Elements of Urbanism: Nashville

June 19, 2009 53 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Nashville has more things in common with Jacksonville than the average person may realize, but a struggling downtown isn't one of them.

Tale of the Tape:

Nashville Pop. 2007: 590,807 (City); 1,550,733 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1806)

Jacksonville Pop. 2007: 805,605 (City); 1,300,823 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Nashville (174,307)

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2007)

Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin: +15.98%
Jacksonville: +15.86%

Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Nashville: 749,935 (ranked 48 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Nashville: 1,233.8
Jacksonville: 2,149.2

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2007

Nashville: +45,283
Jacksonville: +69,988

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Nashville: Nashville Convention Center (1987) - 118,675 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1986) - 78,500 square feet

Tallest Building:

Nashville (and TN): AT&T Building - 630.5 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Downtown Fortune 500 companies:

Nashville: None (HCA #87 is in Midtown on north side of Centennial Park)
Jacksonville: CSX (261)

Urban infill obstacles:

Nashville: Industrial developments limit riverfront development potential
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.

Downtown Nightlife:

Nashville: The District, encompassing Lower Broadway, Printer's Alley, and 2nd Avenue. Home to dozens of restaurants, bars/clubs, and live music venues

Jacksonville: East Bay Street, located between Main Street and Liberty Street.  This four block stretch is home to four bars and clubs.

Common Downtown Albatross:

Too many surface parking lots

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Nashville: 100 out of 100, according to walkscore.com (Ryman Auditorium)
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com

Visual Information

Green = Jacksonville's city limits (current urban core) before consolidation in 1968
Red = Jacksonville's current consolidated city-county limits

Jacksonville's current and original city limit boundaries over Nashville-Davidson's land area.

Downtown Nashville

The Nashville Courthouse Public Square was completed in 2006.  It replaced a surface parking lot that stood in front of the courthouse for the past 30 years.  In 2007, the 7.5-acre project was honored with the Green Roof Award of Excellence from the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities organization.

Lower Broadway & The District

This is Nashville's heart for live music and great bars and clubs. Lower Broadway which is everything east of the Sommet Center to the river along Broadway is also the top tourist area in the city. This is where Nashville pretty much started as a settlement called Fort Nashborough, and a replica of the old fort can be found on First Ave North, just north of Riverfront Park. Almost every night of the year, you'll hear live music pumping from all the Honky Tonks that made this city famous for music. The District is home to the world famous Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, the Wildhorse Saloon, and several other venues. In 2007, the District was given a historic overlay for future developments to follow the low brick buildings and to make taller structures be set further back away from Broadway.

The Shelby Street Bridge originally opened in 1909.  The bridge was the first in North America to have concrete arched trusses.  The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in 1998. However, due to aesthetic, architectural, and historical considerations, instead of demolition it was converted into a pedestrian bridge in 2003.

Unique Nashville, TN

  • Nicknamed Music City for it's large number of record companies, live venues, artists/writers living in the metro area, and recording studios
  • Home to more than country music, 2 very successful rock bands, one being grammy nominated, several jazz artists, and the grammy award winning Nashville Symphony
  • The top of the AT&T Building was designer to look like a phony in it's craddle when Bellsouth owned the building. However, with it's spires, it became affectionately known as the "Batman Building" It's nieghbor, One Nashville Place is known as "R2D2"
  • The L&C Tower was once the tallest skyscraper in the Southeast and TN's tallest until 1965. It's infamous L and C letters once served as a weather beacon, changing colors as the weather did.
  • In 1963, Nashville merged with Davidson County, becoming the nation's first metropolitan government. Other cities such as Jacksonville, Louisville, and Indianapolis have followed.
  • Also nicknamed "Athens of the South" due to 24 post-secondary institutions within the area and home to the wrold's only full-scale replica if the Parthenon. The Parthenon is the centerpiece of Centennial Park.
  • Home of the Grand Ole Opry, the nation';s oldest continuous radio program. Originally located in the Ryman Auditorium downtown, it moved to the now closed Opryland Theme Park, nine miles east of downtown.
  • Music City Walk of Fame is along the city's Music Mile and is dedicated to all genres and the people contributing to them through song, industry collaboration, or music industry with connection to Nashville.
  • Became the permanent state capital in 1843. Previous cities were Murfreesboro and Knoxville.
  • One of only 2 cities in the U.S. to have its downtown hit by a tornado more than once, 1933 and 1998. Strangely, these both took almost identical paths from downtown and through East Nashville and both were F3 ranked. The other city being St. Louis, MO.
  • Many believe that music is the largest industry, but it isn't. Healthcare is with over 250 companies, including HCA.

Bicenntienal Park & Farmer's Market

Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park is a 19-acre public space designed to complement the Tennessee Capitol Building, give visitors a taste of Tennessee's history and serve as a lasting monument to Tennessee's Bicentennial celebration.


The Nashville Farmers Market is located next door to Bicentennial Park. The market was established in 1828, relocated to this site in the 1950s, and then renovated in 1995.  At the center of the market is an international food court consisting of several ethnic food vendors.


Hope Gardens

The Hope Gardens neighborhood is located just west of the Nashville Farmer's Market.  This small inner city district is rapidly undergoing revitalization and is the home of a signficant amount of new infill housing.

The Gulch

This is the new trendy area of Nashville and has come to fruition in under a decade. It's old image and use is still clearly evident, as it was a large warehouse and industrial district, built adjacent to the railroad gulch between downtown to the east and Vanderbilt and current Midtown to the west. It is bounded by Broadway (N), I-40( W & S), and the CSX lines (E). The building boom caught this place quickly with many building vacant and cheap land prices. Some of Nashville's trendiest restaurants and music venues first moved in, and by 2004, condominium and coversion projects were proposed. Projects such as Mercury View, ICON in the Gulch, Velocity, and Terrazzo anchor the Gulch and several more are waiting for the economy to pick back up. Rumor is that Whole Foods may come here, as well as an Urban Target, movie theater, and other shops. Urban Outfitters opened their first TN location here this past Spring.

West End/Midtown

Anchored by the prestigeous Vanderbilt University and Nashville's front lawn, Centennial Park, Midtown sets the pace for the urban lifestyle. West End Avenue is the heart of Midtown and cuts directly through it. Some of Nashville's most expensive and exclusive condominium projects have been built here recently, such as The Adelicia, The West End, and The Acropolis. Midtown is also the HQ for Caterpillar Financial and is also home to the Japanese consulate, which moved from New Orleans after Katrina to be closer to Nissan North America's HQ and largest factory, both 30 miles away in two different suburban counties. Centennial Park is the jewel of the Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County park system and is home to the world's only full-scale replica of The Parthenon, complete with statue of Athena. Centennial Park was dealt a heavy blow on 4/16/1998, when a F3 tornado destroyed much of the park's older growth trees, and killing one person as it headed towards downtown. When teh economy picks back up, the city's most expensive urban development, the West End Summit, is proposed to finally start rising, after being proposed in 2001.

Hillsboro Village

This very trendy neighborhood lies adjacent to Vanderbilt University, which is to it's north and west, about a mile NW of Belmont University, another prominent Nashville university. Hillsboro Village is locally known as "The Village" and his one of the few locations where you'll find very few chain stores or eateries. This area is home to the Historic Belcourt Theatre and the world-famous Pancake Pantry, where local celebrities frequent. Hillsboro Vullage is one of Nashville's most active neighborhoods as it is filled with college students most of the year and has easy access to nearby Centennial Park. Hillsboro Village's main drag is 21st Avenue South and this area is accepted as a part of Midtown, mainly because of it's proximity to Vanderbilt. Due to the large number of people living here, driving is actually not recommened, but walking and biking are encouraged.  According to www.walkscore.com, the neighborhood has a walkability index score of 94 and is considered a "walking oasis" in what is considered a pedestrian unfriendly city.

Edgefield - East Nashville

Historic Edgefield was Nashville's first urban neighborhood to begin revitalization.

From its development in the 1850's, Edgefield remained an independent municipality until incorporation into the City of Nashville in 1880. Although over 600 structures were destroyed in the great East Nashville Fire of 1916, the neighborhood still boasts an eclectic mixture of antebellum buildings. An array of Victorian homes in many styles, Eastlake and post-Victorian Princess Anne cottages, Colonial Revival homes, American Foursquares and bungalows are found in Edgefield. The revitalization of this area has included construction of new single-family homes, zero-lot line townhomes and condominiums.

Edgefield is one of only two locally zoned "historic preservation districts" requiring that all new construction, additions, demolition, alterations and fences be approved by the Metro Historical Commission. Located just minutes from downtown, Edgefield extends from South Fifth Street to South Tenth Street between Woodland and Shelby Streets

Music City Star

The Music City Star is a regional rail service running between Nashville and Lebanon, Tennessee. The service uses the existing trackage of the Nashville and Eastern Railroad. The line currently has six stops: Riverfront Station (western terminus), Donelson, Hermitage, Mt. Juliet, Martha (Tennessee State Route 109 and U.S. Highway 70), and Lebanon (eastern terminus). The operation covers 32 miles of rail line. Service began on September 18, 2006.

The Star is considered a "starter" project to demonstrate the effectiveness of commuter rail service to the metro Nashville area.  The line is mostly one track, so this limits arrivals and departures to how long each train has to wait for the other to pass. The first "starter line" cost $41 million, or just under $1.3 million per mile, which made it the most cost efficient commuter rail start-up in the nation.

Photos by Ennis Davis

Text by MetroJacksonville member Reednavy