Growth trends continue to be a big topic in Maury County, and the latest is bringing more residential, commercial and industrial projects to two key areas with remaining acreage.
They are also areas where there is a growing need to address traffic issues and infrastructure updates.
The two areas in question are properties along Bear Creek Pike, as well as Nashville Highway, or Highway 31, both of which regularly appear on Columbia City Council agendas requesting rezones and annexations to make room for more development..
With growth continuing at a faster pace than initial predictions, the hunt for land to build on has become increasingly difficult. Part of it could be tied to availability, cost or efforts to preserve areas of remaining rural Maury County land.
Columbia Director of Developments Paul Keltner said the trend seems to be tied to Bear Creek’s proximity to the interstate, as well as closer access to schools.
Uptick in projects
However, there seems to also be an uptick in projects being proposed closer to the downtown district.
“Everything else is trying to be closer to Columbia proper, or out at some of these outlier areas such as around the interstate or north of Columbia,” Keltner said.
Of the properties moving dirt along Bear Creek, Keltner said there are multiple projects, including one residential neighborhood with approximately 400 units, and another with 300.
In addition to residential developments, a lot of the bigger projects fall into the multi-use category, making way for a mix of commercial, office and residential space..
“We’re seeing that more now and it’s being requested more now than ever. It’s a mixture of product types within these developments,” Keltner said. “Take Rock Springs [off Bear Creek Pike] for example, which has got 336 apartment units, and then it has small pockets of townhomes at around 200 and then you have a little over 100 single-family all mixed in within the same development.”
Bear Creek widening, a lengthy process
With rising developments comes the need for upgraded infrastructure, especially within the vicinity of an interstate highway.
Columbia is currently updating its Bear Creek Pike I-65 interchange in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The upgrades will improve the on-off ramps and make navigation safer for drivers.
This also falls in line with the city’s plans to widen portions of Bear Creek Pike near the intersection at Nashville Highway, one of the city’s most-trafficked spots.
However, it’s a lot quicker to build homes than it is to build roads.
While the I-65 project has been underway for several months, the Bear Creek widening project might not happen for quite some time, Keltner said.
“The intersection of Bear Creek and Nashville Highway, we’ve been on that for about two years now, getting the approvals and getting the design done. When you start getting into state-owned property and federal funding, it just becomes very complex,” Keltner said. “The process of the items you have to complete before getting to construction is very lengthy.”
This includes acquiring multiple approvals from various committees and organizations, which has been the process for upgrades at the intersection of Bear Creek and Nashville Highway.
“It includes obtaining rights from the Environmental Protection Agency, Native Americans, TWRA, agencies like that. They all have to sign off when we start doing some of these projects,” Keltner said. “We’re getting close to getting all of those approvals done, and hopefully we would like to go to contract on that one either late this year or beginning of next year.”
When it comes to the widening of Bear Creek, starting that project depends on where the project falls on the TDOT list. It would also require a strong push from the Columbia City Council.
“That is something the city would really have to look to working with TDOT in how to move our request and need to widening that road to a higher-up priority ranking in their list,” Keltner said.
“As of now, there are no plans for widening of Bear Creek, although there are a lot of discussions about it, a lot of talks at the city about what it’s going to take and how we can make that happen. Ultimately, it’s going to take a big push from the city to TDOT to move it up on the rankings there. The state has a massive load of projects they are trying to accomplish.”