Affordable Housing or Trees: A Tough Choice in a Wave of New Development

Environmentalists are up in arms after the loss of thousands of trees to make room for new developments in Nashville. Now a new affordable housing project could be the demise of the city's largest tree.

1 minute read

November 16, 2018, 11:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Tree heart

Casey Fleser / Flickr

Mike Reicher reports: "Every year the Nashville Tree Foundation awards the 'Big Old Tree' prize for the largest tree nominated in Davidson County. This year's winner sits in the path of a major construction project."

"The 92-foot tall cherrybark oak towers over the James Cayce public housing complex, much of which is being demolished to make way for modern affordable apartments," explains Reicher.

The future of the tree is in limbo, because the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency hasn't yet released its plans for the Envision Cayce (the name of the aforementioned affordable housing project). However, "[t]he agency does not have to follow new city tree regulations, which are designed to save mature trees during Nashville’s expansive development boom."

According to Reicher, the looming clash between affordable housing advocates and environmentalists is likely to be exacerbated by the political climate created by the city's development market. "In the past, a public housing project’s landscape might not have generated as much controversy, but today the stakes are higher. Nashville developers have cut down thousands of trees in recent years to clear land for buildings and parking lots — a scale of loss that has galvanized tree lovers and prompted action at City Hall." Housing prices in Nashville are climbing to crisis levels despite all the new construction.

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