Mayor Megan Barry's administration has picked the developer it wants to redevelop the old Greer Stadium property, choosing an arts-driven vision for the site that includes large pockets of park and open space, affordable housing, and an assortment of creative arts and music space.
The Metro Finance Procurement Office late Friday issued an intent to award project to The Mathews Company, a Nashville-based commercial real estate firm led by President Bert Mathews. A contract is still contingent on negotiations.
Mathews' development team for the project, known as the Cloud Hill Partnership, also includes renowned music producer T Bone Burnett and Tom Middleton. The group beat out four other development proposals from other firms that were finalists.
Plans call for open space, housing and shops
Cloud Hill Partnership's proposal for the 21-acre, Metro-owned site includes more than eight acres of dedicated park, public open space and greenways; around 300 units of affordable, workforce and market-rate housing; and a "neighborhood-scale" market and retail area with restaurants and shops
But its most distinguishing element is a nod to the thriving arts community of the surrounding Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood: The plan is centered on offering creative spaces for artists, headlined by a cultural center — dubbed an"art and music generator" — to be open to the community.
They envision the redeveloped Greer site, billed as a public-private partnership, becoming a music and arts gathering place.
"Our plan is based around the idea of a cultural generator," Burnett says in the introduction of a 28-page document that outlines the proposal. "In an era of political and social change, music and the arts are ever more important to building healthy, sustainable neighborhoods.
"Our plan provides both a center for music and art that provides an infrastructure to ensure a strong and sustainable culture for our city, our country, and — as the music of Nashville has become a worldwide cultural touchstone — the world."
Greer Stadium, abandoned by the Nashville Sounds minor league baseball team in 2014, would be demolished under the plan, although the stadium's iconic guitar-shaped scoreboard would be preserved.
Metro and the developers have not agreed to terms of a potential land transaction.
Cloud Hill Partnership is not proposing buying the Greer land from Metro. Rather, under their proposed land deal, Metro would retain ownership of the Greer land "in perpetuity." The developers say they would pay Metro $1 million over the term of the deal and would seek no capital investment from the city. They also say they would share revenue from the project with Metro and have agreed to contribute $7 million in private funds for infrastructure work at the
Redevelopment of the Greer Stadium land requires approval from both the Metro Parks & Recreation Board and the Metro Council while also satisfying historic guidelines. The site is adjacent to Fort Negley, a Civil War-era historic site.
Questions about process, historic preservation exist
Some observers, led by the council's Budget and Finance Chairman John Cooper, have criticized the mayor's office for pursuing development at Greer. Historic preservationists have expressed concerns about the appropriateness of new development next to the nearby fort, arguing the Greer site should be exclusively a park.
"I'm excited to move to the next stage of this process, which I think has to be a return to the community to talk through these ideas and see what's next," said Councilman Colby Sledge, who represents the Greer area. "This proposal looks like it has covered a lot of the bases that have been requested of community members, but we have a long way to go before to make sure everybody's voices are heard."
In a statement, Barry said she appreciates the work of the committee that evaluated the proposals for how to revitalize the Greer property. With a developer picked, she said she now plans to review the proposal and work with the council, Sledge and others on the next steps.
"I am grateful for all of those firms who put forward ideas on how to better utilize this important neighborhood and community asset, while honoring and respecting the rich history of the area," Barry said.
The plans call for a 'great lawn'
Cloud Hill Partnership's proposal calls for a "great lawn" with recreational baseball and soccer fields where the dilapidated stadium currently sits, along with other smaller "neighborhood-scale" open spaces.
A "ledge meadow" would offer access to adjacent Fort Negley as well as biking and other outdoor activities. The developers also seek to preserve views from atop the fort.
Their concept seeks to activate Chestnut Street while embracing pedestrian connectivity for the surrounding Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood by creating paths through the Greer site.
New development would go around the edges of the park space and include:
· A neighborhood retail village with local amenities and local or regional goods.
· An arts and music cultural center (dubbed an "arts and music generator") that would be open to the community for the advancement of artists working in Nashville, including education, a community gallery and flexible uses.
· A community and culture shed providing indoor and outdoor spaces for lectures and dance classes, farmers markets and rentable community event spaces.
· A creative office for adaptable spaces to "activate and empower" the neighborhood's makers, artisans and creative office workers.
· Housing totaling 294 affordable units.
· "Cloud Hill will give artists a community, tools and support to create music and reinvent the structures of their disrupted industries," the proposal reads.
Requests for proposals sent out in January
Barry's administration issued a request for proposals for the Greer site in January, outlining development requirements that stressed park space and affordable housing.
The Mathews' Company proposal, which received the recommendation of a seven-member review panel, was picked over BNA Associates LLC, Lendlease Communities LLC, Nashville Adventure Park, Inc., and oneC1TY. The oneC1TY firm, which has a mixed-use, urban-inspired development off Charlotte Avenue, received the second highest evaluation score from the panel.
In picking the Mathews-led team, the procurement office selected a developer who is also an ally of Barry. Mathews hosted a fundraiser for Barry during the 2015 mayoral election.
Cooper, an at-large councilman, has been critical of moving forward with plans to contract with a developer for the site even though the property has not been declared surplus.
Drawing more criticism from him and others has been the Metro Finance Department's adherence to a state law on procurement that means the selection process was conducted behind closed doors.
The identities of the five developers under consideration were not made public until the intent to award notification to the Matthews' proposal was issued late Friday. None of the review panel's meetings were public.
Along with concerns about paying respect to the fort, historic preservationists have also raised alarms about the Greer site, including unmarked graves of potentially hundreds of slaves.