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Neal Peirce showed the Nashville area how Middle Tennessee can grow and thrive | Opinion

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

by Margot Fosnes, chair of Cumberland Region Tomorrow. As published in the The Tennessean.

At the end of 2019 the nation lost one of its most respected and knowledgeable urbanists, Neal Peirce.

His accomplishments over a long and storied career were well documented by national publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post.

As the many tributes to him attest, Neal left a mark on the nation, but he also left one on our region in the form of Cumberland Region Tomorrow (CRT).

In 1999 Vanderbilt University, The Tennessean, and the Greater Nashville Regional Council brought Neal Peirce and Curtis Johnson to Nashville to study issues rising from the region’s growth.

The study, which became known as The Peirce Report, called out the region for being “behind the curve in smart planning” and lacking “consensus on willingness to move forward on major new initiatives."

Peirce Report led to counties creating plans and acting on them

The Nashville Scene wrote in December, 1999, “Nashvillians express great fear about living in another Atlanta, Peirce and Johnson notice, yet pursue Atlanta-like development policies, which “stoked the economic fires without protecting quality of life.”

CRT was formed in the wake of the report’s release. Tasked with tackling the issues it raised, CRT began helping communities across the region develop comprehensive growth plans and working to facilitate an on-going conversation around growth.

As a result, nine of 10 counties in our service area now have comp plans and countless elected officials, planning staff and commissioners, and community leaders have participated in Quality Growth Toolbox training, regional workshops, and public planning exercises.

The Power of 10 annual regional summit has brought leaders and elected officials together annually since 2009 to learn from each other as well as national experts and work to ensure the long‐term livability, economic vitality and sustainability of the region.

CRT will be amplifying its outreach and message as it turns 20 years old

While CRT can certainly point to numerous successes, there is still so much to do. And while many of the challenges we face today are the same as Peirce highlighted in 1999 – traffic congestion, lack of connectivity between neighborhoods and services, and continuing loss of farmland and open spaces – we also face new challenges – rising housing costs, displacement, and changing technology.

As we enter our 20th year CRT knows we must work harder than ever.  We will be amplifying our outreach and education efforts to speak to a larger and more diverse audience through our blog, social media, email newsletters and public gatherings.

We will make sure that our elected officials, community and business leaders, and all residents of the region that want to live in a vibrant, thriving, and sustainable Nashville region have the data, resources, and examples of best practices they need to make good choices about our future.

Visit our website at and sign up for our newsletters; follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and watch for events in your communities in the year ahead.  We are grateful for the work of Neal Peirce and many like him who have shown us how great communities grow and thrive. Let us honor him by talking about what we want our region to look like, and committing to head there.

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