Nashville’s Downtrodden Dickerson Pike Angles For A Turnaround | Nashville Public Radio

Nashville’s Downtrodden Dickerson Pike Angles For A Turnaround

Jan 31, 2019

Nashville’s Dickerson Pike has been known for vacant and dilapidated buildings, and once had the reputation as the city’s red-light district. But that’s been changing.

And this week, city planners are meeting with residents and property owners to develop a vision for the corridor, which some see as ripe for redevelopment — but in ways that could differ from other parts of the city, with more effort put into incorporating rapid transit and affordable housing.

The discussions culminate in a presentation at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Trinity United Methodist Church, 204 E. Trinity Lane. Officials will then need at least a few months to formulate possible policy updates, zoning changes or new incentive programs related to development.

All of this planning continues despite the city being skipped over last year for a federal transportation grant directed toward Dickerson Pike.

“The building stock is getting older,” said Michael Briggs, transportation planning manager for Metro Planning, “so it’s probably ripe for change. So I think we need to have this conversation now about what that change looks like."

As Briggs studies the area, and hears from people, he notes that there hasn’t seen the same intensity of development as elsewhere. But it’s close to downtown, so that pressure is coming — and raising questions about what will end up replacing the old buildings or filling in the empty lands.

“What do those buildings need to look like? How do they interact with the street?” Briggs asks. “How is it more walkable? How does the bus system fit in to serving people along the corridor?”

With the downtown skyline visible to the south, the Dickerson Pike corridor is under study by Metro as interest in development and rapid bus service grows.
Credit Tony Gonzalez / WPLN

To a surprising extent, many people who spoke with planners this week agreed that Dickerson Pike would benefit by dense development — even buildings up to 13 stories tall, which other neighborhoods have resisted.

Planners say that level of density could concentrate enough housing and jobs to support the city’s first true “bus rapid transit” service — with buses running in their own lanes to avoid traffic, as suggested in several Metro plans.

That vision has the backing of Myron Dowell, a developer with Strategic Options International.

“If we want walkable neighborhoods, we’re going to need to think about reshaping the way people think about cars and having more density along the corridor,” he said.

“I definitely want to see some change,” says property owner Wayne Detring, who leases to a beer-and-tobacco corner store and an auto repair garage. “It’s hit-and-miss industrial, junkyards, old hotels, etc. I would love to see all of that improved.”

Sticking Points

Some broad concerns have been raised, especially among residents in the neighborhoods to the east of Dickerson Pike.

“I’m all for development on Dickerson, but I’m concerned with them encroaching on the neighborhoods,” said Omid Yamini, who reviewed maps with planners on Wednesday.

Metro has long considered Dickerson Pike a promising corridor for rapid bus service, which could include buses that run in dedicated lanes to avoid traffic.
Credit Tony Gonzalez / WPLN

And Briggs, the planner, said there isn’t clear consensus about how traffic should move on Dickerson Pike itself.

“It is meant to move cars and meant to do it fast? Or is it meant to move people by bus and do it well?” he said. “It’s really tough to retrofit a street that was made for cars and make it a walkable place.”

For now, Metro Planning is still gathering feedback — mostly “aspirational,” Briggs said.

It could be a few months until any policy changes are recommended to the Metro Planning Commission, and longer still before Metro would propose zoning changes or special new districts to guide and incentivize development.

For more information, visit: Metro’s Dickerson Pike study website.