Walkable neighborhood in the South?
October 6, 2011 7:36 AM   Subscribe

I live in TN, in a city that doesn't offer very good mass transit, everything is spread out and I have to drive everywhere. I would love to live in a neighborhood designed for people who want to walk to the local grocery, book store, park. Not just a neighborhood that may offer a coffee house, but a true walking neighborhood, and I need to stay in this part of the South... Is there anywhere in TN or AR like that? (Nashville to west TN and central to east AR).
posted by flesti to Society & Culture (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Chattanooga comes to mind, at least as an example of the best of Tennessee that I can think of?
posted by General Malaise at 8:05 AM on October 6, 2011

I recently moved away from Nashville, partly because I wanted mass transit and walkability. But if you wanted that city, what about East Nashville or the 12th South area? 12S is probably better for pure walkability, and adding a bike would make things even easier, especially getting to Hillsboro Village and the like.
posted by cardioid at 8:05 AM on October 6, 2011

I live in the Hillsboro Village area of Nashville. There's a grocery store, a few coffee houses, a few parks, a used book store, restaurants, a movie theater all within a 1-mile radius (which I consider walkable). The down side is that it's one of the most expensive places in the city to rent and own.

I imagine there are some other similar neighborhoods in Nashville, like East Nashville and 12 South though I think those areas are a little further to a grocery store.
posted by ghharr at 8:07 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can look at the "walk score" distribution for Nashville (and other places). Green areas have higher walk scores

Walk Score measures how easy it is to live a car-lite lifestyle—not how pretty the area is for walking.

posted by ghharr at 8:09 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Umm... Memphis? Maybe?

I think the only part of the country that may be worse at walkable full-service neighborhoods than the South is the Midwest--and not by a huge margin. I mean, Chattanooga's got an increasingly thriving downtown, with an excellent urban resurgence going on in the New Main St. area, but you will need a car, and that's East, not West Tennessee.

But I think I can say this without being contradicted by anyone: there isn't a single place in Tennessee or Arkansas that has anything approaching truly robust mass transit. What there is is probably limited to a city bus system, which isn't going to cover everywhere, doesn't come more than a few times an hour, usually shuts down overnight, has limited service on the weekends, and is far from reliable in terms of scheduling. While there are a few places down south that have light rail or streetcar systems, I don't there's a single subway system in the entire American South. Seriously, according to this list, the fifteenth-largest rapid transit system in the country is the Staten Island Railway, which only sees about 16,300 passengers a day. The only Southern city even on the list is Atlanta. Of the thirty largest bus systems in the country, two are in the South, i.e. Atlanta and Charlotte.
posted by valkyryn at 8:13 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

You... you don't live in Clarksville, do you?

Anyway, I agree with all the others that certain subsets of Nashville is really all you're going to get with this, and even then it's limited. Another place you might look is moderately-sized cities with small downtowns. I work on campus in Clarksville and live nearby, and the Kroger and library are biking/moped distance, so I only rarely use my car-- but I still couldn't live without it by any means. That's probably going to be the type of arrangement available to you in the geographic area you've described.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:22 AM on October 6, 2011

Downtown Memphis is fairly walkable if you don't mind occasionally hearing gunfire.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 8:25 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

There are parts of East Nashville like this (Lockeland Springs and some areas of Inglewood), although without the theater. Ghharr mentions Hillsboro Village, which is awesome, but pricier. You could also check the downtown area of Franklin, TN, just outside Nashville.

I've been looking at this exact thing pretty closely, because we are considering moving from NYC to Nashville (my college town). The walk score can be helpful when applied to Nashville, but misleading. For instance, there are some high walk score areas that are in crappy, pedestrian-unfriendly areas. It scores high because there's a cluster of fast-food, banks, mini-markets, and a school nearby, but ultimately is not a place you would want to live. Alternately, there are areas I'm considering because they are close to things I want to walk to (like Riverside Village in Ingelwood) but they score lower (high 40's and 50's) because they aren't in proximity to banks and stores but do have lots of the things I am interested in.

It's not a particularly easy search your on. I don't think there is any true and easy car-free locations in the South.
posted by kimdog at 8:25 AM on October 6, 2011

Ghharr and valkyryn nail it. There are walkable neighborhoods and areas, but nothing that would allow you to be car-less completely.

At least, from what I can tell, living in Nashville (Hillsboro-West End area, near Vanderbilt University). I've not tried to be without a car myself, but a colleague has, and she has noted the problems with the bus schedule, limited weekends, getting to and from bus stops, having to go downtown to catch a bus going away from downtown, etc.

If you can swing it, the pricier areas of Nashville mentioned above (Hillsboro, 12South) have the added benefit of being near areas where ZipCars and other options are available. Just something to consider.

Still, no easy answer for this, only better fits than others.
posted by southpaw at 8:33 AM on October 6, 2011

I think you need to find a planned community that is set up with this in mind, not in a city that it might happen by chance.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:51 AM on October 6, 2011

if you're amenable to east tennessee, i spent several carless years in downtown knoxville. i had a little apartment in the old city which was a nice walk up to gay street and market square, fort sanders, and the UT campus. 4th and gill is another nice (less urban, more neighborhoody) neighborhood nearby. this whole area is pretty much the epicenter of knoxville culture at the moment; you'd be near the bijou, the shops in the old city, everything on market square, all the world's fair site events (assuming they still hold things there).

grocery shopping is a short bus ride down kingston pike. i haven't lived there for a while, so i'm not sure if there's groceries closer, but i know there's a food co-op in 4th and gill that always kept my friends happy and fed.
posted by patricking at 9:02 AM on October 6, 2011

Memphis could be walkable, in some parts, but do watch out for bad neighborhoods.
posted by cp311 at 11:05 AM on October 6, 2011

Memphis really isn't what the OP is asking for. They are putting bike lanes in now, in some places, but... frankly the city the OP describes living in sounds like Memphis to me.
posted by tomboko at 1:13 PM on October 6, 2011

I do live in Memphis. I was raised here, and I can honestly say...it is not really walkable.
I don't mind driving to work, but I would love to ditch the car when I get home and be able to walk to the store or a little community area that offers the basics with a few extras. I was a proud midtowner, but (unless the new-shiny Square gets up and running) there is no neighborhood that contains the essentials. CY is ok, but no grocery. Mostly eateries w/ a book store thrown in.
Downtown has no grocery and Harbor Town is not exactly what I had in mind.
If anyone is familiar with Virginia Highlands in ATL or Mill Valley, CA that is what I am hoping to find. Moving away is just not an option at this time.
posted by flesti at 1:31 PM on October 6, 2011

Unless there is a grocery in downtown that I'm not aware of, the only walkable neighborhood I know of in Memphis that includes a decent sized one is Midtown near the Kroger (recently Schnuck's) on Union (McLean and Union/Madison are). I lived in that area for a number of years depending only upon a bicycle but I was in my mid-twenty's (20 years ago) and didn't have a very firm grip on my mortality. Mass transit is usually not a real option in Memphis unless you only need to travel back and forth on some of the main streets like Poplar or the western part of Madison.

I cannot tell when this was posted but, it describes the situation downtown as I remember it. Looks like it also might be a good general resource regarding downtown Memphis.

My only other thought is that parts of Mud Island near Ms. Cordelia's grocery might fit the bill if you don't mind the boutique prices.

I'm probably focusing on the grocery situation because it was a main frustration when I lived in downtown Memphis.
posted by Carbolic at 1:39 PM on October 6, 2011

Should have previewed
posted by Carbolic at 1:41 PM on October 6, 2011

In central AR, the closest you'll come to this is probably in Little Rock's Hillcrest and Stifft Station (maybe throw in Quapaw) and North Little Rock's Argenta neighborhoods. As others have said--unless you're willing to make significant compromises, these are probably better places for not-driving-much than for living completely car-free.

If there are true car-free areas in the South, I think it might be more likely that they're in college towns than in larger cities.
posted by box at 3:34 PM on October 6, 2011

(And maybe some tourist-town/island kinda areas, but I don't know much about that.)
posted by box at 5:07 PM on October 6, 2011

I'm in the Central Gardens neighborhood in Memphis. Kroger on Union is two blocks away, as are several drugstores and coffee houses. Our beautiful old-forest park is four blocks away. The Cooper Young neighborhood is just a mile away, and has a bookstore, restaurants, shops, parks. We have a very active neighborhood association. This is in the center of the city and there are all kinds of entertainment options within walking distance. There are no big box stores, though, and the main library is a little too far to walk, but close enough for a bike ride. The downtown area is also close enough to bike. I love my historic neighborhood, and there are apartments sprinkled throughout. There are several city bus lanes within a few blocks. I do have a car and drive regularly, but I know I could do without it if I needed to. Memphis just added something like 40 miles of bike lanes and have plans for about 20 more.
posted by raisingsand at 5:09 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Alas, also should have previewed. Memail me if you want more details, but Central Gardens would work for you, I bet.
posted by raisingsand at 5:11 PM on October 6, 2011

I agree about Cooper Young. I lived there for a while and I could get to a lot more places either on foot or bike than I can in Nashville.

But, one more place to consider in Nashville is the Gulch. If you have a bazillion dollars for a condo, that is.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:12 AM on October 7, 2011

I think you can get a Gulch condo for under 300k but there really isn't a real grocery store close to it.
posted by ghharr at 8:17 AM on October 7, 2011

I did live in Central Gardens, a walk to Otherland's and 1912 could be but was not always nice. Heading to Schnucks (now Kroger) on foot turned out to be not-so-safe/not-so-smart for me and others in the neighborhood. It is a really beautiful location, but not as walkable as it looks like it would be. It has always cracked me up that me and all of my fellow midtown snobs used to talk about Midtown being a real community and walkable, but it is something we only did occasionally and often did not have good results. I still love it, but outside of the architecture and being a tad more liberal than other areas, it still doesn't solve the walkable community issue.

I have heard good things about the areas around LR, specifically Hillcrest, but I would need to do more research.

Thanks everyone for the feedback- it really helps!
posted by flesti at 2:59 PM on October 7, 2011

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