Nearly 200 North Nashville residents filled the North Nashville police precinct recently to get updates on projects and plans for the mostly African-American part of the city.
The forum, organized and hosted by a conglomeration of 13 North Nashville neighborhood associations, fired off questions to elected officials that are responsible for zones included in the area. The questions were pulled from each of the neighborhood groups.
Most of the discussion centered on building the community’s economy, fair education and preventing crime.
“What mattered to me most was economic development and us not having enough restaurants, not having enough family centers,” said Gina Coleman who has lived in Bordeaux for 31 years.
“Metrocenter is booming. When you drive through, you can see how it’s booming. You’ve got the Lexus dealership, the state government buildings over there. But my main concern is when you get to Clarksville Highway and Buena Vista Pike and you go all the way to Briley Parkway, there is nothing. It’s stagnant. It’s dead. We need to do something to get it hopping, popping and moving.”
Councilman Lonnell Matthews, Jr, shared updates on the housing development that is coming in behind the Kroger on Clarksville Hwy. Sixty-six units, a mixture of condos, townhomes and duplexes, are being developed in that area. The community will be called Hallmark Station. A dollar store is also said to be moving in across from the Kroger in the place where Old Timers restaurant once sat.
Councilwoman Edith Taylor Langster, District 21, said that’s not the only corner of North Nashville seeing growth.
“We have one of the city’s highest economic packages. If you noticed, we have a brand new fire hall on D.B. Todd Blvd. Then we have the success of the 28th Ave Connector. That corridor has proven great for us. It’s bringing business back to North Nashville. People are reinvesting in the community,” said Langster.
The forum, hosted by award-winning journalist Dwight Lewis, then moved to education. School Board representative Sharon Gentry, who is assigned to the District 1 area, said she fights for North Nashville every meeting, but needs the help of the community in order for there to be significant change.
“The challenge I face on the school board is making sure that the facilities we have in North Nashville are up to par. That is a challenge we face ever budget year. It is a battle that we continue to fight which is to make sure our facilities are up to par with other buildings and those in other districts.
We want every seat in North Nashville schools to be of the best quality and care. That means the best facility, the best teachers, the best resources, fair and equitable budgeting and quality leadership in our schools. I appreciate all the support we get and I appreciate forums like this,” said Gentry.
Many in the audience like Lola Brown were happy to participate in the forum. She lives near Fisk University and Meharry Medical College. A building named after her mother, Dr. Dorothy Brown rests on Meharry’s campus from where she graduated. She has a vested interest in preserving the history of the area and says forums like these do just that.
“A lot of people are coming into our communities. Not only do they move us out, but they tear our history down. When that happens that means that we lose. They don’t lose anything. We lose. Just like the history of Jefferson Street. A lot of people wouldn’t know anything about it. My kids wouldn’t know anything about it. So we have to be aware of these things. We have to be more involved. We have to be more informed,” said Brown.
Tonya Sherrell-Boyd, forum organizer and member of the North Nash Neighborhood Association said Brown and others can expect to see more and hear more from the neighborhood groups. This is the second forum hosted by the super neighborhood association group.
The first was a community discussion during the last round of elections in August. They invited candidates whose positions would impact the North Nashville community. That one, like this most recent forum, left standing room only in the police precinct’s community room. She said the NNNA is very engaged and active and planning to host the forums at least once a year.
“We have been extremely pleased and grateful with the turnout, layout, format and flow. The turnout for both this political forum and last year’s was unprecedented – especially for North Nashville. The diversity of the audience – socially, professionally, economically and racially was a beautiful blend and definitely something unique for public meetings. We hope people walk away with substance that will help them better understand the role of politics and the impact it has on us as individuals and the community as a whole,” said Sherrell-Boyd.
She says while they have focused on the political-focused forums, it takes more than just those elected to make a change.
“Although politics play an important role, community revitalization starts with the people who live here and engaging them in the internal and external process is a priority for us.