Nashville’s chicken isn’t the only thing bringing the heat. Our city is experiencing extremely hot temperatures that are lasting longer and coming more frequently.
Severe heat is bad for our mental and physical health. It is also an equity issue. Extreme heat is especially harmful to low-income and elderly people who have asthma and often live where there is little green space and higher air pollution levels.
A group of experts recently examined how we can design and develop our community in a way that helps mitigate the effects of extreme heat. Metro Nashville and Core Development partnered with Urban Land Institute Americas and ULI Nashville to host the Technical Assistance Panel to advise the city and state on heat mitigation strategies for the built environment.
Tennessee Department of Health’s Dr. John Vick led the panel of experts consisting of national and local policy, resilience, development and design/urban planning professionals. Chestnut Hill and Wedgewood-Houston neighborhoods were selected for the focus of the study. The panel looked at resilience strategies appropriate for these two neighborhoods and that could be applied to other similar neighborhoods.
Chestnut Hill is a vulnerable neighborhood. In 2012, I spearheaded the Go Green campaign and teamed with Hands on Nashville to retrofit and repair more than 200 homes in that area for energy savings. We helped improve the energy efficiency of homes and reduced utility and maintenance costs so seniors and low-income families could continue living in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood.
Wedgewood-Houston also serves as a microcosm for the region. Core Development pioneered urban revitalization there in 2014. After developing the beginnings of a neighborhood center in The Finery, we have passed the torch to Hines to complete the plan. Through our CoreFund, we are teaming with Hines to support social profits doing good work in the growing Wedgewood-Houston community.
The resiliency panel gave their recommendations recently during a ULI Nashville program. As a member of Mayor Cooper’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, I am happy the experts advised our sustainability report be adopted immediately.
Their suggestions included some short-term and long-term development and financing strategies. Solutions included passive construction, incentivizing high-efficiency heating and cooling systems on existing buildings, and installing reflective and green roofs on new construction. (Chicago and Vancouver, BC require this. Louisville offers incentives for developers using cool roofs.)
Recommendations specifically for neighborhoods included bio-swales, rain gardens, cool pavement streets, tree canopies and establishing neighborhood resilience hubs with year-round health and social services at existing community centers, schools and libraries.
I fully agree with the panel’s recommendation to empower citizens to help educate and check on vulnerable neighbors. I also agree neighborhoods need green corridors for connectivity.
Brown’s Creek Greenway could be one of those connectivity corridors and play an important role in resiliency. It runs through Fair Park and Wedgewood-Houston and is under development by Greenways for Nashville. It is an integral part of the CityCentral Greenway that will circle downtown, and it fits Metro’s 2017 Plan to Play, Nashville’s master plan for parks and greenways.
We also have a major opportunity to demonstrate resilient land use at the old Greer stadium site, the former home of our Nashville Sounds minor league baseball team. If we remove the 15-acre asphalt parking lot and plant trees in its place, we can help mitigate heat impact for an entire neighborhood and create a signature park all Nashvillians could enjoy.
What suggestions do you have to help negate the effects of extreme heat and climate change on my city or yours?