Envision Cayce is a redevelopment plan and strategy for one of Nashville’s oldest public housing properties that blends a mixed-use, mixed-income sustainable community with adjacent urban historic neighborhoods near downtown.
Cayce Place is Nashville’s largest remaining public housing site, surrounded by two assisted housing and by several unassisted and affordable residential properties. Beyond these sites are neighborhoods of predominantly single-family homes with high rates of owner-occupancy. The neighborhood is considered a food dessert and is served by two public schools, one of which is among the city’s lowest performing schools.
In February 2013, the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency procured a team led by EJP Consulting Group to develop a revitalization plan for Cayce Place. Smith Gee Studio served as the team’s planners and architects, prepared the Plan document, helped facilitate dozens of stakeholder meetings and led a public charrette.
Early informational meetings proved to be somewhat contentious with uncertainty and mistrust among disparate interest groups. Through numerous small group-meetings, individual interviews, focus groups and a group of community advisors, trust was built and goals were established in order to meet the needs of the existing residence, members of the larger East Nashville community and MDHA.
The charrette was well attended by over 100 citizens including Cayce residents, nearby property owners and neighborhood activists from the broader east Nashville community. Participants were randomly assigned to 15 tables forming groups of varying interests assigned with developing individual plans. Smith Gee Studio and other team members facilitated each table. The charrette proved to be the turning point in establishing general consensus, as most participants realized that they had common goals and shared aspirations.
It became evident early in the planning process that the long-term viability of any redevelopment plan for Cayce Place hinges on what happens in the broader community. The Plan is ambitious in both scope and scale. It extends beyond MDHA-controlled land to incorporate surrounding low-income properties and Metro-owned properties and seeks to create a vibrant urban neighborhood in close proximity to downtown Nashville and Five Points, the heart of East Nashville.
Over the next 10-15 years, the Plan seeks to transform the neighborhood into a mixed-income, mixed use community that welcomes, supports and improves opportunities for new and long-term residents, while stimulating private investment in the neighborhood.
The Plan replaces the existing deeply subsidized public housing and adjacent Section 8 units on a one-for-one basis, while simultaneously introducing additional affordable and market-rate housing. The Plan calls for 2,390 new homes and apartments. Original residents will be offered an exclusive right of first opportunity to new housing created under the Plan.
The Plan seeks to create over 200,000 square feet of commercial and institutional space including a new health center. New office and retail amenities, including a new grocery store and pharmacy, and other community-serving retail will provide access to healthy foods while also creating new employment opportunities.
New and repositioned green space and parks will provide a healthier and safer environment for children and families as well as opportunities for residents to interact. The Plan proposes a large central park with a range of amenities and introduces a hiker/biker connection to the planned greenway along the Cumberland River. The Plan also embraces green and sustainable practices for a healthier community.
The Plan introduces new educational opportunities including a new early learning facility and library. These, along with a repositioning of the existing Kirkpatrick Elementary School and a range of supportive services (including health and wellness and employment), will serve as a focal point of the new community with high-quality education and resident services.
As first steps to redevelopment, MDHA has purchased the adjacent CWA Section 8 property; has begun 64-units of replacement housing; has been approved for HUD’s Rental Assistance Demolition (RAD) program and is securing access to adjacent metro properties.