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Murfreesboro Is Moving Forward Again

By Lee Rennick

When things looked rocky during those early months of COVID-19, the Murfreesboro City Council scaled back their planned budget for 2021 by more than 50 percent to prepare for the worst. However, the city actually ended up with a 7 percent increase in income over the previous year. This increase is allowing projects that were stopped to move forward.

“We have started numerous road projects, infrastructure projects and also are hoping
to start numerous park projects,” said Mayor Shane McFarland. “We had put all hiring and
all projects that had not started on hold. As a growing community, this was not ideal. Now, we can get things back moving forward.

Working the Murfreesboro 2035 Plan

Before the pandemic, the city was working through Murfreesboro 2035, a growth plan that was created and approved in 2017 after asking for input from the public and the completion of an extensive study on options for planned economic and structural growth. This plan focuses on areas in and around downtown, including the development of an arts focused area and more downtown housing. Since the report was completed, the city has placed a significant emphasis on Murfreesboro’s downtown area. Over the last five years, the city has invested more than $250 million dollars on infrastructure, commercial construction and other improvements in and around downtown.

“We are continuing to promote and work with private partners on downtown development and seeing rehabilitation,” said McFarland. “Th e Bottoms”, [where Mayday Brewery is located], is an area where we are witnessing continued interest. And, we are looking at reworking South Front Street, which will continue to help revitalize that area. Th ere is also the potential building of a walking bridge over Broad Street and other improvements. For example, we are currently looking at what to do with the old Murfreesboro Police department building and surrounding buildings.

Job Creation and Filling Empty Office Spaces

Of course, high priority is job creation. McFarland thinks many things will continue to see changes from COVID-19. Several corporate businesses have said they aren’t reopening their doors and will allow employers to work from home. This doesn’t necessarily hurt the city from a revenue standpoint, but it does leave office space vacant.

“We are working hard to help fill some of those office spaces,” said McFarland. “I think the hotel industry will take some time to rebound. Hospitality has bounced back and looks to continue that rebound. Hopefully, we will see a continued path back to normalcy."

Growth for Murfreesboro in Near Feature

Normalcy and new growth will most likely not expand into unincorporated areas unless a property owner requests annexation. Murfreesboro is not actively looking to expand their boundaries. The city council is focused on new growth inside current corporate boundaries.

Part of that new growth will be a much-anticipated Costco store that will be located off Warrior Drive and a new shopping center on South Church Street at Joe B. Jackson Parkway called The Marketplace at Savannah Ridge. In the same area as Costco is a new gun range and new RV dealer. ALDI will be one of the anchor stores for the Savannah Ridge development of 24 acres.

In a recent story in The Daily News Journal, Steelhead Building Group Principal James Pollard said, “[Savannah Ridge is] going to completely transform a previously untouched area in the city, and we hope it’ll be a catalyst for other development around it.”

Back downtown, redevelopment of the historic First United Methodist Church property is expected to begin this summer, according to another DNJ story. The developer put the project on hold due to COVID-19. After some adjustments to the initial plan, they hope to have the project completed by the end of 2023. The $65 to $70 million dollar project is expected to preserve the 19th century bell tower.

Painted Tree Marketplace is a unique concept that will be moving into the old Steinmart location. They bring hundreds of small business owners under one roof offering them spaces for rent within the larger store. It is an idea that has long been used by owners of antique stores and pickers.

COVID-19 and Growth-Related Issues

Some of the new growth will slow with current supply chain issues, which is affecting many Murfreesboro’s business partners. The main concern is how increased demand of limited resources will drive up pricing. The building industry is seeing it with the significant rise in lumber prices. But there are also issues with semi-conductors and plastics, important foundations to our current economy.

Another concern is infrastructure, continuing through the pandemic has been massive growth as more people move to Murfreesboro from out of state looking for the greener pastures of great schools and a lower cost of living from states they came from like New York, California and Illinois. According to McFarland, the city will be putting a lot of emphasis on infrastructure in the foreseeable future.

“Murfreesboro has weathered the storm very well,” said McFarland. “We are in the best financial position we have ever been. I am proud of this City and its residents.

Smyrna Sees Rapid Growth and Development

In 2016, Smyrna created and approved a plan for public improvement. This plan includes development of the downtown area, called “The District.” Other changes include the building of two more hotels, medical offices, significant new housing starts and a massive investment in expansion of the Waste Water Treatment Plant.

“The Town is in the midst of the single-largest project investment in our history with the expansion of the Waste Water Treatment Plant,” said Brian Hercules, Smyrna Town Manager. “This expansion will double the capacity of the plant, providing the ability to adequately service the projected growth in Smyrna.”

The Town is continuing to grow at a rapid rate, with 1,057 building permits issued in 2020 for 1,057 residential dwellings, which includes single-family dwelling, townhomes and apartments. Several new residential developments have been approved and are in the beginning phases of construction.

A major private investment is in the construction of a 308-unit apartment complex on the property where the Lane Cedar Mill was located, just down from the Smyrna Depot. This complex, as well as the new Zama Park and a series of sidewalk and streetscape upgrades will bring people to live in the historic downtown area and providing customers to the businesses located there.

“The Town has a contract with TDOT for Phase I of a streetscape/sidewalk project for the downtown area,” added Hercules. “This centers around the intersection at Washington Street and Lowry Street, but will cover the area from Sam Davis Road to Jackson Street. Phase II of these improvements will be from Jackson Street northward to the bridge over Harts Branch.” Other external investment includes Topre currently constructing an expansion and Steel Technologies has just been approved for Phase 3 of their building.

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