NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A West Coast aerospace company looking to build a roughly 150,000 sq. foot facility in North Nashville near Tennessee State University has caused some residents to say "Nashville, we have a problem."
Real estate and project developer, Atwater Infrastructure, said the facility would bring at least 150 new jobs to the area. The Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency owns the 13.1 acres of land where the facility would be located. It is currently a landlocked grass and wetland area.
Councilman Edward Kindall said he opposes the project, for now, because residents are left with more questions than answers. Kindall said since the public was made aware of the project in March, there have only been two public hearing meetings.
"The community did not have an opportunity to really learn about it. People really haven't seen renderings anything of that nature, they don't know the impact that's going to have on the environment, they don't know the impact that it's going to have on the traffic," Kindall said.
Lead project developer, Jerry Maynard, said 35 percent of the jobs must come from the 37208 and 37209 zip codes --- underdeveloped areas. Workforce development training programs will be available for employees to earn their welding certificate. Maynard said Atwater is intentional about hiring from black and brown communities. Atwater also signed a preliminary agreement to pay MDHA $2.3 million dollars for the landlocked land.
"TDOT is building a $5 million road extension on Dr. Walter Davis Blvd that will go around TSU to the facility which will not effect the neighborhood or traffic," Maynard said.
Long-time North Nashville resident Erskine Lytle question why affordable housing could not be placed instead of the facility.
"Let's go back and revisit some of this so maybe we get some understanding about what's going on and why this area and if you want to put a plant there why can't you put affordable housing there? That's something we know we need. I just think there are better things that can be done, some are aesthetic," Lytle said.
MDHA Director of Communications Jamie Berry said the land for the project does not qualify for affordable rental housing because of U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD) neighborhood standards. Maynard said three acres of the land are in a flood zone.
Proponent and TSU alumnus Jamie Isabel Sr. said facilities like the proposed project do not come often to an African-American community.
"It's a great project for Tennessee State University and it's a great project for the residents that live in this area. It puts TSU's engineer department closer to NASA with a relationship. It's good for the community, we always want affordable housing, how can you have affordable homes when people can't afford them. This plant would give people the opportunity to work in the area, shop in the area and enjoy life in the area," Isabel said.
The Metro Planning Commission said there are two items being considered --- a community plan amendment (from an Open Space policy to a District – Employment Center policy) and a zoning change (from residential to SP – mixed industrial). Both have been deferred until June 13th for a Planning Commission Meeting which includes pubic hearing on both items.