Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lakeside Community Draws Amenities

Lakeside Community Draws Amenities
by Mike Organ, morgan@tennessean.com
The Tennessean
September 21, 2014
http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2014/09/21/amenities-abound-lakeside-enclave/16012093/

The Priest Lake neighborhood is tucked away so snugly in the southeast corner of Davidson County that it attracts limited traffic and therefore has remained somewhat secluded while so many communities in Nashville have undergone extensive change over the years.
The neighborhood is on the edge of J. Percy Priest Lake, a 14,200-acre reservoir built in the 1960s when the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers placed a dam on the Stones River.
The lake is surrounded by 18,854 acres of public land, and the Priest Lake area accounts for much of the portion in Davidson County. The lake also stretches into Wilson and Rutherford counties.
The opportunity to live near the water attracted many to the neighborhood between Murfreesboro Road and the lake in the 1970s, and while the area nearest the lake remained mostly free of retail stores, businesses on the neighborhood's other border boomed.
By the mid-1970s, Priest Lake Plaza shopping center was built on Murfreesboro Road. It included a Kroger grocery store, SuperX drugstore, Baskin-Robbins, Radio Shack, Tom Baldridge Sportsman's Store, a beauty parlor, an arts and crafts store and several other occupants.
Not long after that, a Commerce Union Bank was built next door, then a Captain D's, then other retail stores started popping up on Murfreesboro and Bell roads nearby.
The neighborhood benefited from the businesses, and home values started to climb.
"The unique aspect to this area of the city is that you have always had a lot of senior citizens, who have stayed in their homes for many years, and then you have a lot of young families who are able to come in and buy affordable homes," said Metro Council member Karen Johnson, who bought her first home in the area when she was 19.
The neighborhood, Johnson said, has always offered homes in various price ranges, which has provided stability.
"Generally, you see young families move into an area and then move out," Johnson said. "They use their first home as a stepping stone. Out here, it didn't happen that way because there was move-up housing. You've got houses out here in the $90,000 to $100,000 range all the way up to $400,000. That's a unique community."
Tony Banizza wasn't sure how long he would stay in the area after he moved from Brentwood. That was nearly 10 years ago, and he has no plans to leave.
"When we sold our home in Brentwood, I was looking to move back to the Crieve Hall area, close to where I grew up," Banizza said. "But I couldn't get the amenities and the size I wanted for the dollar over in Crieve Hall. I was able to get a nice-size home over here. I've got three bedrooms, two and a half baths, a full-size eat-in kitchen, living room-dining room combination and a bonus room with a pool table in it."
Banizza also likes that the neighborhood reminds him of the one where he grew up.
"Everybody on my street knows each other; we all look out for each other," Banizza said. "The other thing that's fun to see is all the kids outside playing. They're out there shooting basketball, throwing the football, riding their bikes. ... They're not inside on their Xbox and playing video games. I lived in Brentwood seven years and never saw anybody outside shooting hoops or throwing a football in the front or backyard."
While retail businesses along Murfreesboro Road thrived, the lake side of the neighborhood remained peaceful.
The YMCA's Camp Widjiwagan on Smith Springs Road, accredited by the American Camp Association, provides access to the lake for its guests.
Features include an equestrian center; an "airnasium" where street hockey, basketball and other games can be played; a 50-foot alpine tower; and a swimming area with a beach and two 150-foot water slides, a giant swing, a pool and splash park.
The nearby Smith Springs Recreation Area is ideal for fishing and swimming. There is a boat ramp, trails, electrical hook-ups for camping, restroom facilities and a large picnic shelter.
"The lake is just a jewel, with all the trails and the activities that go on there," Johnson said. "The quality of life that is out here, that many people don't know about, is fantastic. ... It is a community that embraces healthy lifestyles, keeps its historic aspect, but at the same time is progressive."
Those opportunities include golf. Nashboro Golf Club, which was built in 1975, bumps up next to the neighborhood. The public club is touted as "the best course layout in Nashville for the money" and provides a challenge for golfers of all skill levels.
As Hickory Hollow Mall, which opened nearby in 1978, became a more popular shopping destination, some of the businesses in and around Priest Lake Plaza struggled.
But these days, Crossings Nashville Action Partnership, Murfreesboro Road merchants and other groups are helping to revive the retail community, which has taken on a new look, reflecting more diversity and catering to the residents of different nationalities that moved in.
"You have got every culture over here," Banizza said. "It is an extremely diverse area."
Johnson is concerned about infrastructure, which she said has not kept up with growth over the years.
"We are the fastest-growing area in the city," she said, "but we are just now trying to catch up with other areas of the city."
Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 and on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.

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