On March 12, 2015, over 85 business owners and leaders gathered to attend the first quarterly Chamber Midtown meeting at The Scarritt-Bennett Center. The focus of this meeting was to address topics surrounding the transit, smart development and growth, and continued planning and zoning for the Midtown Nashville area. A panel of knowledgeable professionals in these industries were present to give Chamber Midtown members insight into these issues and to provide answer their questions. Ralph Schulz, the CEO and President of the Nashville Chamber hosted a group of panelists that included Steve Bland (CEO of the Nashville Metro Transit Authority), Michael Skipper (Executive Director of the Nashville Area Metro Planning Organization) and Kathryn Withers (Community Plans Division Manager for the Metro Planning Department).

From a transit standpoint, the conversation started with dialogue regarding the future of our public transportation since the recent plans for a bus rapid transit have been shelved. We talked about importance of increased public transportation within the area and what to anticipate in the immediate future considering the growth of the business and residential population. As the mayoral election is approaching, this will be an important topic that candidates will have to address. Almost 100 people a day move to Nashville, with many of them being young professionals that will be need easy access to Nashville’s restaurants, shopping, bars, and other amenities without the use of cars. National studies and surveys have shown that this demographic chooses to use cars as little as possible and is vocal about being in a city that is accessible with multiple forms of transportation. In addition, parking in downtown is increasingly difficult, costly and parking lots are in short supply that will continue to make driving problematic.

The group also discussed how the Nashville Planning Department has recently rezoned several areas of Midtown to encourage more dense, multi-use development to include retail, office, and multifamily to fit the business and residential growth of the area. This tactic has proven to be successful as most of the recent development projects have been a direct result of such rezoning. In addition, the amount of development projects being planned within the Midtown area of Nashville is unprecedented. As more of these developments occur in Midtown, parking and traffic will continue to be an issue and a large concern for the local businesses. It’s important as leaders, within our rapidly expanding Midtown submarket, that we engage our leaders, developers, and city officials to continue smart growth by taking all these issues into consideration. Therefore, your Chamber Midtown was established as a platform to help connect those individuals in the business community and to be a coordinated voice for any issues or concerns facing our area.

If you have not attended our prior meetings, I hope that you will strongly consider participating in our next event in late June. We hope to meet the candidates for Metro Council and hear what their positions are on the aforementioned topics. We have several candidates whose terms have expired and therefore we anticipate this election year to be a very critical time for the Midtown Nashville area. If you have questions pertaining to the Chamber Midtown Area Advisory Council, or would like to know how you can become more involved, please don’t hesitate to call me at 615-297-4999.