NOTE: This is an excerpt from my master's thesis, "The Bend." The project was originally constructed with a map interface and can be viewed at thisisthebend.com. It's currently password protected while final adjustments are made. If you're interested in viewing the project before it's live, just drop me a line.
Northwest of Nashville the community of Bells Bend has become the epicenter of a struggle between farming preservationists and housing developers.
Cradled in a section of the Cumberland River that is shaped like a bell, it is one of the last rural areas in the Metro Nashville area. Known as The Bend to locals, it has been called “probably the best preserved historical agricultural landscape remaining in the county” by the Metropolitan Planning Commission and the community of 350 households has been fighting to keep it that way for more than a generation.
Most recently, the neighborhood campaigned against a four-billion dollar condominium and corporate park complex proposed for a 1,400 acre lot in the heart of The Bend. The community of farmers, professionals and environmentalists living in the area fought against some of the most prominent developers in Nashville and won by one vote in the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Since this momentous win in 2009, the community has worked to prevent large-scale development and promote what they call “The Third Vision,” a plan that aims to protect the rural characteristics of the land and promote environmental-based growth such as organic farming, agri-tourism and eco-tourism opportunities. It has also embraced and supported a new generation of young adults with dreams of homesteading and living off the land through organic farming. One of the farms was in fact formed by the community itself, which donated land and raised capital to buy equipment and build fences.
Bells Bend is a place where where neighbors, both young and old, will band together to help build a deer fence or catch a swarm of honeybees. It is a place where doors are left unlocked and weekly potlucks are standard. It is also a place where the people know they are on borrowed time. The fate of 1,400 acres of prime real estate in The Bend is still uncertain and with 2,000 people moving to the city of Nashville every month, it is only a matter of time before a new project will be proposed.