I don’t write much about Donelson, our little slice of Music City. But here’s a couple of recent exceptions, one sort of optimistic and nice, the other more caustic and negative.
For a bedroom community which has never really had much of an identity, Donelson is currently attempting to remake itself with at least a bit of one.
The Donelson station developments aim to create the 21st century version of the old downtown, which didn’t ever exist here. This new downtown will still be basically a strip mall of businesses, just with a spiffy, fresh new design.
Donelson is like most of the houses in its borders: Buildings from the 1950s whose owners are dying out, so the children and grandchildren are taking over and either selling them or freshening them up. Hopefully, it will result in a more pleasant place to live and breathe in, although there will always be two negatives: Lebanon Pike and its sprawling ugliness and the overhead landing pattern which puts planes low and loud over us as they swing into runways 20 Left and Right.
No one will probably ever be talking or protesting or doing anything about the overhead noise, but at least some folks are doing something about ugliness. We hope there are more positives to come, especially along Lebanon. Not much can be done about the traffic volume as long as Metro and the State are devoid of ideas or even the hint of wanting to think about possible solutions. Nashville is drowning in traffic, but no one has the will or money to do anything about it. Beefing up the Music City Star would help immensely, but that’s also problematic at best.Not much can be done about the traffic volume as long as Metro and the State are devoid of ideas or even the hint of wanting to think about possible solutions. Nashville is drowning in traffic, but no one has the will or money to do anything about it.No one will probably ever be talking or protesting or doing anything about the overhead noise, but at least some folks are doing something about ugliness. We hope there are more positives to come, especially along Lebanon. Not much can be done about the traffic volume as long as Metro and the State are devoid of ideas or even the hint of wanting to think about possible solutions. Nashville is drowning in traffic, but no one has the will or money to do anything about it. Beefing up the Music City Star would help immensely, but that’s also problematic at best.
For the foreseeable future, then, we’ll take some cosmetic change and hope the community’s groups and businesses continue to try to improve the community’s image, at least. Whatever happens will surely be an improvement.
On the other hand, a different hot take: Development around the Donelson Music City Star train station is proceeding apace; two projects are underway to transform the seen-better-days corner of Lebanon and Donelson pikes. The first is Donelson Plaza, to the north of the station; the 1961 building is getting a complete face lift, with the eastern half is being completely rebuilt from scratch to serve as the new Donelson Branch of the Nashville Public Library.
The Plaza will feature the library as well as shops, restaurants and apartments, with the idea being that you can live at the Plaza and walk/bike to the buses/trains at the station and never need a car. No word on whether WeGo will be able to boost bus and train service to the center, or if we’ll see the more probable nightmare scenario of being constantly in ever greater amounts of traffic.
(Side note: Frequently, drivers exiting the station in the evenings are desperate to avoid Lebanon Pike and its intersection with Donelson Pike. So, they use a short, rather asininely-designed (is that a word?) road that heads east out of the parking lot behind Fifty Forward, ending on Donelson and completely avoiding two stoplights and lengthy waits. Only problem: That connector is supposed to be one-way, westbound only. Never mind it’s wide enough for two cars and that someone is just being, well, asinine over it, a police car was sitting there are on the evening commute on a Friday night, just determined to up the asshole quotient and send commuters to add to the chaos and traffic on Lebanon which is stacked up all the way back to downtown. Brilliant, no?
Many cities would just make it a one-way west into the parking lot in the morning, and one-way east out of the parking lot in the evening, but that would be too simple and oh-fend someone. No word on how much a ticket for such common sensical motor vehicle “violations” will set you back, but it’s probably attractive for the city.)
But back to the main event: The 1961 Donelson Plaza was purchased by Holladay Partners, which is developing the 12 acres as a new urban town center—the downtown Donelson never had, and which has been completely abandoned by towns and cities around the country, but we digress. They hope the redo will result in green space, restaurants, retail shops and apartments. Also not mentioned: How much per month will a one-bedroom unit set you back and what will happen to the center’s funky and clunky thrift stores, the bartending school, the bowling alley, etc.? Well, a partner in the developer’s office is on record thusly: “We do have existing tenants leasing and, of course, we will honor these. As people move out and it gets turned over, this will determine our next phase.”
In other words, we’ll let ‘em stay, but we’ll kick ‘em out and jack up the rents and put something high dollar in there as soon as possible so the “wrong” kind of Hippy Donelsonite won’t be shopping there. We must wonder if the plaza will feature the “architectural asshole” designs popping up everywhere: “public” seating that is intentionally so uncomfortable or designed in such a way as to prevent what the British call “rough sleepers,” and we call “homeless,” among other things. Ah well, time will tell.
The developer itself will anchor 14,000 square feet of office space on two levels. What is being displaced for that is another aspect which goes unmentioned.
Meanwhile, diagonally across the intersection and across the tracks menacing the bowling alley is a hulking mass of apartment buildings going up to four stories and packed into a tiny space along the tracks. One wonders how much a one-bedroom in that complex will cost and whether there is any additional sound proofing and plaster and ceiling protection for all the Music City Star trains which rumble through blasting their horns for the Donelson Pike crossing from as early as 7:15 a.m.
No matter, there will be some green space and a pool and you can walk to the train station (if you can summon the courage to cross both Donelson Pike and the railroad tracks. We’ve watched on more than one occasion as some idiot’s sense of self-importance prompted him to weave between the crossing arms with the train’s arrival imminent, speeding on his merry way. If walkers and bikers are now to be added to the mix, well, could get interesting.
The one exit onto Donelson is sure to be a joy as things are brought to a halt by southbound apartment dwellers trying to turn left into the driveway cause backups at 5 p.m. across the tracks and back up to Lebanon. Personally, I wouldn’t risk life and limb to live there, stacked four high in boxes with balconies that feature the fantastic combined noise of KBNA 20L airliner arrivals overhead, Music City Star trains blowing whistles below, and the screaming tires and honking of motorists trapped on the tracks while my neighbors try to make it into their new boxes. It’s not an attractive prospect for me, but what do I know? I’m sure it will all be just fine and dandy when these projects get built out just in time for the next big recessional flop in 2020.
Progress is great and all. But progress via developer is often thoughtless and crude. As far as we can tell, developers won’t be paying for better traffic control near either project and nothing will change in anticipation of the much greater numbers of cars along an already over-stretched section of Lebanon and Donelson pikes. Perhaps all will be well. We’re not going to hold our breath here.