Creating Places: Bus stops not only obstacle to reinvention of Deaderick

Monday, July 28, 2008 at 1:36am
Downtown’s Deaderick Street is in line for new look. Matthew Williams/The City Paper

Home to the Metro Transit Authority’s central bus hub, Deaderick Street is downtown Nashville’s most misunderstood stretch of asphalt.

“Isn’t that street for buses only?”

“Oh, yeah, I think it’s near TPAC. Or maybe the Municipal Auditorium. Somewhere around there.”

“How do you pronounce that again? And what’s up with that funny name?”

“Never heard of it. ”

“Yes, I know about Deaderick Street. I think Printers Alley runs through it.”

“I’ve driven down it a few times. It’s got some nice historic buildings on it, doesn’t it?”

“Hmm, yes, Deaderick connects the Bicentennial Mall to the Main Library. Oh, wait a minute. Uh…no. It connects the War Memorial Plaza to the State Capitol.”

Recently, this writer strolled along Deaderick, taking notes and exchanging pleasantries with passers-by.

Here’s an overview:

Though Deaderick spans a mere three blocks — from Third to Sixth avenues and between Charlotte Avenue and Union Street — it is framed by enough concrete to impress Ready Mix.

Bland skyscrapers defiantly turn their backs to the street. Entrances to these buildings and their few street-level businesses are less defined than the chins of Muppet favorites Ernie and Bert.

One exception is the access point to the Public Square Garage between Third and Fourth across from the Regions Center. A 65-foot-long curb cut allows motorists to zip in an out of the vehicle storage facility — and endanger the lives of walkers.

Moving east from the garage and staying on the north side of the street, the Citizens Plaza State Office Building entrance is dominated by a zig-zagging wheelchair ramp. Adjacent is the St. Mary Cathedral Church surface parking lot, enclosed by a 100-foot-long chain-linked fence.

In the next block, steep steps to the Andrew Jackson State Office Building are carved into a wall that is about 25 feet at its most vertical point and tapers to about 4 feet. An experienced rock climber would struggle with the steps.

Moving to Deaderick’s south side and the James K. Polk State Office Building, the newish TPAC marquee is a welcome addition. But the remainder of Polk Center at street level is brutal. For example, one segment contains metal hand railings that loom above pedestrians’ heads. What’s up with that?

The southeast corner of Fifth Avenue offers the eye-catching Bank of America Plaza signage. But looming nearby is a blank wall — the base of the north face of the Doubletree Hotel — roughly 50 feet tall and 150 feet long.

Between Fourth and Third, the central entrance to Regions Center is acceptable. But the building’s east side offers a non-descript two-door secondary entrance next to ground-level office space for a law firm that, based on tiny signage and dark-tinted windows, clearly embraces a low-key profile.

Capping all this nastiness are the litter-strewn and outdated “transit mall” bus terminals.

Gross.

In October, MTA will open its $56.3 million Music City Central facility at Fourth and Charlotte and mercifully remove those bus terminals. Shortly thereafter — and utilizing the services of local landscape architecture stalwart Hawkins Partners Inc. — the Metro Public Works Department will attempt to reinvent Deaderick.

Administering an enema to a rabid warthog might be easier.

Next week, we’ll look at some options Public Works and Hawkins Partners might consider.

William Williams is a citizen observer of Nashville’s manmade environment. Contact him at bill37206@yahoo.com

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By: Kosh III on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I work in that area and it is not a nice, pedestrial friendly street at all. Stretching from the city plaza to the war memorial plaza, it could be the venue for all sorts of summer time street festivals. I look forward to seeing the options next week. ANYTHING is an improvement.

By: Nanru on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I, too, work in that area and agree with Bill's comments except that you walk WEST from the garage to Citizens' Plaza. That's ok. Our engineers even have trouble with the directions :)