West End Summit development expected to bring jobs, traffic

West End Summit development expected to bring jobs, traffic (Image 1)

Plans for West End Summit are touted as one of the largest commercial office developments in Nashville's history. The additional office space is expected to attract more businesses, people, and traffic to the West End Corridor that runs from Interstates 40 and 65 to Interstate 440, also known as Midtown.

On Thursday morning, Mayor Karl Dean, joined by Governor Bill Haslam and HCA officials, to announce plans for West End Summit, including two office towers, 2,000 jobs, and a $200 million investment.

The property, located on West End Avenue between 16th and 17th avenues, has long been seen as prime real estate.

In 2007, plans were revealed for West End Summit. The site was cleared above and below ground to make way for a multi-use project to include office, retail, hotel  and condominium space. A sluggish economy ended those plans; and the site, now a hole in the ground, began to collect water.

Pumps are now in place to remove the water and begin the process of resurrecting West End Summit.

Two towers, approximately 20 stories each, will fill the void. Each tower will be anchored by an HCA business unit, Parallon and Sarah Cannon Research Institute.

“Beyond creating new high quality jobs, this office development will spur major new economic growth along the West End Corridor,” Mayor Karl Dean said in Thursday's news conference.

More developments and more people will mean more traffic for an already busy stretch of roadway.

“It is very congested, especially in the areas getting closer to town,” said Claire Gonzalez, who works in Midtown.

Michael Self also works in the area.

“You're talking about 2,000 more vehicles, that's significant and on this street, and this is one of the main streets in this area. So that's going to have a strong impact in this area,” he said.

According to Metro Public Works, more than 26,000 cars and trucks travel through Midtown daily.

While concerns arise about additional traffic from West End Summit, a mass transit plan is already in the works.

“East-West Connector is the first major transit project that we've had in Middle Tennessee since the Music City Star several years ago,” said Ed Cole.

As Executive Director of The Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee, Cole works with Metropolitan Transit Authority, Mayor Karl Dean's office, and citizen groups to determine the best way to improve traffic on Nashville's busiest roadways.

Appropriately named, the East-West Connector runs from Five Points in East Nashville, through downtown and midtown, and into West Nashville at White Bridge Road. Current designs include two lanes for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), two lanes for traffic, and clearly marked crosswalks.

The final project is expected to improve travel time along the corridor by 15 to 25%.

“If we don't do something to deal with traffic, [West End Corridor] will become congested to a point where it will actually make it undesirable for people to want to be a part of it,” Cole said.

Commuters seem open to the idea, but skeptical about feasibility.

“I think buses would be a great option, if people would actually use them,” said Gonzalez.

“You got to get more people to ride the buses,” added Elizabeth Thielk. “This isn't, unfortunately, a bus town.”

The East-West Connector is expected to easily accommodate the addition of West End Summit and any other potential businesses or residences that move into the area.

Early estimates put the cost of construction at $136 million. A significant portion of funding is expected to come from federal dollars.

The project is currently in the preliminary engineering and design phase. Construction could begin by the end of 2013, with completion expected in 2015, the same time leases begin at West End Summit.

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