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VOL. 38 | NO. 20 | Friday, May 16, 2014

Seeing the future in commuter-friendly residential developements

By Bill Lewis

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The developers of the Nashville region’s first two Transit Ready Developments are counting on the idea that commuters would rather catch a train or a bus just a few steps from their door than sit in rush hour traffic.

“You can only build so many roads,” says Jack Bell, the developer of Hamilton Springs in Lebanon.

He designed the subdivision around a rail stop for the Music City Star, the commuter train that provides service between downtown Nashville and Lebanon. That rail stop is being funded by a $1.6 million federal grant and should be under construction next spring, says Bell, who is contributing $400,000 out of his own pocket.

An apartment development opened at Hamilton Springs late last year and the first of more than 2,000 homes are under construction. About 20 percent of the 262-acre community is being preserved as green space, adds Bell.

The region’s other Transit Ready Development (TRD), Greensboro North, is being planned in Gallatin. It will be built around a depot for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service – called the “rubber tire option” because it works like a commuter train but travels on the highways.

“We’ve designed a project for the future mass transit options that are to come. And they have to come,” says Lee Zoller, whose Gallatin-based company, Green & Little, LP, is developing Greensboro North.

The mixed-use community is eventually expected to include about 2,000 residences and 1 million square feet of office, retail and restaurant space, all on 150 acres between Vietnam Veteran’s Highway and Highway 31 E. Greensboro North will include undeveloped green space and a variety of housing options, such as apartments and single-family homes, in a walkable, bikeable community. Construction is expected to take place over 20 to 30 years.

Developers expect Greensboro North and Hamilton Springs to attract commuters who don’t want to spend their mornings and evenings in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstates 40 and 65, explains Jay Everett, a landscape architect with Lose & Associates. The Nashville company helped plan both communities.

“Diverse segments of the population are going to be looking for options that don’t exist today,” he says.

Developments like Greensboro North are a “quality of life issue … and are the way of the future,” Gallatin Mayor Jo Ann Graves has said.

Greensboro North is expected to have a large role in regional transportation options.

The Regional Transportation Authority expects to locate its park and ride service at the site this summer. Riders enjoy the convenience of express bus service between Gallatin and downtown Nashville.

Interest in mass transit is growing across the region. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) recorded more than 10 million passenger trips in fiscal 2013. MTA provided 9.7 million passenger trips within the city on buses and vans. RTA provided about 800,000 passenger trips on the Music City Star and on buses and vans.

At Hamilton Springs in Lebanon, the first residents are already looking forward to catching the train. Aaron and Allison Steinbach moved into their new apartment last October.

“We like going downtown to experience city life. The thought of taking the train to town and having fun for a day and riding it home sounds nice,” says Aaron Steinbach. “We’re right on the tracks, so we can walk to the train.”