Folks who thought May Town Center was dead were in for a rude surprise last week, when word came that a smaller such proposal was brewing. And the thing about May Town Center is that it’s a good idea. At its original size, it was a good idea. At the new, pared down size, whatever that ends up looking like, it will be a good idea. We, as a city, should have such good plans for how to expand the city, and we should be lucky enough to have someone with the vision to develop them.
So it’s a frustrating blind spot of Jack May’s that he has the vision for a great development but has chosen the weirdest spot in the county — out in the middle of a field in Bells Bend, down at the end of a narrow, two-lane road — to put it.
The same questions that surrounded the original May Town Center proposal remain, even in a scaled-back version, ranging from major to minor things that only a nerd like me sweats over: If they say they’ve done an archaeological survey they actually haven’t done, what other things are they lying about? And how much will properly addressing those lies cost? Why doesn’t the map on the May Town Center website show the slave cemetery in the same place the other maps show it? They’ve made promises to people in Bells Bend that the two historical cemeteries on the property will remain, but if they don’t even know where one is, how certain can we be that it will be protected? And what about the costs of moving other remains they may come across?
Is the land given to Tennessee State University a gift or a burden? It was underwater in May, even parts of what would be the research park. Is TSU really going to build in a known floodplain? And TSU gets federal funding. That federal funding allows the government a say in what happens to the archaeological sites on that land. (There are three known sites on the property May wants to give to TSU. There are likely more.)
The TSU community has been a great supporter of the May Town Center project because of that gift, but one wonders whether minds might have changed since the flood, considering how conveniently the floodwaters covered almost everything that would go to TSU and left everything May would keep high and dry.
The TSU community has also supported May Town Center because they know people in north Nashville need jobs. But so do people in Charlotte Park and the White Bridge Road area. Even if May Town Center were successful, that’s not a guarantee that people from north Nashville would be employed there. Charlotte Park and White Bridge Road are much closer.
Also, May Town Center would be in direct competition with Nashville West. Would retail outlets really choose May Town Center over Nashville West? And would those outlets be upscale enough to attract the kinds of customers May Town Center seems to be promising would live and shop out there?
And this brings me to the single largest logistical problem with May Town Center. The bridge will go from Cockrill Bend to Bells Bend. Anyone who comes off Briley to go home to May Town Center will have to drive right by the prison. And yet, in order for May Town Center to be everything Jack May has promised, it has to attract affluent people to live, work and shop there. Just ask yourself this: Will people who can
afford to live elsewhere live by a prison?
There’s much talk about Davidson County needing to be more like Williamson County and that May Town Center would be like our Cool Springs. Fine, then. Stick our Cool Springs in Joelton or Whites Creek, where development is already happening. Let Bells Bend be our Leiper’s Fork.