Charles Drayton is a planner for the City of North Charleston. Charles sits on the ULI SC Coastal Executive Committee and is a ULI Full Member. In April, Charles attended the Intersections 2018 Conference in Nashville. Read Charles’ take-away from the meeting, below.
Creating Culturally Complete Streets is an initiative shared by ULI, Smart Growth America, and the National Complete Streets Coalition. To that end, the partners held the second national Complete Streets Conference in Nashville, TN, this past April 3-4. Nashville’s Music City Center, right in the heart of the city, was the site of the event. One of the highlights of the two-day conference was a keynote speech by Janette Sadik-Khan, the author of Street Fight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution, in which she spoke of the value of an activated streetscape and the challenges to breaking the status quo. The conference attendees included all the usual suspects (planners (like myself), politicians, engineers, and developers), but it also included medical professionals and artists. This cross-section led to inspiring discussions in the breakout sessions and radically diverse points of view being expressed. My takeaway can be stated in this summarized quote from the group panel discussion, “Creative people power is a renewable energy source, but in order to tap into that energy, there must be an infrastructure in place.” Another highlight would have to be Nashville itself; it is a dynamic city with deep-rooted history, explosive growth, and modern convenience that appears to be blending the three well. At the time of the conference, the city was facing a looming vote on mass transit. Since the conference, however, the residents voted against a $6 billion transit improvement plan that would have anchored the City’s transit system with a multi-line light rail system. Although the failure of the transit plan is certainly a setback for the goals of creating culturally complete streets in Nashville, it can be hoped that the principles discussed at the conference will bear fruit in other metropolitan areas.