Oct 25, 2021 - Business

Nashville Zoo gets $15 million boost from mayor

A Jaguar at the Nashville Zoo.

Photo courtesy of the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere

Part of Nashville Mayor John Cooper's $568 million capital spending plan includes $15 million for a new parking garage at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere.

  • Cooper tells Axios the city dollars will allow the nonprofit zoo to continue its rapid expansion.
  • The zoo plans to match Metro's money with $15 million in private donations, the mayor's office said. The zoo's fundraising campaign also seeks to pay for two new exhibits: an African Savannah and Village and an African Forest.

Why it matters: Nashville Zoo, which sits on city-owned parkland, has for years been growing in popularity. The zoo is expected to reach over 1.3 million visitors next year, a zoo spokesperson said.

  • "Ultimately the zoo is going to be the second most-visited thing in Tennessee, second only to Dollywood. So you're getting a lot out of that $15 million."
  • With the private donations matching the city's funding, the zoo plans to add several species at the new exhibits, including a family of gorillas.

Yes, but: Not everyone was bananas about the large investment at the zoo. Metro Council member Freddie O'Connell tells Axios he is "worried about Nashville's biggest priorities — housing and mobility."

  • O'Connell said he is readying an amendment to Cooper's plan to re-route some of the zoo funds to pedestrian and transit projects.
  • "This plan proposes to spend three times more on private parking at the zoo than on housing, three times more than on sidewalks and more than six times what is proposed to spend on bikeways," O'Connell said.

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