Residents, business owners praise, criticize Greer Development Plan
The Tennessean – Marissa Gaston and Katherine Scheu, June 18, 2017
The winning plan for the old Greer Stadium site calls for affordable housing, retail and creative space for artists and musicians.
There would be a cultural center and a great lawn for the Wedgewood-Houston community to gather.
Even the old, historic guitar-shaped baseball scoreboard would get incorporated into the plan.
Last month Mayor Megan Barry’s administration selected a redevelopment plan for Greer. Now residents, business owners and others in the surrounding neighborhood are weighing in.
Sam Martin, 45, recently moved to Nashville from Atlanta, where she said the city recently completed a similar project with an old stadium on public property.
Martin, a mother of two young children, said she thinks highly of the plan to replace the current dilapidated structure with open fields, retail and housing. But she said she did not know what she thought about mixed-income housing.
Tyler Osborne, 25, also said he sees the proposed overhaul of Greer as a positive addition to the community.
"It's dead space right now. What else are you going to put there? A mall?" he said. "We don't need another of those."
Osborne said he appreciates the plans for open space, saying that he thought fields for sports and other recreational activity would benefit the area.
"It's a lot of money to tear it down, but it's not like there's another baseball team who is going to use it,” said Osborne, who moved to Nashville from Pennsylvania eight years ago and works at Killebrew Coffee in the Gulch.
Cloud Hill Partnership had the winning bid. Those involved in the partnership include music producer T Bone Burnett, developer Bert Mathews and longtime investment banker Tom Middleton.
The development will even have a cultural center for the community, as well as recreational sports fields. The group behind the plan is working with the city to determine the next steps.
Businesses moving to Wedgewood-Houston
Nearby business owners also are reacting to the plans.
Brian Miller, manager of Gabby's Burgers & Fries, thinks Greer Stadium would best serve the community as it was originally intended: as a park. Nothing more, nothing less.
He supports the idea of green space, parks and sports fields. Otherwise, the area should be left alone, he said.
"It defeats the purpose of having park space if anybody can buy it and make it housing. It kind of makes you wonder, which parks are next?" he said.
Bruce Boeko is the president of Nashville Craft Distillery, located directly across the street from Greer Stadium. He said he is not at all surprised by how quickly the neighborhood is evolving.
“When I first visited the area it was probably 2014, and you could already see the changes coming,” he said.
Nashville Craft opened in May 2016, and Boeko said the redevelopment of Greer Stadium is a perfect opportunity for nearby businesses.
"There certainly are changes that make it advantageous for a business like mine,” he said.
In fact, other business owners came to the neighborhood banking on the same idea.
“We know it’s on the cusp of turning. It’s a little bit of a combination of East Nashville and South," said Paul Cercone, co-owner of Hemingway's Bar & Hideaway, which opened last month. “The neighborhood is turning into a living neighborhood."
He and co-owner Chris Weber think the redevelopment of Greer will give people a reason to walk by, creating more foot traffic, and the park space will appeal to the families they're trying to reach.
"I can’t even keep up with what’s going on," Cercone said. "It’s just really going to pop.”
Meanwhile, Boeko said he thinks the proposed creative and makerspace would be the perfect addition to the neighborhood's art and music presence.
Preservation groups continue to raise concerns
Since the city announced the winning development, the group behind the Nashville Adventure Park proposal, which came in fourth of five, has challenged the city's selection process. That means nothing can move forward until the dispute is resolved.
But disappointed developers aren't the only ones raising concerns.
Local preservationist groups are still hoping to halt the Greer Stadium redevelopment due to concerns about the land's historical significance.
Albert Bender, American Indian Coalition coordinator, is advocating archaeological exploration of the area.
Metro Parks removed trees at Fort Negley as part of a plan to restore the site to its original look in the 1860s.
"There is, from my understanding, significant ancient Native American sites in the area," he said.
Bender also said that, considering Nashville and Middle Tennessee had one of the largest Native American populations 1,000 years ago, it is likely that Native Americans occupied the land.
He said the city should explore the history of that land before developing it.
Meanwhile, Zada Law, a historian and the director of Middle Tennessee State University's Geospatial Research Center, has studied the African-American history of the Greer site
"We have a national treasure here," she said.
Law said that history dates from the Civil War to the civil rights era. The land was home to displaced African-Americans who sought refuge with the Union Army, many of whom lived and worked in the area for decades to come.
"I looked at the proposal, and I would like to see something that honors Nashville’s civil rights history," she said. "We should not just treat unused park space as real estate."
Law would like to see the area remain park space with an addition of a museum or cultural center detailing the history of the land.
The Cloud Hill group plans extensive archaeological work on site and wants to make sure the area's history is preserved, particularly by drawing attention to nearby Fort Negley.
Mayor Megan Barry's administration has picked the developer it wants to redevelop the old Greer Stadium, choosing a vision for the site that includes large pockets of park space, affordable housing and creative arts and music space.
In a statement, Mayor Megan Barry has said the group has put together a thoughtful proposal and applauded the "plan to honor and respect" Fort Negley Park.
Burnett also has said the reason he got involved is to help preserve the area.
"I am a preservationist," Burnett has said. "So as soon as I hear a public property is being developed, my blood turns to ice water, which is part of why I stepped in here as a member of the community. I wanted to come up with a better plan than any of these developers can because they're trying to make money. This is a legacy project for us."