May Town Center appears poised for a comeback — again.
Developer Jack May told The City Paper on Monday he’s been having conversations about a downsized version of the enormous mixed-used project, at one time proposed for 500 acres on his property in the rural Bells Bend community. May said a “dramatically smaller” proposal could be submitted to the Metro Planning Commission within “the next month or so,” but acknowledged the holiday season could push it back.
Though May declined to give a number of acres for the revamped project, he said the scaled-back proposal would require only one bridge to cross the Cumberland River. The previous proposal required at least two bridges.
“We just know ‘dramatic,’” May replied when asked the extent of the project’s downsizing. “I would say [a] 5, 10, 15 percent [reduction] is certainly not dramatic.”
A reignited May Town pitch would in effect be the project’s third go-around, but the first to be significantly altered from the original version.
The planning commission 18 months ago narrowly shot down an initial proposal for the controversial $4 billion mixed-use project, which drew strong opposition from Bells Bend residents, environmentalists and urban advocates. May revived the proposal last winter, but pulled his plans in March after it became clear a crucial zoning-change lacked a Metro Council two-thirds majority needed for approval.
About eight months have passed since May Town was on the table, but May said the project never went away.
“Hopefully, there’s a different view on these things, but we never stopped working on it,” May said.
May cited Mayor Karl Dean’s position on two development issues as reasoning behind bringing back May Town now. According to May, Dean was at the October groundbreaking of developer Bert Mathews’ Buchanan Point, a 179-acre office park in Donelson, presumably showing his support.
May pointed out that Buchanan Point is “five or six miles away from downtown.” Opponents of May Town frequently said Nashville needs to focus on development within its urban core rather than adding to suburban sprawl.
More interestingly, May mentioned Dean’s sudden willingness to remind Nashvillians about the May Town debate in an attempt to boost his case for redeveloping the 117-acre fairgrounds –– the idea that Nashville leaders must do something to lure corporations to increase the city’s tax base. The mayor, along with others in his administration, has said the fairgrounds is an ideal location for corporate office space.
“It was interesting to me to certainly see our name tossed out there again as people are debating issues,” May said of Dean’s recent discussion of May Town. “We took it as a positive. It seems the mayor has changed his view.”
During the May Town debate, Dean was noncommittal about his stance. In the mayor’s defense, he has referred to the fairgrounds as infill development, which some would say is different from building in rural Bells Bends.
“We’re glad to see the debate is now discussing corporate relocations, which was our whole point of this project, but we probably just did not do a good job at letting people understand this is about Davidson County having places versus everyone goes to Williamson County,” May said.
Metro Councilman Lonnell Matthews Jr., who represents the Bells Bend area, said May has contacted him about a downsized May Town project.
Matthews said he would not move forward with any zone change to accommodate the project until he receives feedback from Bells Bend residents and others.