NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – After nearly seven years of planning and construction, city, state and community leaders will unveil the Gateway to Heritage streetscape improvement project during the grand opening ceremony, Friday, Sept. 28 beginning at 3 p.m.
The Plaza, which extends along Jefferson Street, transforms the interstate underpass into an area that celebrates the African-American history of north Nashville in the areas of athletics, civil rights, education, music and religion.
The plaza will also reconnect historic Jefferson Street and the community with its heritage, and include many aesthetic improvements such as lighted pillars wrapped with historic photos and information, murals, colored gravel and lush landscaping.
“The Heritage Plaza represents the rebirth of Jefferson Street while celebrating its vast and deep history, culture and vitality,” said Nashville Metro Councilmember at Large Jerry Maynard. “When you exit the highway you will now see beauty and culture that reflects our community instead of the old chain link fence that represented the division and devastation that the highway created years ago.”
The revitalization of the area has been a collaborative effort between public and private sectors, including Tennessee State University, Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership, the City of Nashville, the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“The Gateway to Heritage streetscape project is the successful result of community collaboration,” Mayor Karl Dean said. “This project is an investment that will spur new economic development for the North Nashville community and for the city as a whole. The transformation is exciting to see and provides an attractive gateway to historic Jefferson Street, an important area of our community.”
Tennessee State University has invested more than $400,000 through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, as well as provided research and design of the plaza from students majoring in art, engineering, geography and history. Another phase of the project, set to begin later this year, includes extensive landscaping along the I-40 exit ramps near the plaza and was funded by a $608,000 federal grant administered by the Tennessee Department of Transportation with a required $152,000 match from Metro Public Works.
Also contributing to the project, Metro Development Housing Agency has funded$470,000 in intersection improvements, enhanced street lighting and 20 columns each block along Jefferson Street from 28th Avenue to Rosa Parks Boulevard.
“I’m so proud of the collaboration that made this community revitalization project possible,” said Ginger Hausser, lead project advisor from Tennessee State University. “Business owners, universities, elected officials, federal, state, and local governments all worked together to celebrate North Nashville in an innovative way with history, photography and public art. For years to come residents, students, and visitors will walk down Jefferson Street and experience its history and exciting future.”
The design of the plaza was created by the EDGE Group in Nashville and not only includes the landscape design, but directional signage and the development of a gathering place under the overpass.
“EDGE has been honored to have a role in the ‘Gateway to Heritage’ and creating an environment that the community can be proud of,” said EDGE Group partner, John Haas. “Over seven years of input from community members, university officials and business leaders has resulted in the collaborative design of a successful place that promotes community interaction and is truly sustainable – economically, socially, and environmentally. We believe the improvements will serve as a new gateway to historic Jefferson Street and will act as a social and economic catalyst for the area.”
Along with the plaza improvements, the area will also include a mural painted by local artists James Threalkill and Michael McBride. Additionally, the concrete support pillars will eventually have architectural details painted at the tops and murals of significant personalities of Jefferson Street.
“I think this Heritage Plaza is amazing, not only its design and beauty, but the collaborative efforts of so many from the public, private and nonprofit sectors” said Sharon Hurt, Executive Director of the Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership. “This project is a true example of what working together can do for this city. This is a model project that has made North Nashville and Nashville at large, a better place for us all to live, work and visit.”
The Grand Opening ceremony will take place from 3-6 p.m. and will include Mayor Dean, along with state and federal guest speakers. There will also be musical performances by the Pearl Cohn High School Band, and blues vocalist and guitarist James “Nick” Nixon. Jefferson Street merchants will also be on hand with a “Taste of Jefferson Street.”
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About Tennessee State University
With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university and is a comprehensive, urban, coeducational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top Universities in the county by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912 Tennessee State University celebrates 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu
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Motto: Think, Work, Serve Established: June 19, 1912 Type: Public, HBCU Endowment: $41.7 million Chancellor: John Morgan President: Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover Faculty: 431 Enrollment: 8775 Location: Nashville, Tennessee, United States Campus: Urban, 500 acres (2 km²) Former names: Tennessee A&I State Normal School for Negroes (1912); Tennessee A&I State Normal College (1925); Tennessee A&I State University (1951); Tennessee State University (1968) Colors: Reflex Blue and White Nickname: Tigers Athletics: National Collegiate Athletic Association Affiliations: Ohio Valley Conference Web site: www.tnstate.edu Phone: 615-963-5000
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