By Peter White 

NASHVILLE, TN – Bordeaux residents have been lied to before. Hallmark Station, the affordable housing project behind Krogers on Clarksville Pike, doesn’t look like the original plan that residents were shown. That complex has 1-3 bedroom apartments and small houses that rent from $773 to $900/mo. It is clean and well-kept and only two apartments are vacant.

“I don’t like it,” said William Robinson. “It’s not in keeping with housing in the community,” he said.

“Cheap-looking”… “Board ain’t brick”  “They promised us the moon”…“The quality wasn’t what we thought it would be”…”They sang us a song, didn’t they?”… were some of the negative comments about Hallmark Station voiced by members of  the Bordeaux Hills Residents Association who don’t want another bait and switch housing development in their neighborhood.

Last Monday they listened to Joe Cain, Director of Urban Development, outline a proposed 40-unit project the MDHA plans to build on property between the Autumn Hills Assisted Living facility and the Bordeaux Hills neighborhood of older single-family homes near County Hospital Rd and Panorama Dr.

“We want to make sure we get exactly what they are offering and make sure we are not creating further poverty pockets,” said Councilman Nick Leonardo who represents Bordeaux.

Twenty-five percent of the project’s units will be set aside for low-income residents. The two and three-bedroom townhouses will rent for $1100 to $1900/mo. Cain said the plan conforms to the Redevelopment Plan and the complex will be built by mid-2018 because the land, the financing, and the planning have come together to move forward with the project quickly.

“We build what we say we’re going to build because we answer to the public,” said Cain.

“It looks like we’re headed towards what the community has asked for,” said Ruby Baker, President of the Bordeaux Hills Residential Association.

Longtime resident Jonathan Hall opposes the project. He said the Bordeaux District is 157 years old, was settled by freed slaves and immigrants, and noted that District 1 has always been behind.

“There is no investment here by the city or anybody else. There’s no economic growth; there’s no money coming in,” Hall said, adding, “I look at this project like I look at that history. Everything the city didn’t liked was put in Bordeaux.”

Indeed, the May 2015 Bordeaux Redevelopment Plan notes: “the area is blighted

with a number of deleterious land uses including a closed landfill…. a county cemetery, a compost facility, a women’s prison, a juvenile detention center and the county’s drug court.” The plan is designed “to give the area a much needed boost of new activity”.

According to Hall, residents have three main concerns. They are: raise property values; raise the average median income, and attract more commercial investment.

Like it or not, Councilman Leonardo says growth is coming to Bordeaux.

“We get calls every day about bad development. We are trying to attract the good.

You can be anywhere in this town in ten minutes… so this is really valuable property. We want to make sure that this lead piece doesn’t permanently blight the area further. We want it to be something that attracts families, attracts development and the right kind of development,” he said.

The plan calls for single-family and multi-family dwellings, general retail, hospitals, museums, theaters, retirement homes, parks, and churches. It prohibits trailer parks, auto sales, cash advance businesses, liquor stores, racetracks, nightclubs, truck stops, and pawn shops.

Building affordable housing with rent subsidies for low-income residents in mixed income projects, like the one MDHA wants to build, is part of the development plan and Mayor Barry has often spoken about the city’s need for workforce housing. But not everybody likes the idea or wants it in their backyard.

The plan and city planners do not always control what gets built. And what does get built does not always spur the “right” kind of economic growth.

Nearby, a controversial 108-home subdivision called The Crossing at Drakes Branch was approved by the city council against the recommendation of city planners last year.

The developer, Keven Estes, and then Councilman Lonnell Mathews Jr. told the Metro Council that residents wanted the development. But Sandra Ball of the Royal Hills Neighborhood Watch said most of those who the attended the four community meetings objected to the project. Nevertheless, Mathews asked the Council to overrule the planning department and approve the project, which they did.

Mathews argued the subdivision would spur retail businesses in the area. But two housing subdivisions a couple of miles away along Briley Parkway are bedroom communities and they have not spurred commercial investment in the area.

Mathews lost his bid for an at-large Metro Council seat and Nick Leonardo now represents District 1. In 2010, the 1600-acre May Town project would have constructed another bridge over the Cumberland River to Bell’s Bend. Local residents successfully organized to defeat the project. Some Bordeaux residents want to retain the rural character of their neighborhoods. Some want to develop open space next to where they live.

At the community meeting, Cain said Bordeaux residents have made it clear they want multi-family when they are actually ambivalent about it. What they do want is more commercial development in long-neglected Bordeaux. Multi-family housing would bring more people into the district. City officials are hoping that building more affordable housing will spur the kind of economic growth that will create jobs for Bordeaux residents to be able to afford to live there.