New parks, new office buildings, new retail … 2016 was another year where Brentwood residents and visitors were offered more and more options of places to walk, places to work and places to shop.
While 2015 saw the development and opening of City Park, the major opening this year was undoubtedly Hill Center Brentwood at the corner of Franklin Road and Maryland Way. The first phase of the project, consisting of 66,000 square feet of retail space and 158,000 square feet of office space, is more than 95 percent leased, according to the center’s website.
Several businesses have opened already, including Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa and two restaurants: Uncle Julio’s and Del Frisco’s Grille. Another restaurant, the biscuit house Holler & Dash, will be open to the public starting today.
Other tenants who have leased space at Hill Center Brentwood include Peter Millar, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Sur La Table and Paper Source. A flyer including a map with names of leased retail spaces is available here.
On the office side of things, LBMC moved into its nearly 80,000 square foot space earlier in the year. Merrill Lynch has also leased space in that building.
Eventually, in the next phases of development, Hill Center Brentwood will encompass an additional 84,000 square feet of retail and 292,000 more square feet of office space.
Mayor Regina Smithson is satisfied with the response so far to the Hill Center.
“I’m hearing very good things about the variety of restaurants that people have to choose from, and the fact that a lot of people from the Maryland Farms area have the ability to walk from lunch and not put more traffic on our streets,” she said.
Although a traffic impact study conducted in Brentwood did show that the Hill Center would bring an increase in traffic trips to the area, the mayor is likewise pleased with the efforts the city has undertaken to manage that added volume of vehicles.
“We’ve worked really hard to try to make the intersection at Maryland Way and Franklin Road as traffic-friendly as possible,” she said.
More parks for city
Of course, there was more than mixed-use brick and mortar development that went up in the city over the past year. 2016 also saw Brentwood add two parks to its slate of outdoor spaces for families and nature lovers to enjoy: Wikle Park and Flagpole Park.
Wikle Park, located at 7041 Wikle Road West, has a brand new playground, walking trails and picnic tables on its 15 acres. The 8.7 acre Flagpole Park features a half court for basketball, a walking trail and two multi-purpose sports fields.
The two new parks are adjacent to each other and were built on land that had been considered for several different uses over the years, Mayor Smithson explained. Homeowners were not excited about the commercial nature of some of those plans, she said, but supported the idea of the parks.
“With the developer and the neighbors and the city working together it was a win-win situation for all of us,” Smithson said.
A year of ideas
Not all achievements in the city over the past year resulted in the creation of new buildings or green spaces. City Manager Kirk Bednar and Mayor Smithson both highlighted the report by the Brentwood Bicycle and Pedestrian Ad Hoc Committee as being a particularly notable event in 2016.
The committee’s report suggested ways in which the city could increase safe routes to schools and promote pedestrian friendly and bike friendly interconnectivity between different parts of the city. Some suggested methods of achieving these goals included increasing the number of bike lanes and crosswalks in the city, improving many of those bike lanes and crosswalks that already exist and building new walking trails.
In describing the demand for such a report, Mayor Smithson pointed out how many health-conscious Brentwood residents currently find themselves living in older neighborhoods that were built in an era when things like sidewalks and walking trails were not prioritized.
“We’re just trying to find ways to help those neighborhoods have walkability,” she said.
Senior housing plans stall
One big news story from 2016 involved the debate around senior housing in Brentwood. There was talk of creating a new zoning district in the city for age 55 or older residents that would allow for a greater housing density than the city’s longstanding policy of one lot per acre.
Although there was some debate on the issue, the proposal ultimately went nowhere. City Manager Kirk Bednar, however, is glad that the city turned its attention to the topic.
“It didn’t result in anything, but at least the City Commission spent a considerable amount of time … looking into whether there are realistic options for senior housing [in Brentwood],” he said.
Mayor Smithson shares Bednar’s opinion on the subject. She said she found the discussion around the issue “enlightening,” even if she conceded that the Board of Commissioners ultimately did not see a feasible way to move forward on senior housing.
“We went through a process with that, and it was very complicated how to have senior housing … with the results that we thought the people wanted and still have our one-acre density,” she said.
A related problem, the mayor said, had to do with cost. Some in favor of senior housing expressed a desire to downsize, but Smithson said that consultations with developers showed that land costs in the city are so high that “sizing down did not mean pricing down.” In other words, people could have been confronted with a situation where the new, smaller home they wanted to move into may have actually ended up being just as or nearly as expensive as the larger home they wanted to move out of.
“[T]he end result was not necessarily what we were looking for,” she said.
Bednar and Smithson both talked about the city’s property tax reduction as another important headline from the past year.
“As a result of an increase of the value of property in Brentwood, we had to reduce our tax rate from 44 to 36 cents,” Bednar said. Previous Home Page reporting included Bednar’s explanation that it is illegal for a city to make money off of a reappraisal. Since property values were deemed to be higher, it was necessary for the city to cut the property tax, he said.
Blueprint for next decade
In 2016, the city also came up with the 2030 plan. The 2030 plan is an update of the 2020 plan. It provides a vision for the city’s future in the realm of “infrastructure, the environment, historic resources and transportation,” according to previous Home Page reporting.
The updated plan is not drastically different from the older one, which included such goals as to “Assure adequate areas for environmental conservation, recreation, and scenic purposes” and to “Assure a more mobile community in conveniently and safely linking people with home, employment, essential services, and recreation.” The seven main goals of the preexisting 2020 plan can be found here.
Of course, for many people traffic is a problem that overarches everything else in Brentwood. The city made some progress in 2016 in addressing that issue, although challenges obviously still remain.
One major road project meant to ease congestion was mostly completed in the fall of this year: the widening of Concord Road from Sunset Road to Nolensville Road. This project had been actively in the works for quite some time, with an initial design public meeting being held in 2006, according to TDOT.
“There are some lingering punch-list items that are still being addressed by the contractor, but all major roadwork has been completed,” Community Relations Director Deanna Lambert said in an email.
Finally, the city approved two new pieces of technology to aid communications among public safety organizations.
The first, a new computer-aided dispatch system, was approved in August to replace the buggy, 13-year-old system currently used by the city. The new system, it is hoped, will increase the efficiency of emergency responses by allowing quicker communication between Brentwood, Franklin and Williamson County public safety officials.
As it stands now, some 911 calls to Brentwood dispatchers have to be relayed to Williamson County dispatchers in order to get ambulances on the scene. This can result in delays. With the new system, it is believed that those delays can be reduced substantially.
The second system approved this year was an 800 Mhz radio system that will allow Brentwood, Franklin and Williamson County public safety officials to communicate in real time on the same radio channel. Currently, Brentwood communicates on UHF wavelengths, Williamson County on VHF and Franklin on 800 MHz. This can make it difficult for different organizations from each area to keep in constant contact with one another in the event of an emergency.
Looking back on all that happened in 2016, Mayor Smithson is very positive about where Brentwood is today. She sees a city that knows how to cooperate to achieve its goals.
“I think the boards, the planning commissions, the city commission, our staff have all worked together to make [Brentwood] as good as we can have it,” she said. “It’s a team effort, it really is. We have some very dedicated employees that work hard to help us out in any way they can.”