6 Features that Make the Gulch Nashville’s Greenest Neighborhood

6 Features that Make the Gulch Nashville’s Greenest Neighborhood

If you live in Nashville, it’s been hard of late to avoid daily discussions of Music City’s growth and what it means for the identity of this Southern locale known for it’s country music scene and it’s endless hospitality. Though Nashville’s face has been changing, many of those recent developments are improving the city for the better, making the city a more sustainable, healthy, and accessible place to live. In a better-late-than-never recap of our sustainability walking tour of the Gulch with Urban Green Lab and Kim Hawkins of Hawkins Partners, check out 6 things that are helping Nashville’s hottest neighborhood be the city’s most sustainable as well:

1. Efficient Buildings

Not long ago, the Gulch was a run-down industrial site filled with empty warehouses, bearing the scars of Nashville’s formerly booming rail industry. Over the last 15 years, some of the redevelopment on this site has made use of these old buildings, including the Javanco/Farber building, which now houses Gulch staples like Urban Outfitters and Watermark. The re-use of these spaces cuts down on the amount of waste resulting from demolition, and also decreases the need for new materials in the building process. Many of the Gulch’s new spaces are also sustainably built, including the 404 Kitchen, which is housed partially in a refurbished shipping container, and buildings like the Gulch Crossing office building and Terrazzo Condominiums, both of which are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certified.

gulch crossing
The Gulch’s newest office building, Gulch Crossing, is LEED Certified Gold. (Image courtesy of The Tennessean)

2. Proximity to Downtown

Also a factor in the Gulch’s low environmental impact is the neighborhood’s proximity to Downtown Nashville. 6,124 jobs are within a half-mile walk of the perimeter of the Gulch, meaning many neighborhood residents don’t have to travel very far to get to work each day, cutting down on use of gasoline and the resulting carbon emissions. This is a stark contrast to many of the Nashville area’s more suburban neighborhoods (from Bellevue to Franklin to Mount Juliet), where residents often travel long distances into downtown every day to get to and from work, shopping, and entertainment. Located Downtown are many area attractions, including the Ryman, Ascend Amphitheater, Bridgestone Arena, Frist Center, and the restaurants and honky tonks on Broadway, meaning endless entertainment options are just a short walk, bike, or cab ride away for Gulch residents as well.

gulch downtown
The Velocity apartment building in the Gulch, seen with Downtown Nashville a short walk away in the background.

3. Density (Walk Score)

Not only is the Gulch close to Downtown, providing residents with the option to walk to Nashville’s economic and cultural heart, but it’s also a highly dense neighborhood, meaning those who live in the Gulch can walk to numerous amenities within the neighborhood as well. The Gulch features more than 50 restaurants and shops, with more being added constantly, and is also continuing to add important amenities like gyms, pharmacies, hotels, and more. This provides residents with the option to stay in their neighborhood to get many of their daily errands done, cutting down on the need for transportation elsewhere. The Gulch’s high Walk Score of 94 (a measure of how walkable a neighborhood is, on a scale of 0 to 100) also means that people coming from outside the neighborhood have the option of parking once (or taking the bus in, or biking) and visiting multiple destinations without having to get in their cars again.

4. Access to Alternative Transportation

Walking is not the only mode of alternative transportation supported by the Gulch. The neighborhood is constantly adding infrastructure to make the area more bike-friendly, including the recently-completed 11th Avenue complete street project. This one-mile stretch of road, which is one of the neighborhood’s main thoroughfares, now features both on-street bike lanes and an off-street bike path, as well as wide sidewalks, allowing residents to traverse the neighborhood bike bike and foot much more easily. The Gulch also has a Bcycle station, connecting it to the rest of Nashville’s increasingly robust bike share network, and is located on the green line of the free Music City Circuit bus line, providing ready access to locations throughout Downtown and beyond.

5. Parks and Greenery

As the Gulch continue to develop, it becomes increasingly important that some emphasis is placed on ensuring the neighborhood provides access to parks and green space. With the installation of the complete street plan along 11th Avenue, several native trees were planted, in addition to the provision of bioswales between the street and sidewalk. These amenities help to provide some plant life for residents and enhance the beauty of the neighborhood, while also helping reduce rainwater runoff from streets and sidewalks, a huge benefit for Nashville’s stormwater system. The Gulch has also recently seen the completion of its own greenway, helping to connect it to Nashville’s larger system of multi-use paths and park spaces. meaning 58 percent of residences and businesses are now within a quarter-mile of a bike path or greenway trail.

The 11th Avenue Complete Street Project saw the Gulch install tons of street trees and bioswales (seen most prominently along the left-hand side of the picture), increasing the amount of native vegetation in the area. (Image courtesy of The Tennessean)

6. Masterful Planning

That the Gulch is full of sustainable features is certainly no accident. This neighborhood is the only such area in Nashville that is controlled by its own private master development plan, meaning that every component of the neighborhood is facilitated through a thoughtful over-arching plan, rather than haphazard development by disparate entities. For this reason, the Gulch has been the beneficiary of controlled, high-quality development that is mixed-use in nature, giving those who live and work in the area a complete, intentional neighborhood experience. The Gulch as a whole is the first neighborhood in the Southeast US to be awarded LEED-ND designation, and only the 4th such neighborhood to achieve LEED Silver certification in the world, recognizing the entire neighborhood as one that promotes sustainability and health in a concerted way. Every detail has been considered, from the water use in the buildings to the energy efficiency of the LED traffic lights, and that’s awesome.

While much of the development in Nashville recently has been met with mixed feelings, it is reassuring to know that many projects around town are being undertaken in a way that promotes sustainability and health, and that the wellbeing of those living and working in these spaces is top priority. Here’s to hoping that more of the changes happening throughout Middle Tennessee continue to support positive health and environmental outcomes going forward!

Want more on all things sustainability? Check out our next Engage Green workshop coming up on Wednesday, November 4th. We’ll be discussing ways to preserve fall produce so you can enjoy your harvest veggies into the winter!

– Matt (Lightning 100’s Community Engagement Director)


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