtown and I fear that a split focus would dilute the potential positive growth. It feels like this project is coming online a decade too soon. However, I would like to see the developer’s proposal and am open to their thoughts and plans.
What is May Town Center?
May Town Center is a $4 billion mixed-use development that features green and sustainable office, retail and residential buildings. It is best described as a mini-urban city. According to the project’s website, “May Town Center is an historic project in the history of Nashville, a model of sustainable economic development. It’s about jobs. Working with nature, reviving local agriculture, preserving land, fighting sprawl, protecting Nashville’s tax base, and putting Nashville in a position for sustained success.”
Where is the Proposed May Town Center Site?
May Town Center is proposed on a 500 acre site in rural Bells Bend, an area that is 5.4 miles due West from downtown Nashville. The site is literally a half mile from the new Nashville West commercial development on Charlotte Pike and is surrounded by the navigable Cumberland River.
The Impact of May Town Center
According to the project’s analysis, “This carefully master-planned, smart growth development will generate over 40,000 jobs which, at an average of only $50,000 per year, equates to over $2 billion in annual payroll. These jobs represent opportunities for taxpayers of Nashville-Davidson County.” For reference, the US Census in 2007 states that the average household income in Davidson county was $44,486.
I’m really not sure what to think at this point, but my curiosity is peaking.