The Cloud Hill real estate development partnership announced Friday in a short statement it has withdrawn from the Fort Negley/Greer Stadium mixed-use project, citing concerns over an archaeological report which found that there is a great likelihood that the graves of slaves who build the historic fort are still resting on the grounds.
At issue is a final report released by Tennessee Valley Archaeological Research (TVAR), a “consulting firm is located in Huntsville, Alabama [that works] closely with State Historic Preservation Officers and their staffs . . . to provide clients with an efficient process to comply with historic preservation laws and regulations,” which found that among the undisturbed soils along the periphery of the property indicate “that impressed slaves were likely buried in these areas during the construction of Fort Negley, it is highly likely that human remains are still present in these areas.”
The proposal submitted by the Cloud Hill Partnership “accepted by Nashville Mayor Megan Barry to redevelop Fort Negley Park calls for affordable housing subsidized by government programs including tax credits and Section 8 vouchers,” The Tennessee Star reported in July, noting:
The plan by Cloud Hill Partnership has already drawn fierce opposition because of concerns about historic preservation. Located south of downtown, the land is home to a fort built during the Union occupation of Nashville during the Civil War and also includes Greer Stadium, where the Nashville Sounds minor league baseball team played until moving to a new stadium north of downtown in 2015.
“Under contract with Metro Parks & Recreation, Nashville . . . TVAR conducted historical background research and a ground penetrating radar (GPR) assessment of Greer Stadium in anticipation of potential development of the project area,” the report began.
TVAR recommendations–found on pages 109-110 of the report–say “that a portion of the project area be protected, with no land alterations taking place. It is suggested that this portion be reintegrated into Fort Negley Park.”
“It is further recommended that a qualified archaeological monitor be on site during any future land-altering activities due to the possibility that significant archaeological deposits may be present,” the report adds.
The findings are devastating news to both the Mayor’s Office and the private developer, who, in an instant, witnessed a controversial hard-fought, multi-year, $100 plus million project vanish.
“The Cloud Hill Partnership was formed to rethink the way we build communities by attracting new sources of socially minded, private capital to address the changing realities of cities in the 21st century,” Bert Mathews, principal of the Cloud Hill Partnership said in a statement, adding:
After several months of studying the extremely challenging site since being awarded the contract in May, it has become clear that several issues, including the appropriate yet still uncertain approach to archaeology based on the recent report released by the city, have become more complex than anticipated. We have, therefore, concluded that our proposal is no longer viable and must be withdrawn.
We sincerely hope that Greer will become a place that serves the many diverse needs and interests of the surrounding neighbors and residents, and in which people from every neighborhood in Nashville will be welcome and safe 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In a companion statement, Mayor Barry thanked Cloud Hill, with regret:
Nearly a year ago, the city of Nashville asked the community to present their best ideas and vision for how to use the Greer Stadium site in a way that would address many of the needs of our community, such as active park space, greenways, affordable housing, artist and creative maker space, and more.
The Cloud Hill Partnership put forward a wonderful proposal that even critics thought would be a welcome addition to the community, if perhaps at another site. I regret that we will not be able to move forward with this project, but I want to thank them for stepping up and helping us see what a sustainable, responsible, and equitable development could look like on this land.
“The likelihood of graves means that we should reassess plans for this site so as to better honor and preserve the history of the men and women who died in the construction of a fort that helped save the Union. As we move forward, I want to see that whatever happens with the Greer Stadium site will honor that history, while bringing the community together around a shared vision. I have faith in the ability of all stakeholders to work together to identify and coalesce around this vision,” Barry said.
However, for the foreseeable future, the project is over, according to the mayor:
As a result of this decision, the original procurement process and RFQ have been cancelled. Unless or until proper plans and approvals are made for alternative visions for this site, no park construction or demolition will take place on the Greer Stadium parcel – which is a Metro Parks property – adjacent to Fort Negley.
The Tennessee Valley Archeological Research report can be reviewed in its entirety here.