Walden Woods: creating community

By Christy Ulmet

Professors and alums are out walking dogs, jogging around the neighborhood, and enjoying the morning. Trees are lined down the middle of the streets and sidewalks invite pedestrians to stroll through.

This paints a picture of what the new proposed neighborhood just east of campus will someday look like. The project, Walden Woods at Trevecca, dreamed up some 25 years ago, is underway. Two new houses stand completed on Nance Lane where some previous homes once stood before being torn down to make way for the neighborhood. These will be the front of what will someday be known as Walden Woods at Trevecca.

The goal of Walden Woods is to help create a sense of community, provide scholarship funds for students to attend Trevecca, and impact the surrounding neighborhoods.

“Our goal is not to be a gated community on campus, but to be a part of Nashville and to be a part of the local community, economically and socially,” said University Provost Steve Pusey, who is one of the first residents of Walden Woods. “It strengthens who we are as an urban community. We want the university to be good neighbors to the community. We hope it’ll help rejuvenate the area. It’s part of living and working together.”

Walden Woods will cost $13 million to build. Plans call for 12 single-family homes, 24 row houses, and 120 condominium units.

“Sixty families have expressed serious interest in the project so far,” said David Caldwell, executive vice president for finance and administration.

Trevecca’s president Dan Boone estimates 200 new residents will live in the neighborhood.

Caldwell, along with many others connected to the school, envisioned this community living space for years.

“There have been a lot of comments from folks that would like to live around the campus. There just aren’t that many places available in the surrounding areas,” Caldwell said. “We’re hoping that there are a lot of people interested in the college, be it employees, retirees, alums, or people that just appreciate the school that would move in there.”

Pusey and his wife Gail are some of the first people to build a house. On a cold autumn morning, Pusey sat in a chair at a rounded table in his office, talking about the project.

“Personally, we lived on the campus here for a number of years in what was the president’s home just off of Alumni Drive. We had to give up the house because we needed additional space for some offices. Since that time we’ve always wanted to move back to the campus. This was an opportunity to be able to do that,” Pusey said.

As a member of the cabinet at Trevecca, Pusey had heard of discussion of the proposed community for years.

“We wanted to have campus families and others who wanted to live close to the campus, and so we wanted a broader sense of community with others in the way that the dorms and the retired housing communities around campus already provide,” Pusey said.

Living closer to campus would help those who are a part of the community to be able to go to more events on campus like sporting events, plays, and concerts to support the school.

Pusey laughed as he mentioned that it would also help to save a lot of gas for those wanting to move closer to the school.

Walden Woods will not only benefit the community aspect at the school, but it will also help the school provide scholarships.

When a person is ready to build in the neighborhood, they will sign a contract with a builder to complete the work. Money the future homeowner pays will go towards the building of the house. The homeowners will execute life estate agreements with the school, giving them ownership of the home until the day they die. Once the residents pass on, the property would revert back to the school. What the school envisions is to have 10 to 12 life estate trusts in the community. Every time one of those properties rolls over, the new proceeds would go into new scholarship funds. The money used to purchase the home by its next owners would go back to the school as endowment scholarships in order to provide for more students to attend the university, Caldwell explained.

“Hopefully, short term, it creates money to pay back the school for its investment in the land and then some. And hopefully long term, it is a vehicle that generates consistent income for the endowment scholarship fund,” Caldwell said.

This article originally appeared in the 2014 Micah Mandate.

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