PHOTO: Concept art by Mike Hathaway of 906 Studios shows the planned design of the Tennessee Children’s Home redevelopment project. / Courtesy photo
By ALEXANDER WILLIS
The Spring Hill downtown development project, which is planned to include nearly 220,000 square feet of commercial development, as well as hundreds of homes, apartment units and condos, is also planned to feature an eight-acre park open to the public.
During a meeting of the Town Center Task Force Friday, members of the team behind the project emphasized the importance of this component, arguing that such a park would be the perfect spot for events ranging from music festivals to fishing tournaments, and that the central location of the park would greatly “foster a sense of place [and] help healthy living” for residents.
“This [project] has an eight acre park that will be maintained by the development, but will be open to the public,” said Jeff Heinze, senior project manager for Catalyst Design Group, the engineering firm behind the project. “That fosters a sense of place, it helps healthy living, it gets people out of their cars more, and whether you bike, whether you walk, it offers those alternatives.”
The park is set to include plenty of trails connecting it to the planned commercial development, giving residents an easy route for a quick bite after a day at the park. As for what types of restaurants residents can expect to see in the downtown development, Heinze said they had included multiple self-imposed restrictions to recruit only certain types of restaurants.
“We want individual, home-grown restaurants, we want outdoor venues as far as entertainment,” Heinze said. “Because we put criteria there, this isn’t a fast food venue location, it’s not what we’re after. We’re after the sit-down restaurant; Puckett’s, Martin’s, where you get some entertainment on a weekend night – that’s who we’re chasing.”
Among the restrictions included for potential restaurants, Heinze said, were that the establishment has to be greater than 3,000 square feet, sit at least 125, and may only have, at most, 15 franchises anywhere throughout the state of Tennessee.
The park, which also has plans for an amphitheater, was again emphasized during the meeting by Heinze to be the perfect location for public events.
“The city has long communicated to us: ‘we’d love to have a place to have a public music venue, outdoor event [or] whatever’ – that is part of our vision for this,” Heinze said. “There’s parking supported for that all the way throughout the commercial area, and on-street parking that can be used for a special event there.”
Remnants of the park are also planned to be scattered throughout the rest of the downtown development through the use of “vest pocket parks” – small pockets of green that Heinze said would be perfect for a quick break from work or shopping.
“We have green areas interspersed throughout the community for little vest pocket parks,” Heinze said. “You have regional-scale parks that you take your kids to to go play sports, but part of it is, you always want some green space within a walkable distance if you can help it – where you just want to get away to take the dog, sit and check your emails, or drink a cup of coffee if you went to the Fainting Goat.”
While some city Aldermen, including Vice Mayor Amy Wurth have been critical of the project’s phasing, which sees the first two phases out of four composed almost entirely of residential development, Heinze argued that the mixed-use development to be majorly beneficial to the roads.
“One of the major benefits [of mixed-use] is it balances traffic better than a development being either all commercial or all residential, where all the traffic is going to that destination at one time of day,” Heinze said. “If it’s all residential, everybody’s trying to leave at 8 in the morning and come back at 5 – if it’s all office, people are going to it in the morning and leaving at 5. So when you blend the uses on a property, the peaks of the traffic of who’s leaving and who’s coming, you mix the peaks of the uses on the property, thereby not putting as much strain on the roadway system.”
Heinze also said he envisions the project as more of an extension of Spring Hill’s old town area further south on Main Street, rather than its own separate entity. Something, he said, that could even revitalize some of the city’s older buildings and businesses.
“This isn’t a development in and of itself, it is something that connects to the remainder of the old town area, and from our standpoint, we believe would encourage reinvestment in some of the structures in old town,” Heinze said. “Some of them have been rehabbed and brought back to life with different uses and business – some of them probably need that reinvestment, or are close to the point where the structure needs a new influx of capital into it.”
If the project eventually moves forward, it will be the third largest commercial development in Spring Hill, and the second largest in Maury County, behind the Crossings shopping district, as well as the planned Alexander Farm development in northern Spring Hill.
The developers behind the project had requested a deferral, meaning the city won’t vote on it until September’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.