Reinvestment is Needed in North Clarksville
(CU News) - With 77,168 people, 37042 is the 2nd most populated zip code in the state of Tennessee out of 615 zip codes.
The factors that force change and an evolution of neighborhoods can be as long as your arm. The wild west growth of Clarksville has been exceptional by any means of measurement, but it hasn't been without challenges. During the years of change, one of the most dramatic shifts has occurred within business activities and customer patterns along one of the city’s historical corridors. What happened to Fort Campbell and New Providence Boulevards?
The modern choke-hold on the areas of Fort Campbell Boulevard through New Providence Boulevard has happened for 3 primary reasons related to modernization:
1. Relocation of retail from Riverside Drive to Exit 4
2. Opening of 101st Parkway
3. Growth of the Tiny Town Road area
In the same way as redirected rain spouts, each of those areas diverted traffic flows from the previously mentioned historical commercial areas. The large commercial streets of any city are, for a viewer, among the most important visual elements in an urban environment. The indifference to the aesthetics from Fort Campbell into downtown is either ignored or not prioritized by local leadership. The city has approximately 77k residents in that area considering events at the new arena and/or entertainment district visitors. The quality of the ride to those destinations matters.
The Clarksville residents and development continues to sprawl further south into the county – taking tax dollars with them. The options of relocating, households or businesses, to North Clarksville may not be as readily available in the form of incentives as other areas. The potential is high within these areas, but the amenities don’t bait the hook for relocation. The question then turns to the city’s planned growth. Has it been consistently effective to all areas of the city?
In the case of New Providence Boulevard, its’ strongest asset is the proximity to a developing downtown area and APSU campus. Often overlooked due to the rock-star impact Fort Campbell has on our community, Clarksville is also very fortunate to have a university that continues to grow year-over-year. And the amazing stat of the day? APSU is the only university in Tennessee to have positive growth of enrollment the last four years. No others – just APSU.
New Providence Boulevard real estate is affordable while maintaining a prime geographic location. In other communities, extended college cultural environments targeting younger demographics are maximized through zoned tax breaks and incentives. For many neglected areas, such as New Providence Boulevard, development or gentrification represents needed investment. Residents would welcome the resurrection and revival of the area that has been neglected and disinvested. Unofficial community leaders seem to be the only voices pushing local politicians to find capital investments, provide better services, increase job opportunities, improve business options and ultimately increase the quality of life.
At the moment, investment from Boot Hill through The Triangle are sporadic with existing businesses struggling to lure customers from areas outside their immediate area. They’re just not scalable for multiple reasons. Amenities, dining, crime, real estate values and other quality of life bottlenecks are the obstacles facing development projects.
A more forward-thinking narrative for city leaders, knowing residents aren’t as well-to-do as the residents in nearby areas, may include, "Welcome. We’re a place where you—whether you’re a young family or you’re recent immigrants or you just bought your grandparents’ house that they built here in the ‘60s—have the opportunity to come, live in an affordable community, and build something out of nothing for yourself. You can start a small business in a cheaper space than you’d find in the city. And we'll limit the red tape. We're a place where the American dream is alive.” The New Providence Boulevard strip is a prototype location for business incubators to seed the entryway into the downtown Clarksville district.
Fort Campbell Boulevard is the natural partner to the active and retired military community. The area’s importance has substantially lessened due to expansion in some areas and not-so-smart growth planning in others. Even with the reduced traffic flow, the boulevard remains one of Clarksville’s more densely populated commercial areas. Does the area need to be reinvented or would a project task force to increase developments of retail and/or F&B options be more appropriate? Are the zoning incentives advertised effectively for both relocation and new construction?
So where is the balance point for these areas? On one hand, direct community investment produces positives such as refurbishing buildings, bringing sales dollars from all sides of the county, re-stimulating the economy and creating unique environments conducive to small-business growth. On the other hand, it will lead to some displacement of the local population and a loss of much of their history.
That is the balancing act between maintaining an affordable environment and providing a unique experience. There is a lot of opportunity stretching down Fort Campbell Boulevard through New Providence Boulevard into the city. Do we have the creativity in leadership to make it happen?