24-hour diner team envisions food truck park alternative

Developer goes to BZA after MDHA rejects updated design

The developers and owners of a would-be 24-hour diner building in SoBro for which construction has stalled might have a Plan B if Metro eventually permanently squashes the project: a food truck park.

Steve Smith, who is teaming with Al Ross on the project, said that if the Metro Board of Zoning Appeals later this month votes to disallow construction to resume at the southeast corner of Third Avenue South and Demonbreun Street, he will consider filling the hole, paving and fencing the site and renting spaces to owners and operators of food trucks.

Smith, who co-owns Lower Broadway fixture Tootsie's as well as nearby Rippy's and Honky Tonk Central, said he has long had a good working relationship with Metro officials and would solicit their feedback regarding having food trucks on the smallish site.

“I’ve had some people approach me about a food truck park,” he said, adding the site could accommodate six to eight food trucks and generate, via rents, more than $35,000 a month.

As to the looming BZA hearing, Smith said he is taking a practical approach.

“I don’t know that we can get this done,” he said of completing the building that would house Avenue Diner, which Smith and Ross would pattern after Junior’s in New York City.

Smith said he wants to give the lot a dining option of some sort and that the food trucks could be an alternative to a 24-hour diner in a bricks-and-mortar building.

“Nashville has been good to me and we love the city,” he said.

On Tuesday morning, the Metro Development and Housing Agency Design Review Committee unanimously voted today to disapprove alteration to the city’s downtown code so as to allow a new design for the diner building (read more here). Smith and his team presented a design with the sidewalk at 12 feet, instead of the existing nine. The downtown code, according to MDHA, requires a sidewalk width range of 15 to 20 feet for new construction. To compensate for the lost square footage on the first floor due to a wider sidewalk, the team offered an image of the building with floors two through four cantilevered over the sidewalk.

The committee, which handles the approval of designs of projects planned for MDHA’s Rutledge Hill Redevelopment District, voted 7-0 to not alter the downtown code to allow a 12-foot-wide sidewalk.