Ward three city councilman Rob Cesternino spoke first about some of the changes that have taken place since he was elected, specifically in regard to the Lebanon Square.
“It’s an awesome time to be in Lebanon. We are a community in transition,” said Cesternino. “My wife and I relocated here from Seattle about 10 years ago. I graduated high school in Atlanta, Georgia, so in the mid-80s I experienced the transition of Atlanta. We actually lived out in the Marietta area and I remember when the square was shuttered and all the stores had plywood in front of them. Anyone that’s ever been to Atlanta and seen the way the square area is flourishing, that’s what we’re looking at here.”
Cesternino went on to talk about the new stores opening up on the square as well as difficulties with parking.
“Parking on the square, that’s a challenge,” he said. “If you actually park a little bit off the square, like over in the courthouse, it’s actually not that far of a walk to get to the square, but people just don’t think about it.”
Keeping in the theme of growth within the city, tourism director Amy Nichols spoke about some of the things her department is working on to make the area more appealing to tourists.
“The state of Tennessee just issued something a few months ago about how every dollar that you spend on tourism, the city will get $19 back,” said Nichols. “So, that’s why tourism is important. These are visitors that are coming in here, they’re shopping in our shops, they’re sleeping in our hotels, they’re visiting our attractions. They’re bringing money into the county and then they’re leaving. So, we don’t have to account for them in the schools, we don’t have to account for space.”
One of the things Nichols hopes to do to bring more people into the county is to incorporate the Music City Star more into Lebanon, Mt. Juliet and Watertown.
“One of the things we noticed at Watertown is that, when the train comes in – I view it almost like a port town. I spent a couple years working with the Disney Cruise Line, so I’m a little familiar with that cruise line process, where in a port town you get the sudden influx of hundreds and hundreds of people and then they leave,” said Nichols. “So, how is the town prepared for those influxes?”
Nichols talked about exploring the options with the empty venues currently on the square to create a unique experience in the city for people coming via the Music City Star.
Nichols closed her speech by clarifying that all of her ideas were just ideas at this point, and not necessarily guaranteed to happen.