Nashville is set to open the first 1.25 miles of a planned 7-mile long 440 Greenway that will parallel Interstate 440 and connect neighborhoods currently divided by Interstates 40 and 440. Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation and Greenways for Nashville are hosting an opening at 10:00 am, Saturday, October 27th, at Elmington Park. In honor of that celebration, we wanted to explore the magic of Greenways.
Greenways are magical because they can be more than weekend walking trails. While recreation is definitely a Greenway staple, in some other cities these trails have ushered in a new wave of daily work commute options, opened the doors to creative revitalization, and brought newfound economic growth.
We went looking. During our exploration of Greenways, we learned that in cities like Minneapolis, Minnesota and Indianapolis, Indiana there had been success in reclaiming public spaces by incorporating existing or building new Greenways.
Greenways have connected neighborhoods as well as workforce to jobs in new and exciting ways. For example, commuters traveling to work in Minneapolis are now choosing a bicycle or rollerblades as their transportation mode along the Midtown Greenway.
The Midtown Greenway has become part of the city’s overall transit system linking trail to rail and bus. This increased foot-and-bike traffic along the Midtown Greenway has also spurred a new type of economic revitalization.
Businesses have embraced the Greenway access rather than ignore it. Businesses have cleared pathways from the Greenway to their establishment by installing lighting, walkways/stairs, patios, seating areas, doors, and windows to entice riders-by to come eat, drink, and shop. It’s working.
By changing the front-of-house to face and welcome the Greenway, businesses are literally opening new doors to economic growth.
How has $36 million in Greenway construction investment propelled $750 million in new housing developments? Because people want to live, work, and recreate without driving across town. The Midtown Greenway is a coveted amenity that new homebuyers want to live nearby and developers have taken notice.
Utilizing the Greenway has also kept the city’s streets from becoming untenable: the commuter population increased 9% since 2005, while “the motor vehicle commute mode share has dropped by -4% over the last eleven years. In contrast, walking and biking commute mode shares have increased +7% and +18% respectively between 2007-2017.”
In Indianapolis, they designed the Cultural Trail as an urban bike and pedestrian path to connect six cultural districts downtown. The trail was completed in 2013 and is more than a connector. How has their $63 million total project investment turned into $864.5 million in total economic impact? Because the trail is integrated. The Indy Cultural Trail is a reliable way to commute to work, a tourist-driven retail destination, and welcomes those who just want to get out for some exercise, entertainment, or shopping.
With the 440 Greenway, Nashville is poised to enjoy a similar future including new ways to commute, creative use of space, and economic prosperity. We are hoping the new 440 Greenway grows into a critical component of our wider regional transit network.
Greenways are magical.