NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The excitement of Broadway is what brings most people to Nashville’s most iconic street.
“I just got in the streets and started selling CDs all the time, and the people know me and then I got on Broadway and became part of the culture,” said Kyhil Smith.
For over 15 years, Smith turns into the Broadway Rapper, entertaining thousands of people along Nashville’s Lower Broadway.
“I love the fact that me being a busker from 2008 until now has gotten me so many friends, so many relationships, (and) so many opportunities,” he said.
But with Nashville’s new street vendor ordinance in effect, and now changes to downtown parking, Smith said its these things that are impacting his livelihood.
“You already have to park like a mile away if you don’t want to pay a bajillion dollars to be downtown,” he said. “So it’s like now that just makes it worse.”
New parking meters are being installed, and soon 24/7 parking enforcement will be coming to the downtown area.
“Something needs to be done that makes it easier for the musicians who are the drivers of this economy,” said Jay Bragg.
Bragg is one of many musicians who struggles to find affordable and adequate parking downtown for work.
“The great talent in Nashville are just going to reconsider going through the hassle if they don’t feel like the city is on their side a little bit,” he said.
Bragg said he spends around $100 a month on parking, and says using nearby garages isn’t always the best or safest option.
“The garages are expensive,” he said. “I’ve had a few friends who’ve gotten their cars broken into, tires slashed, so I prefer to use street parking.”
Councilmember Russ Pulley is chair of the Metro Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and says he’s open to hearing concerns and working to improve this program and the new street vender ordinance.
“Let’s see how it’s working,” he said. “Let’s see where the pitfalls are, and let’s see if adjustments need to be made and we’ll make them.”
But Pulley said this new parking program is something that’s needed for the city.
“I certainly think if we’re going to benefit financially from it during the day, why not do that in the hours of the night people are coming to take advantage of it,” he said.
Pulley also believes changing the meters will help Nashville catch up to other cities.
“The change over is designed to bring us into modern technology,” he said. “I think we’re in the dark ages. We have people that come to us and say, ‘Why can’t I do this on my phone?'”
The new meters will allow drivers to pay with credit cards at the machine, or through an app, QR code or text message. The meters will also accept cash.
But with so many changes happening, Smith feels like it might be time to finally leave the Music City and go elsewhere.
“If I’m not considered Broadway Rapper and my city doesn’t want me to be Broadway Rapper, then why stay?” he said.
The Nashville Department of Transportation began installing the new meters Thursday, Feb. 23 and Friday, Feb. 24.
Director of Strategic Communications Cortnye Stone said the machines are not activated yet so customers should continue to use the old ones.
The new meters are expected to be activated in the next one to two weeks. N-DOT plans to send out notices once they’re up and running.
You can read more information about the new program here.
News 2 did reach out to the Nashville Downtown Partnership about these concerns and was sent this statement:
The Nashville Downtown Partnership works to expand access to reliable parking for all employees, both daytime workers and those in the night-time economy. Night-time economy employees can consistently rely on at least two great options: The Metro Courthouse/Public Square Garage and the Library Garage offers low-cost parking after 5 PM until 5 AM on weekdays and all-day Saturday and Sunday. In addition, SP+ Parking Management Services offers discounted parking options specifically for downtown merchants. Qualifying merchants can contact SP+ at Nashville@spplus.com.
The Nashville Downtown Partnership Operates the Park it! Downtown Shuttle Service that daytime downtown employees (including musicians that work daytime shifts) can utilize. For only $52/person per month, employees can park at Nissan Stadium and take the shuttle downtown.
News 2 also reached out to the mayor’s office requesting an interview from the city’s new Director of Nightlife about these concerns, but has yet to hear back.