The proposed $4 billion May Town Center project in northern Davidson County looks to be shelved for good, but in the wake of the controversial plan’s unraveling, several Metro Council members continue to sound the drumbeat for badly needed development in that part of the county.
“The real issue is not whether there is unanimous support for May Town in the north Nashville community,” said At-large Council member Jerry Maynard, one of the organizers of last week’s meeting between parties who’d been on both sides of the contentious issue — Jack May, Metro Council members and Tennessee State University officials among them. “However, there is unanimous concern in north Nashville that there has not been any major development in north Nashville, either from the public or the private sector.
“We need an infusion of capital — cold hard cash — in the north Nashville area for development,” Maynard said. “It's been too long for north Nashville to be ignored like it has been while other areas of the city have received investments from the public and private sector.”
Mayor Karl Dean, who, to the disappointment of both sides, never took a public position on May Town, is taking Maynard and Council colleagues such as District 1 member Lonnell Matthews Jr., who supported the project, seriously enough to call the first in a series of meetings about the issue.
“We need to make sure we’re pursuing economic development opportunities in all parts of our county,” Dean said. “…We need to do more for north Nashville. I’m meeting with Council members and business leaders to talk about what else we can do. It’s more than just one meeting — it’s an ongoing dialogue about how we can bolster that part of the county.”
Matthews said he has talked with Dean and identified four neighborhoods he would like to target for development: Metro Center; the Clarksville highway corridor; the area around Talbot's Corner and Trinity Lane; and the area around Skyline Hospital.
“The mayor seemed very receptive to it,” Matthews said.
Maynard also said he hopes the May Town/development debate ultimately will bring some attention to TSU and its goals.
“TSU has been isolated over there in the north Nashville area, and this county has not embraced it — the public and private sectors have not embraced TSU,” he added. “That's one of the reasons we had the meeting — to bring attention to TSU, to bring attention to its goals and plans.”
The meeting was an effort to ice the bruises inflicted during the May Town debate and an opportunity for the Council members who opposed the project —including Jason Holleman, Emily Evans and Mike Jameson — to voice their support for TSU, in particular for the conceptual 250-acre research park and agriculture center, half of a two-part gift from the May family first announced when the project was still in play.
TSU officials confirmed Wednesday that the May family had made a promised $400,000 cash donation, though plans for a much-publicized land transfer from the May family have yet to be finalized, pending an environmental assessment the university is conducting before formally accepting the gift.
Maynard said last week’s convergence of TSU and public officials was an important first step in connecting TSU with the rest of Nashville.
“All of the Council members stated they strongly supported TSU, they strongly support the research park and the agricultural development, even though they did not support May Town Center.”