Opposition is growing against Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s plans to open Fort Negley Park to private development.
Part of Fort Negley Park was home to Greer Stadium from the late 1970s until 2015, when the Nashville Sounds minor league baseball team moved to a new stadium just north of downtown.
Barry has accepted a proposal from a development team called Cloud Hill Partnership, but Metro has not yet formally entered into an agreement. Plans for the Metro-owned property call for including affordable housing for workers, shops and restaurants, green space and creative spaces for artists. Under the proposed deal, Metro would retain ownership, with the development team investing private funds and sharing revenue.
Critics include African-American groups, Councilman John Cooper, a national nonprofit devoted to protecting cultural landscapes and many native Nashvillians.
“They shouldn’t even be considering this,” Nashville native Doug Jones told The Tennessee Star Friday. “That is sacred ground out there.”
Jones, a local attorney, is a past president of the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society. He told The Star that Ft. Negley Park is a site of national importance and that “this is not just some local thing that the mayor can do in a back room with rich developers.”
Jones said that “Greer Stadium never should have been built there, much less anything else.”
Fort Negley was built during Union occupation of Nashville during the Civil War. The largest inland stone fort built during the war, it was constructed with the forced labor of slaves and free blacks, a quarter of whom died from sickness in the winter of 1862. The United States Colored Troops, 13th Infantry Regiment, were among those stationed at the fort during the war and the Battle of Nashville, and reeanactors have relived their stories.
Some descendants of the slaves and soldiers are against the redevelopment plans and a formal protest has been filed with the city’s finance department, according to The Tennessee Tribune, an African-American newspaper.
“If it can happen here it can happen at other Metro parks,” Gary Burke, a descendant of one of the African-American soldiers stationed at Fort Negley, told The Tribune. Burke is on the board of the Friends of Fort Negley.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., is also criticizing the proposal.
“It’s unclear what the scale and mass of the new development would be, though park advocates have raised concerns about increased vehicular traffic and impacts on significant view sheds, along with damage to archaeological and cultural artifacts,” the group says on its website.
Barry spokesman Sean Braisted defended the proposal in a statement he shared on The Tribune website:
The reality is that this proposal is going to turn parking spaces into park space that the community can use and enjoy. It will convert an unused baseball [stadium] that is falling apart and turn it into affordable housing for working families, maker space for creative entrepreneurs, artist space, and restaurant and retail for the neighbors to enjoy. It will activate a portion of land that sits unused, better connect the neighborhoods, and entirely protect Fort Negley Park in a way that encourages more people to use this historic Nashville treasure. The proposal will also incorporate an archeological survey before disturbing the small amount of soil that isn’t currently covered by asphalt or structures. In reality, this plan would take 67% built (paving and stadium) environment and create 60% open and green space. It would do so in a way that honors and protects history, rather than just selling the land to the highest bidder or letting the stadium sit and rot.