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VOL. 41 | NO. 4 | Friday, January 27, 2017

3 voices from changing neighborhoods

By Linda Bryant

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Granberry

Since losing her rented inner-city duplex two years ago, Shamita Granberry has had a difficult time reaching any semblance of stability, to put it mildly.

At first, Granberry stayed with various friends all in different parts of town and made arrangements for her son, who is a high school senior, to live 14 miles from the city’s core with her mother in Antioch.

Sometimes she slept in her car. Because of health issues and lack of transportation, Granberry eventually lost her job at the state.

Granberry is living at the Stadium Inn near the LP Field, where she pays $225 a week for rent. She has worked a series of jobs, mostly customer rep positions, but says she’s often lost them largely because of transportation or medical issues.

“I’d rather work and stay independent,” Granberry says. “I don’t have a car and need to be in the city where the services are. That’s why I’m not out there in Antioch right now or further away from the city.

“If I didn’t have income, I think I could get more assistance. There’s nothing to help people who are trying. If I had a drug addiction or domestic violence, there are more services for me.

“I’m living a new kind of homelessness, and I think it’s related to all this gentrification. I’m just working to get my feet back on the ground. The people at the motel have worked with me, but there’s only so much they can do.

“I make it work. It might not be a lot, but I eat every day. You figure out ways to make it work. You buy a cup of noodles or a bag of potatoes. You go to the food bank. I have faith, and I never stop moving. I never cease to jump on an opportunity.”

Linda Miller

Linda Miller has been a homeowner in Clayton Avenue in the Breeze Hill neighborhood since 1982. Her vintage home is just blocks from the hip 12South district and the Melrose/Berry Hill area, which is exploding with apartment buildings and infill development.

Miller, who is retired, isn’t in danger of losing her home and doesn’t plan to sell her home to developers, though they’ve often encouraged her to sell to make way for new development.

Over the past decade, Miller has seen many of her neighbors move, either because they sold homes to developers or were renters and were asked to leave.

Linda Miller and her husband George have lived in their home on Clayton Avenue for a long time. They’ve seen new development all around them and have no plans on leaving. The homes to the left of her were developed 11 years ago. Which was when the changes began.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

“The growth has really ramped up in the past five years,” Miller says. “They keep coming and asking us, do you want to sell? But we aren’t leaving. Not until they take me out of here in a pine box. This is home.

“There is construction all around us. They are four homes on a lot where there was once one home. There are 12 homes on what was formerly three lots. Neighbors who said they’d never sell have turned around and sold six months later. I’m not sure where they go. I know one ended up in Mt. Juliet and one neighbor moved to Atlanta.

“We’ve tried to adjust, but sometimes it’s hard to see how you’re improving a neighborhood when you’re tearing down really nice older historic homes and replacing them with homes that look cheaper, at least to me. It’s hard not to see it as a greed rush, but I’m trying. Again, I understand young families need places to live.

“I understand people have to live somewhere, and I understand things change. People move in with new families and babies because we are close to 12South, Sevier Park and all the new restaurants and bars. But it can be hard to understand for some of us who’ve been here for such a long time. The fabric of the neighborhood has changed so drastically and sometimes it feels distorted.

“I want to remain a loving person and not be judgmental. I pray to be friendly and open with my new neighbors. I don’t want to sound angry, that’s totally ungodly. I try to reach out. I’m a walker, so I walk around the neighborhood. But a lot of the new people don’t say a word to me. Sometimes I walk up and shake their hand.”

Sam McCullough

Sam McCullough has lived in East Nashville’s Cleveland Park neighborhood since he was born. He’s lived through almost six decades of changes.

When he was a youngster, Cleveland Park was an African-American neighborhood where McCullough felt safe. He loved to camp out in his backyard.

By the late 1970s and 1980s, the neighborhood became vulnerable to crime, prompting longtime residents to organize and try to improve conditions. A neighborhood association and crime watch were formed.

McCullough, who is a community organizer at Meharry Medical College, is especially proud of a $50,000 block grant Cleveland Park received in 2007 to make neighborhood improvements.

Soon afterwards, Cleveland Park became one of Nashville’s hottest neighborhoods for new growth and development. He says many of his neighbors left or were forced out.

McCullough is passionate about trying to preserve the history of Cleveland Park, although he admits it’s often an uphill battle.

McCullough

Here are his words:

“There is so much happening so fast to so many people. Everyone is addressing it. The powers that be are listening, but I don’t see enough action to back up their talk. Nashville is changing in some good ways, but it’s not the “it city” for everybody.

“No one seems to know what’s happening to all the people who’ve left our neighborhood. The renters are the most vulnerable. If you own your home no one can fault you for selling if it’s going to help your life. But I do know that when some folks sell, [but] they can’t buy anywhere near [their previous homes.] They end up buying further out or leave the city.

“I know one (displaced) neighbor ended up living with a relative in Sumner County. It’s sad that no one seems to care about what happens to people (once they are displaced from a neighborhood).

“I believe we’ve gone from one of the most affordable neighborhoods to one of the least affordable. Some of the results are just morally wrong. Last year homelessness in Nashville went up (by 9.8 percent). I believe it’s related to gentrification.

“In my neighborhood, I really see a big disconnect between the old residents and new residents. I understand that a lot of Nashville is being rebuilt for upwardly mobile people and millennials, and they like to be near hip and trendy stores and restaurants. I’ve lived in this neighborhood since I was born, and I don’t have the discretionary money to go to all these new places that have opened up here.

“I’m worried about next year because that’s when property taxes are going to go up. It’s going to create a major hardship on some people; they just won’t have the funds.

“A lot of older residents feel like their voices aren’t being heard. People need to realize you need your neighbors. It’s a strange dynamic to live in a neighborhood for 60 years and have so many new neighbors you don’t know. I used to be able to speak to everyone.

“We were a close neighborhood. Now, there are some neighbors who won’t speak to me if their life depended on it.”

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