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TENNESSEAN ARTICLE: Master Plan To Give Centennial Park New Life

February 13, 2017

In every conversation, one cannot avoid hearing it: 80 new people settle in our city every day, 30,000 people a year.

It is but a beginning.

Everywhere in the country, people suddenly have taken notice of Nashville. Its music, its food, its growing economy, its dynamism have made the city a magnet.

Accommodating this multitude, while keeping what we like about our city, is no easy task. We have to rethink our housing, our transportation, our downtown.

Failing would mean ending up with a subpar urban core, as so many American cities have done. Success could be building a jewel of a city that will provide happiness and opportunity for generations to come.

The Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park believes that no long-term success for Nashville is possible without a vision for Centennial Park, the most treasured civic asset in our town, a 132-acre park in the center of the city that connects the Nashville community to its suburbs, adjacent counties and visitors from all over the globe.

Right now, The Conservancy is in the midst of the most ambitious fundraising campaign of its history. Together with community leaders and corporations in Nashville, and with the full support of the Mayor and Metro Council, The Conservancy is partnering with the city to raise $30 million to give Centennial Park the attention that it deserves. The Centennial Park Master Plan will revive and enhance the grounds and make Centennial Park more attractive than ever in its 120-year history.

We have taken notice that cities are using parks in novel ways. This approach is on full display at Discovery Green in Houston, Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, and The High Line in New York City.

These parks have become the main calling card of entire neighborhoods and catalysts for smart growth, quality design, and economic opportunity. They solidify the character of a place, and help retain young families in the urban center. They encourage new real estate investment in apartments and office buildings, which in turn, fuels the tax base that needs to pay for education, pension funds, police and public works.

Investment in parks has paid off handsomely for the cities that have prioritized it. Boston, San Francisco, New York, Dallas and Houston have all reaped significant benefits from their new or upgraded parks. Austin, maybe the only city in the U.S. with the cachet that Nashville has at this moment in time, is now creating its own 21st-century park at Waller Creek.

Everywhere transformation is led by new private/public partnerships, rather than by public works alone. Private not-for-profit conservancies, such as The Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park, collaborate with government agencies to preserve, revitalize and program these parks to ensure vitality, civic access, and diversity of use.

Our vision for the transformed Centennial Park is that of a destination that will offer something to everyone. We view Centennial Park as a stage to celebrate the best of Nashville: nature, food, arts, music, crafts and sports. A place of entertainment activities, people gathering to hear music or enjoy plays, families spending a day bouncing between activities, colleagues meeting after work to relax, a place where multi-cultural events can call home and where grand celebrations can take place.

We invite our community to support our capital campaign, but also to raise your voices to carry the message that you wish to see Centennial Park become truly exceptional.

If you would like to help restore Centennial Park and learn about the vision for its future, visit pictureyourpark.com.

Jerome Barth is CEO of Town Square Consulting; former COO of The High Line; former Business Affairs Vice President of Bryant Park. Sylvia Rapoport is President of The Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park.