Nashville is growing faster than any of city in the US. By 2035, we are estimated to have a population of 2.6 million in our 10 county region. Among the many accolades our city has been given, one of the highlights includes being ranked #10 for best places for tech jobs and starting a business.
At a Glance (source Forbes )
With all of the great accolades and growth occurring in Nashville, the question among government officials, community leaders, citizens, business owners, and developers pretty much lies the same. Where are all of these 2.6 million going to live by the year 2035? The Metro Nashville Planning commission has created the Nashville Next initiative to gather 1,000s of ideas from community members on how we would envision our city within the next 25 years. I have been so fortunate to be apart of this by participating in small groups as well as open forums discussing how we should plan for such growth in our city, and more specifically Nashville North By North East (Talbot's Corner, Katie Hill, Dickerson Road Historic District, Brick Church Pike Business Park, and Lock One Park/ Heaton's Station)
Since I began this journey as a community organizer almost 2 years ago, I have become more enlightened, educated, and grateful for each and every individual I have met along the way. Each individual has played a role in the now extensive network I have in Nashville community, and I only look forward to meeting new faces everyday. They range from my neighbors, other community leaders, city council members, government officials, small business owners, church leaders, philanthropists, corporations, Realtors, professors, commercial developers and residential developers/builders. As I have made relationships with each and every person, I have become more defined and passionate regarding my personal beliefs on inclusion and revitalization vs. gentrification. And if you can't tell already, I'm a little bit passionate about it. Better yet, I am passionate about people. About community.
Look, this is not an easy subject to touch on, and it is quite sensitive to many individuals, including me. I get a angry look on my face when someone says, " Oh that's great, Lindsey, what you are doing with the children in the community. So many other communities in Nashville are already gentrified, and you are on your way." Nothing could make me more sick to my stomach. The term 'gentrification' and helping children have absolutely nothing to do with each other in my opinion. In many ways, there aren't many individuals in my position right now. To be quite honest, it is so hard to be "stuck in the middle", yet I see this as an opportunity to bridge the gap between equitable development and community inclusion/preservation. Let me explain why:
1. I am not a Realtor , but if I were , I've been known to sell ice to Eskimos, but only when I am passionate about my product and have created an emotional connection with that product, place, or ability to help the other individual or group of individuals. If I don't feel that way, then I won't be involved in the transaction.
2. I am not a developer, but I help develop. I have helped on the back end of many transactions, and I connect property with good people based on the needs of the community. I will not consider my own, or anyone's financial interest over the needs of the community and it's people.
3. I am in love with diversity and inclusion. I am in love with not just the children on Katie Hill, but the single mom who struggles to feed and cloth her babies, or the mom who has the 20 year old son in prison and struggling to ensure he is taken care of in a prison system that has minimal compassion regarding how they treat individuals as human beings.
4. I'm the odd WOman out. I'm white, yep you didn't know? I'm single. I live here. I love here. I create art here. This is not my community, but it is Katie Hill's Community.
So with all this being said, I am stuck right in the middle, and to get to the point, Nashville, we have GOT to change the way we are developing OUR communities and the ways in which approach the growth occurring in our own back yards. There has to be a balance among equitable development and the over-all well being of a community and its people; old and new. For developers and Realtors who do not know me or heard my story, I think I will start saying #sorryimnotsorry in advance before I educate you all real quick on how we do things a bit differently here on Katie Hill. My conversations with Realtors or builders ignite with excitement when speaking on all the great investment opportunities on The Hill. In most conversations, I can pick up in about 5 minutes if the developer or builder would be a good fit for Katie Hill. If he/she speak negatively about the eye sores and the amount of money to be made vs. focusing on the positives attributes, inclusion, and diversification, I usually shut them down real fast. Look, I get it. I have to make a living and take care of my business. And don't get me wrong, I love the idea of having new neighbors and the value of my home increasing, duh. I'm a business woman. But at what point in the business life cycle do people realize that there are ways to build communities with a conscious, or are we so far gone that we can't consider the human beings who have occupied a property or a neighborhood for sometimes 30 to 50 years?
I am so blessed to be working with the best of the best on Katie Hill. We know each other so well, and are at a pivotal moment in our growth cycle in which we can protect those around us, and grow at the same time. Why? BECAUSE WE LIVE HERE. When you actually live in a community, you will do anything you can to lower crime statistics and create a safe environment by building relationships and trust with local law enforcement/ govt. agencies. In our minds, if we don't do it, it might not be done consciously, and again WE LIVE HERE. We want to experience fellowship with our neighbors, and create opportunities for those who may have never had the same ones we've had. You see a child, and you know they deserve the same education and opportunities of those children living in nicer communities, because we know that education is vital to a child's success as he/she goes out into the real world.
With all of this being said, I want to challenge everyone in Nashville to think a little differently, specifically those in the real estate and development industries. This is not a difficult concept, and Lord knows we won't do everything perfectly and will make mistakes along the way. As a neighbor and a community organizer, I will ask you to do a few thing going forward that you may not have thought of in the past. Consider the community in which you intend on revitalizing before you consider the money going into your pocket. Consider the families, the children, and the homes in which people occupy, regardless of their race or income level. There is plenty of money to be made in this growing economy, but I also feel as if we can do a better job paying mind to the neighborhoods that have been around for years and years, generation after generation. Do some homes need vast improvements? Sure. But what ways can we help residents improve their quality of life or effectively incorporate affordable housing ( which raises the question of... what is affordable these days ?) with the booming real estate market? In my opinion, the ones who really step into the community to play a bigger role than just ' developer', 'realtor' or even 'new homeowner' , will preserve while improving the future landscape of our city. This is why Nashville Next is so vital to our city. The people must stand up for what they would like to see in their neighborhoods. We live here, we have a to speak up for those who may not have voice or impact.
Everyone has the opportunity to be a giver and community activist in their everyday lives by considering the basic needs and necessities of all individuals. I would also ask you to speak differently when referring to the diverse dynamics of certain neighborhoods. Stop dwelling on the negatives. Stop dwelling on the fact there is crime, and do something about it. I promise you, when I had my old condo for sale in Hillsboro Village, no one asked me about the gun that was pulled on me right outside my front door, because based on perception, that is something that would never happen in such an affluent community.... right? I also would ask you to take ownership in the neighborhoods your work in. Pick up trash if you see it on the side of the road, get to know the people who live on the streets, and treat them like you would want to be treated. As Realtors, you are not just selling a home, you are selling a lifestyle. If you are showing/selling property in a diverse community, encourage your buyers to get involved and get to know their new neighbors.
And Last, integrate social responsibility into your business plans and work with other Realtors, developers, neighborhood associations, and local business owners in the communities your serve. Developers/Builders, , consider hiring work with in the neighborhoods you are building in. If you see young men walking the streets without work, offer to teach them. Incent your contractors to hire these young men (and women). This is grassroots folks. This is not donating money or plopping your logo next to a charity ( which is all good if that's your thing) , this is getting your feet dirty and putting true effort into improving the quality of life for everyone, old and new. In life, many individuals will disappoint us, but I promise, if you can develop relationships with those around you in need, you may change 10 lives or maybe just 1, but you have at least provided an opportunity to the communities in which you serve, and that's what it takes. One individual can make an incredible impact. You may call yourself just a Realtor, builder, or developer. But in my opinion, you are so much more; the next 20 years in Nashville sits on your shoulders, and I'm a bit nervous about it. You can either continue building and encouraging gentrification,or you can take a socially responsive approach to this growth and differentiate yourself from the rest by putting people and the needs of the community first. I promise, you will be financially rewarded. It's just the way this universe works.
Myself, along with many others are passionate about our inner city communities, especially our children. We want to see Nashville unlike any other US city regarding diversity and economic growth.
If you have not considered what your company or organization is doing to become more socially responsible, I would recommend an action plan, otherwise, the ones who care about this issue will speak even louder.
I have done several interviews with different media outlets and this topic seems to be covered more and more everyday. This is not a threatening message by any means, it's simply a message of encouragement in hopes you might think a little differently when you walk the streets of Nashville showing property , or knock on the door of an 85 year-old widowed African-American woman to inquire on purchasing her home as an investment. The government may control many aspects of growth through regulations and zoning, but they will never be able to regulate our conscious or character. Nashville's future relies on each and every one of us.
Be sensitive. Be bold. Be passionate. Be Different .Make A Difference.
Kind Regard and LOVE for NASHVILLE -
Lindsey C Langley