NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — This week, Metro Council Members approved an application for a federal grant that would help fund an effort to better connect North Nashville by creating a "cap" over Interstate 40.
The grant money would go toward a plan to expand the DB Todd Bridge over the interstate, creating what's called a "cap," where green space and public buildings could be built. In a tweet, Mayor John Cooper wrote the move would help "right a historic wrong."
Decades ago, Interstate 40 harmed and displaced an entire community. We will engage the people of North Nashville as we work to right this historic wrong. Thanks to Metro Council for supporting this innovative project. pic.twitter.com/1CpNHEJL7R— Mayor John Cooper (@JohnCooper4Nash) April 21, 2021
"It was just so much life over here on Jefferson Street," Lorenzo Washington said, while surrounded by pictures of Jefferson Street from the 1950s and 1960s. "All of the real excitement was over here on Jefferson Street."
Washington, who is director of the Jefferson Street Sound Museum, says for decades, the area was a hub for Black Nashvillians.
"Jefferson Street was a very vital area for our culture, not just for Black folk, but for the whole Black culture," he said.
But he said that culture that was disrupted when crews built Interstate 40 over, around and under historic Jefferson Street.
"Well, when the interstate came through it just totally disrupted the flow of traffic, walking and driving on Jefferson Street," Washington remembered. "The businesses that were on Jefferson Street started losing their business, the dust and the noise from the trucks started to disrupt the lives of the residents, and a lot of folk just wanted to leave... it just totally ruined the community that we had here."
Washington says decades later, the area is still dealing with those impacts.
"You know, we can hear the interstate from right here where we are now," he said.
Washington worries the Metro plan to help make the neighborhood more connected may come too late, as housing prices skyrocket in the area.
"At this point we don't own most of the land on Jefferson Street and the land is being priced out of range of a lot of Black entrepreneurs," he said.
But he's still optimistic about the future of the neighborhood.
"We've had our ups and downs over here on Jefferson Street, but I can see it coming back. I have faith in the future of our community."