The Roxy Theater in East Nashville had long been a neighborhood gathering place for first dates, family outings and classic films. It was the centerpiece of a vibrant commercial district that included everything a neighborhood needs within walking distance — a grocery store, barber shop, pharmacy, post office and clothing store.
But since the 1980’s, the block had fallen into disrepair due to irresponsible property owners, high crime, unemployment, and a decline in economic investment. Even in the midst of East Nashville’s resurgence in the early 2000’s, complete with hip eateries and trendy homes, the Roxy block remained blighted and neglected.
So, in June 2013, a group of concerned citizens led by Dane Forlines decided to do something about it. They noticed how loved the old Roxy Theater was, but also saw the lack of hope felt by the community in ever returning the old block to its former glory. Killing two birds with one stone, Dane took the principles of tactical urbanism to both re-engage the residents with their community and revitalize the block.
Dane and his group immediately kicked off a “Save the Roxy” campaign that regularly showed movies on the lawn of the old theater, installed public art on the block, and replicated the iconic Roxy marquee sign. “Save the Roxy” culminated at a “Roxy Revival Festival” that encompassed the whole block. Together with the community, Dane and his crew transformed the vacant street with pop-up artisan shops and restaurants, street trees, benches, lighting and landscaping, and the theater itself hosted live music acts and films throughout the day.
During the event, over a dozen inquiries were made about leasing the vacant spaces, and today six different spaces on the block have been remodeled and new businesses are opening.
Just like many Better Block projects, the “Save the Roxy” project showed East Nashville how civic engagement and a hands-on approach can revitalize a neighborhood overnight.
You can read the full case study here.