Business owner worries about gentrification if Jefferson Street Cap Project proceeds

Posted at 9:29 PM, Oct 13, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The idea is to reconnect North Nashville, a neighborhood that was divided into two when Interstate 40 was built in the 1960s. But some neighbors see a new proposal to reconnect the two sides, as a plan full of unintended consequences.

The Jefferson Street Cap Project is a proposal that would create a land bridge over I-40 that stretches from Dr. D. B. Todd Jr. Bridge to 17th Avenue. A majority of the money would come from the federal government. Yet some are worried it would price them right out of the neighborhood.

"It’s going to hurt more than it will help," said Frederick Waller, owner of Ooh Wee Bar-B-Q on Jefferson Street.

Waller believes he's against the cap, but not for the reasons you might think. He knows it would be a beautiful addition to the neighborhood. In fact, that's part of the problem. "Which is always a good thing when you can make the appearance better, however, when you talk about can a person afford to be in the area? That’s why I think it’s going to hurt," said Waller.

"We know this is an important project," said Faye DiMassimo, interim director of the Nashville Department of Transportation.

DiMassimo says gentrification is one of a few unintended consequences they're hoping to avoid. "We can make sure we’re being very intentional about the things we do to help prevent those," she said.

NDOT's vision for the Jefferson Street Cap is to reconnect North Nashville through something beautiful and potentially a game-changer economically. "That’s where the real focus is; is on what can this do to help support improving that reconnection and their quality of life," said DiMassimo.

She considers the space on top of the cap as a blank canvas. It will be public land, so what goes on top, could be anything considered good for the public. "Could be a community garden, could be some sort of an amphitheater type space that could be utilized by the university and by other community groups, recreation fields," she said.

But before they make that decision, neighbors and business owners like Frederick have to decide if they want the project in the first place. "That pushes the person that can’t afford out, and that’s not a good thing ever," said Waller.

Over the next few months, NDOT will continue to have community meetings and ask for people to take their online survey.

If the city decides to move forward, they will have to apply for the federal Department of Transportation grant money by March 2022.