Middle Tennessee’s Best Practices

The Middle Tennessee region has a long history of working together to address shared issues of concern. Through regional collaboration and leadership the region has begun to address economic, transportation, and open space issues. The following Best Practices highlight a few of the former and current projects the Middle Tennessee region is working on create a more economically vibrant, livable, and sustainable region. Scroll through the page, or click one of the thumbnails below to jump to the Best Practice example.

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1. Promise for a green transportation future

2. Creating infill housing

3. Downtown revitalization in Dickson

4. Corridor revitalization in Franklin

5. Neighborhood revitalization & business district expansion

6. Rural economic development & comprehensive planning

7. Sustainable tourism strategy

 


Middle Tennessee’s promise for a greener transportation future

 

In 2010, The Nashville area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) introduced a new standard for the future growth and development of the ten-county Middle Tennessee region. Building on the Regional Visioning and Scenario Planning Project embarked by Cumberland Region Tomorrow (CRT) in 2001 and results from the Report to the Region in 2003, the Nashville area MPO sought to create a new regional transportation plan that reduces the need for sprawl development and is  anchored by walkable neighborhoods, public transportation, and maximizing the efficiency of current roadways. Meeting the laudable goal of shaping a more sustainable region will not be easy: in 2001, the Nashville metro area was cited as the nation’s most spread-out – the area with the fewest number of residents per square mile – in a review of 271 of our largest metro areas.

 

Under federal transportation law, responsibility for planning transportation investments assisted by federal funds – which includes most new or expanded transit service and just about all roads other than those that are purely local – is assigned to multi-county (and in a few border areas multi-state) metropolitan planning organizations. For the Middle Tennessee area including and surrounding Nashville, the state’s largest city, it is the Nashville MPO that plans how transportation dollars will be spent, and what new facilities, if any, will be built. In the US, this is as close to a true regional growth planning framework as we usually have.

If Nashville were to continue the course of recent decades, the results would not be pretty: the maps above show the developed area of the region in 1965, in 2009 and, if there is no change from past trends, in 2035 as the region adds an expected 900,000 more people, a 53 percent increase. A comparative analysis by Cumberland Region Tomorrow estimated that, without a change in investment philosophy, the region would be required to spend almost $7 billion for road construction and other infrastructure, compared to $3.4 billion under a more carefully planned scenario; would spread 62,000 additional acres of pavement and other impervious surface around regional watersheds, rather than “only” 35,000; and develop a whopping 365,000 additional acres of currently rural land, as compared to 91,000 acres under a more carefully planned scenario.

The 2035 Regional Transportation Plan has been adopted by the Middle Tennessee Mayors Caucus. The caucus is made up over 40 mayors and county executives representing the ten counties of middle Tennessee. This adoption has been key in helping to move the plan forward through implementation projects.

Particularly striking are the plan’s “major objectives,” which include the following:

 

  • Adopt a “fix-it-first” approach that emphasizes maintenance and improvement of existing facilities (in other words, ensure that current roads are repaired and maintained before building new ones).
  • Shift investment strategies toward a diversity of transportation modes, rather than focusing solely on roadway capacity.
  • Encourage the development of context-sensitive solutions “to ensure that community values are not sacrificed for a mobility improvement.”
  • Increase efforts to improve transportation corridors so they contribute to sense of place.
  • Invest in walkable communities that offer citizens the ability to access their needs without relying on automobiles.
  • Invest in a modern regional transit system.
  • Work to ensure that Middle Tennessee is considered in plans for high-speed intercity rail service.

 

The plan also adopts a 100-point scoring system with which to evaluate new transportation proposals. The evaluation criteria include nine categories, and the three that are given the most weight (15 points each), relate directly to sustainability:

 

  • System preservation and enhancement (including fix-it-first and context-sensitive approaches)
  • “Quality growth, sustainable development, and economic prosperity” (including whether the project supports infill and/or redevelopment within existing developed areas, is located near mixed-use and high-density areas [such as The Gulch, Nashville’s first LEED-ND-certified development], corrects stormwater drainage concerns, and is located near existing jobs)
  • Multi-modal options (such as transit service, bicycle facilities, and pedestrian improvements and amenities)

 

A fourth category, “health and environment” (10 points) also relates directly to sustainability. It evaluates whether a proposed project improves accessibility for low-income and minority communities, the disabled, and the aging; whether the project promotes physical activity, reduces miles or hours driven, or vehicle emissions; and whether it is located close to environmentally or culturally sensitive areas (if so, points are subtracted in the evaluation).

The 2035 Regional Transportation plan and the political support behind it has led to direct funding for pedestrian/ bike friendly projects and downtown investment in several Middle Tennessee communities. The plan also aligns with Nashville’s proposed downtown Nashville East-West Connector, a $175 million mass transit infrastructure project.

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Columbia, Tennessee: Creating Neighborhood Revitalization and Infill Housing Choices through Comprehensive Planning

The Columbia, Tennessee Housing and Redevelopment Corporation (CHRC) is more than just another housing authority. This relatively small agency has received national awards and even hosted Assistant Secretary of HUD Sandra Henriquez due to their large accomplishments. One of the main reasons for CHRC’s notoriety is that it is the only comparably-sized public housing authority in Middle Tennessee that also serves as a redevelopment agency. This distinction, along with great leadership and vision, allows CHRC the power to actively pursue revitalization city-wide, and has made CHRC and the City of Columbia a model for incorporating infill housing as part of neighborhood revitalization efforts.

CHRC along with partners in the private and public sector have created a successful model for addressing neighborhood revitalization, infill redevelopment, and creating housing choices and opportunity through the Columbia Comprehensive Plan. Here are a few lessons learned that many communities in our region can incorporate:

 

  • Expand your Comprehensive Plan to Allow More Housing Options

 

The redevelopment process in East Columbia began with Columbia’s portion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan in 2008 and 2009. The comprehensive planning process was instrumental to providing up-to-date maps, data, and statistics for both the county and municipalities—including Columbia, Mt. Pleasant, and Spring Hill. By capitalizing on existing information obtained through the Joint Comprehensive Plan, the City of Columbia funded an additional $10,000 investment towards the East Columbia Redevelopment and Urban Renewal Plan.

 

  • Identify the Housing Needs of your Community

 

In 2008, Columbia received a $519,000 grant from HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) to replace blighted homes in East Columbia with pre-built housing. Thanks to previous data collected through the Joint Comprehensive Plan, the City of Columbia was able to demonstrate abnormally high home foreclosure rates within particular neighborhoods in their grant application. Columbia also leveraged the Joint Comprehensive Plan recommendations to apply for and receive one of only two HUD Community Challenge grants awarded in the state. The $250,000 grant funded Columbia’s James Campbell Boulevard Strategic Corridor Plan.

 

  • Design to Create Attractive Communities and Housing

 

Good design is critical to the development and redevelopment of communities, particularly when providing a variety of housing types. A broader range of housing types that maintains the character and architectural style of an existing neighborhood not only looks better, but enhances overall property values. The City of Columbia chose a type of cottage style, pre-built housing made in nearby Pulaski, Tennessee for the East Columbia neighborhood. Not only are the pre-built homes cost effective they also blend well with the existing housing stock. These homes will eventually replace several dilapidated structures under the NSP implementation.

 

  • Use Incentives to Promote Housing Choice

 

Incentives can be used to encourage the creation of a range of housing choices with the right design in the desired locations that matches those needs. Incentives may include increased density levels, tax benefits, infrastructure improvements, and quick approval for developments that meet specified guidelines. As a redevelopment agency, CHRC can use Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to encourage development in certain areas. TIF districts use property or sales tax revenues in a defined area to enable private development to occur. The total tax revenue “base” attributable is established when a TIF district is formed. As redevelopment occurs, the added tax value, or tax increment, is placed in a special fund used to pay redevelopment costs, such as infrastructure improvements within the TIF district.

Under CHRC’s plan, lower-income single-family homes will replace blighted structures and act as catalysts for additional neighborhood reinvestment. CHRC’s partnership with GAP Community Development Resources of Franklin also provides a home buyer assistance education program for new homeowners.

Executive Director of CHRC, Trent Ogilvie admits that more work remains, but is confident that CHRC’s unique approach will continue to carry the city forward,

“We’ve shown how redevelopment can be inclusive of the residents and representative of their wishes. We’ve generated excitement and optimism within this community again.”

Ogilvie also expressed interest in sharing CHRC’s innovative approach with other communities within our region. Full contact information can be found here.

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Dickson, Tennessee: Successful Approach to Downtown Revitalization

Recently, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer announced a grant for downtown Dickson in the amount of $627,782. The grant will go towards Phase II of Dickson’s Downtown Revitalization Project designed to improve the downtown experience, and as Governor Haslam noted in a press release,

“…further Dickson’s efforts to give its downtown a more vibrant, inviting appearance and have positive impacts on the local economy, making downtown areas more accessible to residents and visitors.”

The grant was made possible by a federally-funded program administered by TDOT. Dickson was one of 22 projects awarded the grant this year by TDOT, which has funded more than $270 million in “non-traditional” transportation projects. Dickson’s success has relied on proven strategies that have helped other communities in our region pursue similar downtown reinvestment goals.

CRT’s Quality Growth Toolbox highlights these six basic strategies communities of all size can follow:

  • Define and Focus on Promising Areas

In 2007 a downtown committee made up of private and public leaders was formed to look at revitalizing downtown Dickson as the economic and cultural center of the community.

  • Create a Good Redevelopment Plan

A comprehensive plan that expresses public policy regarding redevelopment within a specific neighborhood is essential to success. Using local funds, Dickson hired the Nashville-based firm Lose & Associates to plan and apply for a grant that included new downtown improvements. In 2009 a matching grant was provided by TDOT. Dickson used this grant to plan and implement Phase I of the Downtown Revitalization Project.

  • Make Reinvestment Possible

To make investment in older developed areas more appealing, political and regulatory barriers should be removed as appropriate. In the case of Dickson, local leaders were aware of the success of other similar downtown communities in our region, such as Columbia, Gallatin, and Ashland City, and sought to replicate those efforts. By leveraging the political will and $1.5 million in private and public investment Dickson was able to complete Phase I in November of last year. This action clearly demonstrated the city’s commitment towards downtown revitalization efforts.

  • Use Incentives to Promote Reinvestment

Renovating or removing site improvements and supporting infrastructure can be expensive, which is a significant deterrent to reinvesting in older, developed portions of the community. Sometimes the community must make reinvestment more attractive for private organizations by providing financial incentives and sponsoring infrastructure improvements. Dickson did this by partnering with downtown business and property owners in the Phase I investment which helped to fund parking lot renovations, and streetscaping.

  • Design Attractive Community Centers

Using design guidelines, streetscapes specifications, and civic design principles can ensure that redevelopment efforts contribute to the unique features of communities.  Phase II of the improvement project will include ornamental street lighting, sidewalks with brick pavers, cross walks, resurfacing, and landscaping

  • Maximize Organizations and Resources in Revitalizing Areas

Many groups exist to help downtown revitalization efforts, such as The Tennessee Main Street and Tennessee Downtown Programs. From 2006 to 2010 the region’s four Main Street communities: Columbia, Gallatin, Franklin and Murfreesboro totaled $341.1 million in downtown reinvestment. Dickson worked with its downtown business and property owners to pursue enhancement grants provided by TDOT.

CRT applauds the City of Dickson, along with the many other communities in our region that are working to enhance and revitalize downtown centers and corridors. As our region and local communities continue to pursue economic development, Quality Growth and the principles and strategies of downtown reinvestment will continue to play a key role.

 

Click Here to learn more about CRT’s Quality Growth Toolbox.

 
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Franklin, Tennessee: Sustainability through Downtown & Corridor Revitalization


MT-3 - Franklin 1_resized“Fourteen miles and 100 years from downtown Nashville” as its proponents tell it, the city of Franklin is one of Tennessee’s truly outstanding downtowns. Nestled in historically agricultural Williamson County, the town boasts over 62,000 residents, many of whom commute north to jobs in Nashville but make their home in or near historic downtown Franklin or one of the surrounding rural hamlets. Celebrated for its public square, its Civil War history, its walkability, and its many Main Street festivals, the historically rich and mindfully developed city that is today’s Franklin is the result of decades of work on the cutting edge of preservation, design, planning, reinvestment, and community and economic development.

For almost thirty years, Franklin has been a pioneer of downtown, community, and economic development both within Tennessee and on a national stage. The Downtown Franklin Association, founded in 1984, was one of the state’s first Main Street organizations pairing historic preservation, revitalization, and community and economic development with impressive results. Working in partnership with property owners, local businesses, preservationists, and city and county government, the association has had an unparalleled influence on the emergence of Franklin as a brand and destination. In May 1995, Franklin was honored as one of the best downtown areas in the nation when it received one of the first five “Great American Main Street” awards ever given the by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since then, accolades have included the “Best Small Town in Tennessee,” “America’s Most Romantic Man Street,” and “One of America’s Greatest Antique Destinations.” Franklin was also the launch location of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Tennessee Civil War Trails program in 2008, due to its significant battlefield and campaign locations.

Part of what makes Franklin so outstanding is its continued commitment to excellence after almost thirty years of planning, design, and community development initiatives. Rather than rest on its laurels as one of Middle Tennessee’s most famous historic towns, Franklin has continued to explore new models for reinvestment and emerging best practices to keep the community on the cutting edge. In 2008, Ken Moore, then an alderman for the City of Franklin, began to call for more sustainability initiatives from the city and from the Downtown Association, hoping to make Franklin and Williamson County a model for green development and sustainable living. The result was the creation of the City of Franklin Sustainability Community Action Plan, adopted in 2009.

When Moore became mayor in 2011, he brought those initiatives to the forefront with the help of many partners and staff. The Downtown Franklin Association and the Heritage Foundation was the first group with whom the City of Franklin partnered when the local sustainability movement began. Under Directors Nancy Williams and Mary Pearce, the Downtown Franklin Association and the Heritage Foundation helped the City of Franklin to establish curbside recycling as a citywide institution, and supported a downtown movie theater’s reopening as a LEED-certified historic building. Franklin’s green momentum inspired other downtown businesses, including a Starbucks that installed rooftop solar panels to generate electricity.

Franklin has built upon successful downtown and neighborhood redevelopment and connected these efforts to its sustainability implementation. “Use of current buildings and infrastructure is one of the most sustainable practices within the built environment,” says Mayor Ken Moore as he reflects on Franklin’s success in implementation.

The guiding document for the city’s related efforts has been the Franklin Land Use Plan, which features sustainability themes throughout. The adopted Land Use Plan sets the vision for the community and gives detailed guidelines for each section of the city. The zoning ordinance and design guidelines implement the Land Use Plan by providing a legal framework for development and the practical application of the plan’s principles, including open space, tree conservation, storm water mitigation, historic preservation, and connectivity targets for all new development. Historic District Design Guidelines in turn protect the existing fabric and heritage of Downtown Franklin. The aligned Franklin Greenways and Open Space Master Plan is designed to create a well-connected network of bike lanes, sidewalks, and trails that safely link people to parks, schools, and other destinations. The city uses this plan to ensure that developers integrate their properties within the proposed trailway system when appropriate.

Another early partner with the City of Franklin and others in sustainability efforts was Franklin Tomorrow, a community-visioning nonprofit. In 2006, the organization produced a Green Building Report which led to the inclusion of sustainable building practices in the city’s new police headquarters. The group also held a lecture series on how to ‘live green in Franklin’ and now holds a permanent seat on the city’s Sustainability Commission. Other goals and projects underway read like a green wish list. Franklin has just received a grant from the Tennessee Main Street Program to build bike racks throughout the downtown. The city’s Department of Planning and Sustainability is working to re-design underutilized space in front of the historic post office as well as the adjacent archives building as a new outdoor event space. The city hopes to make this a key gathering spot and has already held on public meeting to discuss the project and make plans to complete the design by the end of summer 2013.

Columbia Avenue Complete Streets Corridor


MT-3 - Franklin 2In the next phase of Franklin’s central business district development and implementation, an adjacent key area targeted for retrofitting and business development is the Columbia Avenue corridor adjoining the downtown district, where the city is using Complete Streets design principles. Historic Columbia Avenue runs along State Route 31-South and connects Franklin’s central business district to Columbia, Tennessee, another state Main Street Community, in neighboring Maury County. Columbia Avenue or Highway 31 South is also one of the region’s most important historic preservation corridors connecting Civil War sites including Franklin’s Carter House Museum and the entrance to Carnton Plantation to nationally recognized Civil War battlefield sites located in Franklin, Thompson’s Station, Rippavilla Plantation in Spring Hill, Columbia, and southward along historic Highway 31 corridor.

To ready Columbia Avenue for a new role in connecting downtown Franklin to an emerging business district, Franklin has designed and built a cutting-edge Complete Streets corridor and designated the strip as a major reinvestment corridor. The Columbia Avenue project has already proven a catalyst for new public and private sector investment and returns, as several new businesses, banks, and agencies along with the Franklin Police Department have been established along Columbia Avenue to take advantage of the walking, biking, and transit traffic and connections to contiguous historic neighborhoods that Complete Streets development generates.

Projects like the Columbia Avenue corridor show Franklin’s outstanding capacity for integrating its long-standing downtown redevelopment efforts with new technologies and practices like the principles of Complete Streets design. The town continues to be a model for Tennessee Main Street communities, connecting placemaking, heritage tourism and economic development, and strategic infrastructure investment to maintain a small-town character that provides a timeless experience while incorporating cutting-edge green building technology/methods and sustainable community design principles.

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Nashville, Tennessee: Neighborhood Revitalization & Business District Expansion


MT-4 - East NashvilleLocated along the banks of the Cumberland River, Nashville is the capital of Tennessee and Middle Tennessee’s regional center. Commonly referred to as Music City, USA, Nashville is the hub for Middle Tennessee’s music, health care, publishing, banking, and transportation industries, which play a large role in the regional economy. On the eastern side of the Cumberland River lies the East Nashville community, comprising of unique neighborhoods that have been in place since before WWII. For many years considered to be a dangerous and blighted part of Nashville, these neighborhoods are in the midst of a renaissance due to its historic fabric and walkable atmosphere with an abundance of locally owned restaurants, churches, schools, and parks. East Nashville is the leading haven for Nashville’s creative class.

In April 1998 an F3 tornado touched down in East Nashville and made a chaotic and destructive path through the historic neighborhoods. Houses were destroyed and century-old trees were uprooted, leaving residents in various states of grief and bewilderment.

In the aftermath of the tornado, then-Mayor Phil Bredesen established the Tornado Recovery Board (TRB) to coordinate the city agencies, neighborhood residents, and business leaders contributing to the recovery efforts. The TRB worked with the American Institute of Architects Middle Tennessee to enlist the Regional Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT), a group of the nation’s best urban designers, planners, architects, and engineers, to help East Nashville recover from the tornado. The team developed a long-range plan that built on the community’s strengths, identified strategies to address physical damage and destruction, and looked at ways to revive East Nashville’s economy. The final plan, titled Rediscovery: A Plan for East Nashville, encouraged business district development, neighborhood connectivity, and improved mobility. Following the plan’s completion, the nonprofit organization, Rediscover East!, was established to continue the work of R/UDAT and represent the collective voice of the East Nashville community.

Due to the destruction caused by the tornado, East Nashville property owners received a significant amount of insurance money—the largest infusion of new money into the neighborhood in many years. As a result, the recovery process spurred one of the largest urban revitalization processes in Nashville’s history, utilizing the insurance money to reconstruct and renovate homes and businesses in the community. People from elsewhere in Nashville, who had never travelled across the river because of East Nashville’s poor reputation, saw how charming the area was and that it had historic homes that were significantly less expensive than in other parts of the city. Unexpectedly, the tornado breathed new life into East Nashville, sparking the creation of new neighborhood organizations and strengthening its sense of community.

The Five Points area of East Nashville, where Woodland Street, Clearview Avenue, and North 11th Street converge, was identified by R/UDAT as a focal point of a business development district. Eventually, it received a great deal of private investment, and by the early 2000s, an abandoned TV repair shop was converted to a coffee shop, a 1930s era gas station became a nationally recognized restaurant, and an old clapboard house was transformed into a neighborhood bar. Other restaurants moved into vacant storefronts and office spaces to give the Five Points area a diverse and eclectic array of shops and eateries, supported by the neighborhood’s growing residential consumers.

The initial revitalization of Five Points provided the foundation for more retail and economic development in the area. In 2011, local activists Bret and Meg McFadyen launched The Five Points Collaborative, a cooperative of small buildings on Woodland Street intended to foster the growth of additional retail outlets in the Five Points area. These business incubators encourage entrepreneurial small businesses by providing small rental spaces at fair prices. There are eight individual buildings for different start-ups, ranging in size from 168 square feet to 320 square feet. This small business incubator was one of the first in Nashville and has been successful in part because of the prior revitalization of the area, catering to the tastes of the East Nashville residents.

Today, Five Points is considered the business and activity center of the East Nashville community, home to an array of businesses including boutiques and shops, restaurants and bars, and a veterinary clinic. It is also the venue for the community’s signature event: The Tomato Art Festival. Five Points fosters an atmosphere that is friendly to pedestrians, bicycles, automobiles, and mass transit. This Complete Streets and multi-modal environment encourages a wide array of users who come to Five Points to eat, drink, and shop, and has helped to create a strong business district for East Nashville. Five Points will be the terminus for The AMP, a proposed bus-rapid transit route running east-west through Nashville, better connecting East Nashville to the rest of the city. This improved city-wide connectivity will increase the customer base for East Nashville’s growing local businesses and entrepreneurs. Spurred by the need to recover from a devastating tornado, East Nashville residents came together and made their community a thriving and dynamic place with a prosperous future.

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Robertson County, Tennessee: Rural Economic Development and Comprehensive Planning


MT-5 - RobertsonLong known as the home of “The World’s Finest Dark-Fired Tobacco,” Robertson County, which sits just north of Nashville between Interstate Highways 24 and 65, is a county with dual identities. Though its famous agricultural economy is alive and well, bringing in more than $115 million annually from 1,400 farms across 230,000 acres, Robertson also boasts one of Middle Tennessee’s most thriving industrial and manufacturing sectors. Its eleven incorporated municipalities range from densely populated urban areas to rural hamlets and bedroom communities. The county seat of Springfield anchors a diversified manufacturing presence, including appliance companies, automotive suppliers, other diversified manufacturers, and major logistics and distribution centers.

With this steady base of employment and a median household income ranking seventh in the state of Tennessee, Robertson County’s 70,000 residents would seem fortunate and well-positioned to succeed, but a closer look at the statistics reveals some worrying facts. More than 70% of employed Robertson County citizens leave the county each day to go to work – one of the highest rates of out-commuting in the state. Providing infrastructure and services to a growing county has stretched county and municipal budgets thin, as a 20% increase in population since 2003 has caused the demands of commuters to outpace road and transit maintenance and construction. An even greater projected future population growth – 40% over the next decade – threatens the open spaces, rich farmland, and rural character that defines Robertson County’s identity and heritage and is the basis for its important agricultural economic sector.

In July 2012, Robertson County embarked on a journey with two desired endpoints: a new comprehensive growth and development plan and a comprehensive economic development strategy. Business leaders, government partners, and community members alike all voiced the desire to accelerate economic development and create high-wage jobs while protecting the county’s rural culture and important agricultural resources that would be supported by both efforts.

Realizing Robertson Comprehensive Growth and Development Plan


Building upon this momentum and support, in August of 2012, the Robertson County Commission approved funding for this project to create and implement a comprehensive growth and development plan that would guide future economic and community development actions. It would build off of a series of workshops held in 2007 where Robertson County citizens shared their hopes and concerns about the future of their communities. AIA Middle Tennessee and Cumberland Region Tomorrow partnered in this first CRT Quality Growth Pilot Project in the Middle Tennessee Region, offering visioning, design, education, technical support, and guidance. Funding from a USDA Rural Development RBEG grant and contributions from three partner rural municipalities allowed Robertson County leaders to secure professional consultation and begin work in 2012 with Quality Growth Advisory Committee members serving as Steering Committee members for the comprehensive plan effort. The Robertson County comp plan will support economic and community development goals and outcomes that are intended to guide future growth in such a way as to preserve the county’s agricultural resources, protect open space, and allow county and city governments to responsibly steward their financial resources while providing necessary services and infrastructure for the growing population.

Slated for completion and implementation in late 2013, the Robertson County Comprehensive Growth and Development Plan will provide an integrated framework for decisions related to growth, development, infrastructure, community services, and conservation of cultural and natural resources by:

  • Describing a collective vision for the future of the county and the communities located within its boundaries.
  • Recognizing that Robertson County and its communities are keenly aware of their cultural and natural resource-based heritage, which is integral to established agriculture and related land-based economies, the vibrant sense of place, and the unique identity of the area.
  • Providing direction for land developers and homeowners on future land use, transportation, and utility networks; and laying out policies guiding the future development of the county, enabling landowners to protect their investments and manage their property.
  • Guiding the financial decisions of the county and cities to most effectively direct limited public resources to serve the greatest good.
  • Developing infrastructure to ensure effective transportation, information, and water supply and delivery systems critical to maintaining and enhancing the communities’ efficient functioning and quality of life in conjunction with local priorities and regional MPO and TDOT planned transportation and transit investments.
  • Enabling the Planning Commissions, County Commission, City Councils, and other boards and councils to make fair and consistent decisions on projects and policies, and ensure wise use of fiscal and land resources in support of future economic and community development efforts.

Realizing Robertson’s Future Economic Development Strategy


As the comp plan project moved forward, the Robertson County Chamber and local economic development leaders began work on a parallel economic development plan focused on creating quality jobs, retaining and expanding existing businesses, improving education and workforce training, addressing transportation and infrastructure projects, and growing the local economy. The Realizing Robertson Economic Development Strategy was developed based on a series of visioning sessions involving over 125 community and business leaders.
In July 2012, the Realizing Robertson’s Future launched, with fifty-two investors committed to providing more than $1.2 million in funding. A four-year economic, business and workforce development plan, Realizing Robertson’s Future featured measurable goals and recommendations. Recognizing the interdependence of the county’s agricultural character and manufacturing clusters, the Realizing Robertson’s Future plan calls for mutual support with the Robertson County Comprehensive Growth and Development Plan. Both plans commit to transportation and land use planning to maintain and enhance the county’s quality of life. Because economic development leadership recognizes the importance of support for the growth plan, the Robertson County Chamber and its investors have proposed a matching grant of $50,000 for the implementation of the recommendations developed in the comp plan.

In 2013, Robertson County is poised to experience the most prosperous and successful period in its long and storied history. With a proactive approach focused on economic sectors that will take advantage of its competitive assets and complement its vision for the future, Robertson County leaders hope to provide support and opportunities for all of its citizens, communities, and economic clusters. With the commitment and involvement of public and private sector leadership, Robertson County has put plans in place to participate in the growth and development coming to the Middle Tennessee Region on its own terms in the coming years.

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Cheatham County, Tennessee: Sustainable Tourism Strategy Implementation


MT-1 - Cheatham 1Though quiet, hilly Cheatham County sits just down the road from Nashville, its towns and residents might as well be a world away. Rich in scenic beauty and blessed with numerous natural and cultural resources, the county has maintained its essentially rural character to this day, and boasts a relatively small population of about 40,000 people.

Due to its rural setting and lack of large employers, Cheatham County faces unique economic challenges. The county has the highest external commuting rate in Tennessee, at 82.5%, with only 3,300 of the approximately 21,000 skilled workers in Cheatham County employed within the county. The county’s low daytime population puts economic stress on businesses and restaurants: Cheatham County has the highest retail leakage rate of any county in Tennessee, with a current rate of 68%.

With so many workers and so much consumer spending headed elsewhere, community leaders recognized the need for ways to bring revenue into the county. Seeking to generate more economic development opportunities, local business leaders funded and launched Cheatham Vision in 2010 with the intent to improve Cheatham County’s economy and overall quality-of-life. Later that year, Cheatham Vision released Open for Business, a three-year economic, business, and workforce development strategy.

One of the specific strategies outlined in the plan was to identify, develop, and market Cheatham County’s outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational assets. By developing the county’s tourism industry and targeting specific new businesses, the community hoped to create local jobs and new business development opportunities. In addition, new tourist spending would boost revenues at local businesses such as restaurants, service stations, shops, and lodging. Increased sales taxes would help schools and public services while reducing the need for property tax increases.

In early 2012, the Cheatham County Chamber of Commerce formed a partnership with Cumberland Region Tomorrow (CRT) and with their assistance secured a Rural Business Enterprise Grant through the Tennessee Rural Development Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The RBEG grant provided funding to inventory, access, and document all existing and potential tourism and recreation resources in Cheatham County and to develop a Sustainable Tourism Plan.

The development of the Cheatham County Sustainable Tourism Plan was broken down into five main tasks:

  • Task One: Inventory, document, and assess the natural, cultural, and recreational resources in Cheatham County to develop a sustainable tourism plan.
  • Task Two: Determine realistic economic enhancement strategies based on existing and potential attractions.
  • Task Three: Identify specific businesses to be targeted to provide for additional tourist and recreational use of the county’s resources, and develop detailed demographic and usage data to enable local business leaders to recruit such businesses and generate new jobs.
  • Task Four: Identify economic development incentives from local, regional, state, and federal sources that can help existing and new businesses that will be targeted through Task Three.
  • Task Five: Generate a written sustainable tourism plan for economic and community development implementation. Provide businesses and other organizations with marketing and outreach materials, photography, graphic icons, and links for tourism cluster promotion.

CRT was contracted to provide consulting services to complete needed resource assessment, technical analysis, perform gap business and incentive analysis, coordinate community engagement, and generate the final deliverable: the Sustainable Tourism Strategy. In addition, CRT agreed to coordinate with state-level Rural Economic Development partner agencies including the Tennessee Departments of Agriculture, Tourist Development, Wildlife Resources, and Economic and Community Development to ensure that Cheatham County objectives aligned with state objectives and incentives to ensure successful implementation.

Led by the Chamber of Commerce, CRT worked with Pawpaw Partners, a Nashville-based natural and cultural resource planning firm, and other business leaders to look at each of the county’s four incorporated communities and determine recommendations for place-specific marketing strategies. Ashland City would be promoted as a recreational center, Kingston Springs for its historic character, and Pleasant View for its agricultural heritage. Pegram, just west of the Bellvue section of Nashville, would be marketed as a center for local crafts and music.

The Cheatham County Sustainable Tourism Plan will be completed in the winter of 2013. In addition to business recruitment, the plan will provide the Chamber and Economic Development leaders with new marketing tools for the Vision Cheatham Tourism Cluster, along with new watchable wildlife and motorcycle tours, enhanced ecotourism, and a ndew arts initiative. Possibilities also include the county’s first high-end hotel, incubator spaces for artists, outdoor outfitters, and agritourism resources. Thousands of new visitors will soon discover this quiet county on Nashville’s urban edge and support local economic and community development objectives thanks to innovative planning and marketing strategies completed through this first-ever Tennessee project.

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