SoBro revitalization sparks talk of Rescue Mission future

SoBro revitalization sparks talk of Rescue Mission future (Image 1)

With the Music City Center standing tall, south of Broadway is quickly becoming prime real estate.

The new convention center stands in stark contrast with some of the buildings and businesses to the southeast, including Imperial Insurance and Realty at the corner of 7th Avenue and Lafayette Street.

“We've been here almost 50 years,” said business and property owner Tom Smith.

Early revitalization of the area nearly took over Smith's corner lot.

“They had a plan that they were going to close Lafayette up to the corner and cut it, and come right through our building and go up to 8th Avenue,” he said.

Smith's business was spared with construction of the roundabout, but more change is expected South of Broadway, or SoBro.

In the coming weeks, the Convention Center Authority will release a new economic study that will show potential growth for the area.

While Smith may survive more development, his homeless neighbors at the Nashville Rescue Mission may not.

“We're within two blocks of the Music City Center, so that's going to be part of the discussion and we're very understanding of that,” said Mission President and CEO Glenn Cranfield.

Cranfield's office has a clear view of the convention center. He told Nashville's News 2 he is well aware of talk about a possible move for the mission.

In a recent study, the Metropolitan Development and Housing Authority (MDHA) found Lafayette Street “holds potential” to become a shopping destination; but added, “the impacts of the Nashville Rescue Mission and downtown homelessness in general would need to be addressed as a prerequisite for developing and retaining successful retail throughout the downtown area.”

The Nashville Rescue Mission is a Christ-centered community dedicated to helping the homeless.

With the help of volunteers and donations, 1,800 meals are served daily, 850 beds are provided nightly and roughly 200 people are assisted with education, training, or recovery yearly.

The Mission has provided support and long-term treatment for the homeless in the downtown area since 1954.

Services were moved from an 8th Avenue facility to the larger building on Lafayette Street, formerly Sears, in 2000.

According to Cranfield, the Mission's current size and location are vital to its success.

“That's where the homeless are really drawn to. They're drawn to the downtown area,” he said.

He added, “When you take into consideration the number of homeless people that we administer to and that we care for each and every day, it would take a rather large size property and facility to be able to do that.”

Currently in his first year with the Nashville Rescue Mission, Cranfield applauded the compassion of the local community and services presently offered to the homeless from multiple providers, but feels there is an opportunity to do more.

He welcomes any open conversation about the future of the area and of the Mission.

“We think it's a good thing to think long term about the homeless and about how it affects our city, and how our city growth and development affects them,” he said.

The SoBro study commissioned by the Convention Center Authority is expected to be released by the end of the month.

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