In East Nashville this past spring, a dangerous intersection was transformed with vision, elbow grease, community collaboration, and help from a REALTOR® Party Placemaking Grant. The roughly 2,300-square foot traffic island, a once-dismal, triangular concrete slab bounded on all sides by busy thoroughfares, is now a cheerful and much safer pedestrian refuge. How cheerful and safe? The nearby public library is actually using the new pedestrian plaza for small events.
In fact, the island in question is the only public space for more than a half mile in any direction, and the only pedestrian connector between the library, a public high school, residential buildings, and a church, explains Alison Hendrickson, Director of Events and Government Affairs Coordinator of the Greater Nashville REALTORS®. Rapid growth, and with it, increased vehicle traffic and congestion had been making the intersection, already notorious for its lack of infrastructure and its convoluted traffic patterns, even worse. “When the Nashville Civic Design Center (NCDC) reached out to the REALTORS® with a plan for beautification and safety improvements, we jumped right on board,” she says, noting, “We have an extremely passionate Housing Opportunity and Affordability Committee, and opportunities to foster safer pedestrian conditions in our local neighborhoods are always met with enthusiasm.”
The NCDC is a well-established non-profit organization dedicated to improving the city’s built environment and promoting public engagement in its efforts to create attractive, functional spaces. It had targeted the problematic East Nashville Gallatin Avenue triangle for a placemaking project to coincide with the annual conference of the Complete Streets Coalition taking place in Nashville in early April 2018. Greater Nashville REALTORS® received a $3,000 Placemaking Grant to help purchase supplies; it also provided about twenty volunteers from its Housing Opportunity and Affordability Committee and Board of Directors, who each took two-hour shifts during the all-day installation event. Their big task was to help paint a light-hearted ground mural that covers the entire triangular surface, complete with directional ‘way-finding’ indicators to help pedestrians find local amenities and destinations. The mural, designed by a professional local artist, is intended to be permanent, along with some new seating; it was initially enhanced by temporary plantings, colorful overhead cords, and fresh sidewalk striping.
One of those volunteers was Brian Copeland, 2017 President of the Tennessee REALTORS®. In a compelling video produced by NCDC that captures the cheerful collaborative effort, he expresses gratitude for the programs in place that all state and local REALTOR® associations can tap into: “The National Association REALTORS® has a Placemaking Grant where we’re able to partner with great community organizations like the Nashville Civic Design Center.” Sher Powers, Copeland’s partner in paint, and current President of the Greater Nashville REALTORS®, adds, “We’re very excited to be a part of this and we believe it’s a great addition to the community that will offer safety, seating, and social areas away from traffic.”
The installation has been a great success, and pedestrians are clearly drawn to the newly colorful and engaging site, reports Hendrickson. The response among the Greater Nashville REALTORS® membership has been wonderful, too, she says. “Lots of our members drive by every day, and we’ve been hearing about the project in every committee meeting since April! They’re so proud of what we’ve been able to help accomplish for the neighborhood. We would absolutely do this again.”
To learn more about how the Greater Nashville REALTORS® are embracing opportunities to revitalize community spaces, contact Alison Hendrickson, Director of Events and Government Affairs Coordinator, at 615-254-7516.