Oct 4, 2022 - Real Estate

Riverchase East Nashville development back on agenda

Rendering of an apartment complex

Image: courtesy of Cypress Real Estate Advisers

A rezoning proposal in East Nashville for 1,150 apartments has become one of the most contentious land use disputes in recent city history and is up for yet another vote Tuesday night in the Metro Council.

Why it matters: The zoning dispute shines a spotlight on the push for more affordable housing units and on the negotiation of community benefits agreements for certain developments.

Catch up quick: The Planning Commission unanimously approved the proposal, which typically signals a rezoning plan will proceed.

  • But Councilmember Sean Parker has deferred the legislation five times, most recently last month.
  • Parker says the community engagement by developer Cypress Real Estate Advisers has been inadequate. CREA says it's held seven community meetings and set up shop at a local restaurant throughout the last few weeks to continue talks with stakeholders.

The latest: In response to those talks, where neighbors complained the buildings would be too tall and block skyline views, CREA has agreed to reduce their height from 10 stories to seven stories.

  • The developer has also agreed to lower the income requirement so that residents forced to move because of the redevelopment can afford to rent one of the new units once they're completed. The new annual income requirement will be $9,000 for displaced former residents of the Riverchase complex, according to a CREA spokesperson.
  • CREA also announced last week that if the rezoning plan is not approved, it will pursue a scaled-down project with 245 market-rate townhomes.

CREA had been negotiating a community benefits agreement with Stand Up Nashville, but after an impasse, it struck a deal with the Urban League instead.

  • CREA has promised that 225 of its units will be affordable. The developer also committed to infrastructure investments and to financially back the nearby McFerrin Park Neighborhood Association.
  • Stand Up Nashville has expressed doubts the developer will make good on its affordable housing commitments.

Be smart: Although developers may enter into a community benefits agreement on their own, state law forbids government officials from making zoning approvals contingent on such agreements.

  • In a letter last month to the Metro Legal Department and other city officials, an attorney for CREA said Stand Up Nashville's push to defer the zoning plan over the community benefits agreement was "illegal and inappropriate and it is setting a dangerous precedent."
  • Stand Up Nashville's interim director Michael Callahan-Kapoor tells Axios, "[Stand Up Nashville] stands to gain nothing, monetary or otherwise, from a community benefits agreement. We are simply advocating for the community, which is our mission."
  • Parker did not respond to a question yesterday regarding whether he plans to advance the zoning plan, withdraw it or ask for another deferral.

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