Impact Coffee with Michael Kenner

By Lauren Dekleva & Katie Scholl


Our first Impact Coffee event on March 18th was a success thanks to all who came, and to our inspiring guest, Michael Kenner!  Kenner is responsible for the amazing work of MiKen Development and Turbo Nashville, which strive to develop responsibly through innovation and revitalization of the urban core, all in partnership with the existing communities.

Michael Kenner, owner of MiKen Development, speaks at NSEA’s Impact Coffee event on March 18th, 2016.

Kenner, a native of Nashville, after living in Seattle for a time, noted that the Pacific Northwest engages in development very differently.  Neighborhoods and developers have an open conversation about the best ways to approach change in their community.  He decided to bring that concept to Nashville, along with that of Smart Growth.  Smart Growth is the opposite of urban sprawl, and enhances quality of life, promotes economic development, creates livable communities, promotes alternative transportation, creates a range of housing opportunities, and preserves open spaces, natural resources, and the environment.

Developers and neighborhood residents work together to realize their community vision.

The Nations is one of the Nashville neighborhoods that MiKen Development is tackling with re-urbanization.  It’s young, poised to grow, and ready to organize.  To begin, Kenner and his team used some useful development tools, working with the neighborhood to form groups to participate in design charettes resulting in a community vision in which the developers and the community had mutual authorship.

Then came the time to implement their vision.  This was accomplished
through tactical urbanism, also known as pop-up urbanism, which is a series of short term changes to an established area to demonstrate to a community what the neighborhood
could look like.

Tactical urbanism at work through a block party on 51st Ave.

 Kenner did this very successfully, throwing a block party on 51st Ave.  Two lanes of traffic were closed on either side of the street to put in benches, skate ramps, and local food.  Members of the neighborhood were able to come out to the reconfigured street, and discover how much better their block could be.  The same process occurred with plans for a bus stop on Nolensville Rd, and the community was able to add flowers, benches, and tires to create a fun and inviting space.  Kenner and his team also used the annual Tomato Fest to transform the triangle at Gallatin Ave and 11th St to be a safer, more engaging public space.  Similarly to the block party, they implemented a temporary skate park, a walkway, seating, and comments board for the neighborhood to discuss the changes.  

Bus stop transformation on Nolensville Rd.

Kenner is a living, breathing example of what it looks like to engage a community at a grassroots level, and then watch the changes happen (even if you have to fight with Public Works a little bit to get there!).

Aside from tactical urbanism, MiKen is currently creating developments that reflect the neighborhood’s feedback.  Using principles of reurbanization, Kenner has several exciting projects in the works to continue to revitalize The Nations.  He combines innovation, resourcefulness, function, and care for everyone involved in the big picture.  One development, named after the historical Treaty Oaks site, is Nashville’s first set of healthy homes.  It is engineered with the purpose of creating community, down to minute details like parking and mailbox placement.  It even features a central courtyard and community gardens.  MiKen Development’s other projects include a shipping container apartment complex with affordable micro-units for commercial and residential use; a modern structure fitting six units where previously there were only room for one or two; and a neighborhood with mixed income living spaces.  As he says, 

“For cities to thrive, we must have room for everyone… Each neighborhood becomes a microcosm for the city.  If redeveloped properly, a neighborhood can be a greater reflection of society and should welcome all walks of life and be inviting for generations to come.  The key to what we do at Miken is create community.”

Thank you again to Michael Kenner, not only for coming to speak with us, but for your dedication to making Nashville a livable, responsible, and more connected city!

Join us for our next impact coffee: 8:30 am on May 20th at the EC!

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