It’s Franklin Corridor Week at Mayor Phil Bredesen’s office. Mayoral staffers have been collecting information and assessing public opinion on the $50 million project since May. And Bredesen’s press secretary, Shannon Hunt, confirms that various Metro agencies are preparing to give the mayor a “regular update” on the controversial corridor next Monday, July 21.
The Metro Planning Commission and the Metro Public Works Department have proposed a seven-lane roadway, to be constructed south of Broadway along Franklin Street. The corridor would connect a new bridge over the Cumberland to a new viaduct over the railroad gulch. The Demonbreun Street viaduct would be demolished.
The corridor plan was announced three years ago, and proponents of pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development south of Broadway have been fighting it ever since. The corridor’s opponents claim that a seven-lane thoroughfare would create a barrier between downtown and Rutledge Hill and Rolling Mill Hill. They also say that the corridor would be another James Robertson Parkwaya route around the city rather than into it.
The latest skirmish in the Franklin Corridor battle is a bureaucratic one. The Metro Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) has asked a planning team, led by architect Gary Everton, to prepare an update of Metro’s plan for Subarea 9, the planning district that includes SoBro. At a meeting of the Subarea 9 Citizens Advisory Committee on June 12, Everton’s team recommended an alternative to the corridor.
To make sure the corridor isn’t just a bypass, the team suggested that it should end with a public square on Eighth Avenue. They recommended turning the corridor into a tree-lined boulevard, with on-street parking and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks. The team also recommended repairing or replacing the existing Demonbreun viaduct to connect Music Row with the new Country Music Hall of Fame.
At the conclusion of the June 12 meeting, Jerry Fawcett, who works for the Planning Commission, objected to the team’s boulevard alternative, stating that the Planning Commission had already approved the corridor plan and made it official Metro policy. Since that time, a heated debate has continued. Staffers at the Planning Commission and at Public Works want the updated Subarea 9 Plan to support their corridor plan. Members of the planning team are promoting their boulevard alternative. MDHA staffers are acting as referees.
A July 17 draft of the Subarea 9 Plan states that “the current position of the Metro government is to continue with the [Franklin Corridor] alignment recommended by Metro Public Works and Metro Planning Commission.” The draft includes the boulevard option as “an alternative for consideration.”
All of Metro is waiting to see which way Bredesen is leaning. According to Phil Ryan, acting development director for MDHA, “The mayor is a major player who has not yet had a chance to speak to this issue.” MDHA, Public Works, the Planning Commission, and the Subarea 9 planning team will all have representatives at the mayor’s office on Monday.