Representatives from multiple Nashville labor and equity organizations stood against the backdrop of the Cumberland River on Wednesday with one resounding request: slow down the East Bank Planning Study and increase community engagement.
The Metro Nashville Planning Department partnered with global design firm Perkins Eastman for the multi-month study that focuses on redevelopment and land-use plans for 338 acres along the Cumberland River.
Global software company Oracle Corp. will build a $1.2 billion campus in the area, taking up more than half of Monroe Investment Partners’ 125-acre River North project. The first portion of the project, a 40-acre group of office towers behind Topgolf, is already underway.
The study aims to engage the community and provide opportunities for public input on new roads, parks, greenways and attractions. Metro and Perkins Eastman created a Neighborhood Advisory Committee, and Metro Planning has held 15 public engagement opportunities with more than 400 participants since February. A community survey received 605 responses.
But a coalition — including Stand Up Nashville, The Equity Alliance, LiUNA, Nashville Organized for Action & Hope and the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition — said the study’s methods so far have been “flawed” and “disappointing.”
The coalition said the study lacks transparency and broad, unfettered opportunities for those impacted by East Bank development to weigh in. The groups sent a letter and four-page document detailing their concerns and recommendations to Nashville Mayor John Cooper, the Metro Council and the Metro Planning Department on Wednesday.
“The number one recommendation is this: slow it down,” Odessa Kelly, executive director of Stand Up Nashville and Democratic congressional candidate, said in a statement. “Attempts at community engagement have been too few and too controlled. Give residents the chance to offer real input, and expand outreach to the whole city, in communities that will actually supply the workforce for these new businesses.”
The coalition identified five main issues:
The study hasn’t been transparent or collaborative enough.
Awareness of public workshops is low among current residents and these workshops do not allow for direct public comment.
Metro selected Neighborhood Advisory Committee members without consulting neighborhood residents, and the committee’s meetings have not been public.
Where workers for the area’s development projects will live and how they will commute have not been addressed.
Wages and safety protocols for the workers who will build the developments haven’t been addressed.