Driving around the neighborhoods of Nashville, it’s clear that the city is growing. A friend joked that the state bird was the crane. Cast your gaze just about anywhere and it will fall on bustling construction sites that speak to the cities growth and prosperity. Millennials, retirees, and many an enlightened soul, who have grown tired of the congestion, and the cost, and realized that they can trade their outrageously expensive one bed condo in for a four bedroom home, or pay cash for a “tall and skinny”, are packing up the Winnebago and heading south.
Nashville is a “city” with a small “c”. It’s got traffic, and a few elegant civic buildings, a couple of office towers, and even a stadium or two, granted they are not of the scale of those in NYC, Boston, Oakland or Dallas, but they exist. It’s neighborhoods have cute names names like: The Gulch, Green Hills, Sobro, Marathon Village, Melrose, and many, many more. The thing is, it doesn’t really feel like a city. It feels like a suburb. There are homes with lawns, and gardens, grass so green it makes your eyes hurt, and trees everywhere, not just in a park. Hum, who knew.
Like any growing city there are issues of densification that haven’t quite been addressed. Questions of infrastructure investment, ugh, and the speed in which they can put up luxury hotels to accommodate musicians, enthusiasts, and the growing tourist population. Book early or stay home, I cannot imagine is the motto Nashville is hoping to adopt. A few home grown natives feel a little disdainful about the rising property taxes that are forcing their families to move out to “the country”. I smile as I type this, because Nashville, so feels like the country to me.
I got into a conversation or two with some of these locals, and while they appreciate the growing pains that a city must endure, they are nostalgic for the single story brick Ranches and Bungalow’s of their childhood, and can’t imagine someone wanting to live in one of these narrow homes, where gasp, you can see you neighbor, and barely have a yard. When I explained to my hair stylists that when I lie in bed, if my shade is up and my neighbor is grilling, I can request he cook my burger medium rare. That, to me, is city living.
So here’s the skinny. Nashville hasn’t quite figured out what their zoning regulations should be all about. They need the densification to support the growth, and developers are all too happy to buy up the properties that have been part of the existing neighborhoods for decades, tear them down, and build two in their in place. This happened for years, with a somewhat fuzzy definition of what a Duplex was. Two homes that share a connector – interesting. Two homes that share a party wall – common. More recently new ordinances that demand the properties be separated by 6 feet and be proportionally no taller than 1.5 times the width. Two homes on a single lot. The numbers are penciling out for these developers, and they can’t get the land fast enough to meet the demand.
Not everyone is sold, but I loved them.