Creating Places: A Citizen Observer's Look at Nashville's Built Environment
Writer's Note: William Williams' interest in the manmade environment dates to 1970, at which point the then-young Williams started a collection of postcards of city skylines. The collection now numbers 1,000-plus cards. Among the writer's specific interests are exterior building design, city district planning, demographics, signage, mixed-use development, mass transit and green/sustainable construction and living. Williams began his Creating Places column with The City Paper in February 2005. The column in its original form was discontinued in September 2008 and reinvented via this blog in November 2008. Creating Places can be found on the home page of the website of The City Paper, at which Williams has worked in various capacities since October 2000.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Creating Places: The most 'Nashville-like' city
Here are a few that come to mind:
* Austin. Like Nashville, it's a state capital, has a great music scene, is hilly, is home to lots of cool young people and is positively perceived by many folks nationwide. In contrast, Austin has one university (the University of Texas) of note (to Nashville's "big four" of Belmont, Lipscomb, Tennessee State and Vanderbilt universities), has a demographic makeup that shows more Hispanics than African-Americans (Nashville offers the opposite of that ethnic composition) and has already gotten in the game with mass transit.
* Charlotte. Similarities between the Queen City and Music City include topography, a modest collection of vintage masonry buildings (Nashville has more, which doesn't say much for Charlotte) and their status as their respective states' "main city" despite tough competition (Memphis for Nashville and Raleigh-Durham for Charlotte). There is also a similarity in ethnic/racial numbers. In contrast, Charlotte's Uptown skyline is significantly more impressive than Nashville's downtown skyline, while Nashville has a much more prestigious collection of universities.
* Atlanta. On the surface, this seems insane as Atlanta is considerably more populous, vibrant, urban and cosmopolitan. But look closely and you will see some parallels. Both cities are state capitals, both are home to multiple quality universities (including vibrant HBCU districts) and both offer diverse economies. Both Atlanta and Nashville bulldozed countless beautiful historic buildings in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Also, the geography — lots of hills and trees — is extremely similar.
* Providence. No doubt, this is a major stretch. Providence teems with historic architecture, people density and lots of water. In contrast, Nashville offers multiple contemporary buildings and great name recognition. But when I visited the Rhode Island city, I noticed some similarities that some might not realize. Both Nashville and Providence are capital cities, both have high-profile private universities (Brown in Providence and Vanderbilt in Nashville) and both have burgeoning arts scenes. Both have metropolitan populations of about 1.65 million. Nashville is home to the nation's largest Kurdish population, while Providence has one of the country's largest Liberian populations. Both cities have major employers in the health care and higher education sectors.
Feel free to weigh in. I'm curious to get reader feedback.