This story was updated Friday to detail the ongoing dispute over the construction timeline and notifications.
The Nashville Farmers' Market has a parking crisis on its hands that’s worse than anticipated. Leaders there say they didn’t have enough time to borrow nearby parking lots, creating a panic for the farmers and small businesses there.
The farmers market has known for months that it would lose half of its parking because of a construction project next door to build the new Tennessee State Museum.
The market’s board expected to get a heads up before work would begin, but Director Tasha Kennard says they got just 12 hours.
“Twelve hours just really wasn’t enough. That sent us into a bit of a tailspin,” she said.
Project Timeline Disputed
Kennard said plans were in motion to notify merchants and shoppers — and to identify underused parking lots in the area of Bicentennial Mall and the surrounding neighborhood.
“When they fenced us off, none of those things had been accomplished,” Kennard said.
The market lost half of its spots overnight, crushing business over the Memorial Day weekend.
But this timeline is disputed by the state Department of General Services, which is overseeing the museum project.
“They got extra time and they got written notice,” said spokesman David Roberson.
Emails provided to WPLN on Friday from both agencies show the following timeline:
- In early April, the state told the market that parking would be reduced on May 1.
- Three weeks later, the market was told that its lot wouldn't be reduced until May 15.
- On Tuesday, May 24, the market was told “chain link fencing should start going up by the end of this week.”
- The board discussed the project May 25 and was informed the fencing would go up on the morning of May 26. It did.
“Why weren’t they prepared for the loss of the parking spaces on May 15?” Roberson asked via email. “I'm not seeing how any of their claims are even remotely plausible.”
Merchants Take Action
Kennard called for an emergency meeting of the farmers and restaurant owners this week.
“What we learned was pretty startling,” she said.
Some merchants said they’ve suffered a 30 percent hit compared to last spring. Some have reached out to state legislators for help, as many of the potential temporary lots are for state employees.
“These are folks that are depending upon lunch crowds and weekend crowds to support their small businesses and people are not able to get here as they once were,” she said.
She expects a similar parking pinch this weekend, but said she the market could get access to other nearby lots by next week.
In the meantime, she’s urging visitors to use rideshare apps or transit — and working to keep her vendors from giving up on the market.