When friend and fellow blogger Ann Koplow was here in Nashville one of the things she noticed about downtown was the lack of houses with windows. It was an interesting observation, and while I’d never thought about the lack of windows one thing that’s always bothered me about Nashville is that it’s a city that for a long time kept business and residential areas widely separated. At the heart of downtown there are a lot of things to see and do but not a lot of places to live. This even created problems for tourists sometimes. For several years I went to the Southern Festival of Books, always held downtown on a weekend in late September, and while there was a lot going on at the festival it could be hard to get a good lunch because most of the restaurants and other businesses in the area simply shut down for the weekend. Their regular customers were the business people who were only around on weekdays.
Just a few blocks from the Festival was the Nashville Arcade, and while it’s now a bustling part of the Arts District, for several years it was deserted, even on a Friday afternoon.
In the mid ‘80’s and early ‘90’s there was an attempt to revitalize downtown with a summer weekend festival called Summer Lights that combined booths for businesses and free concerts, but all it ever really did was highlight how much of downtown was empty. Once the festival was over everybody left and there was no reason to come back.
As you head outward there are more houses, although there are some weird exceptions too. A stretch of 17th Avenue South, for instance, pictured above, looks like it’s a street of nice little houses, but look closely at the yard signs and you’ll see they’re all recording studios. Homes have been turned into businesses.
That’s slowly changing, especially downtown where some former businesses are being turned into homes—or at least apartments, but it was interesting to hear an outsider’s perspective, to see the city through the window of Ann’s eyes.