Greer Stadium redevelopment is about protecting neighbors' future
The Tennessean – Colby Sledge, Sept.8, 2017
When the Sounds announced four years ago they were moving from Greer Stadium to what would become First Tennessee Park, the conversation began: What’s next?
Lots of ideas followed: A soccer stadium. A rodeo arena. A park. A tennis complex. Baseball fields. A grocery store. Housing. Retail stores. Greenways. A children’s museum.
These ideas have come up in conversations I’ve had over the last four years, including the last two years as Metro Council member for District 17, where Greer Stadium sits.
The community-and city-wide conversations about this property have been robust, spirited and ongoing. Whether I’m stopping in a local business or listening in the Metro Courthouse, I’m always hearing about Greer, Fort Negley, Cloud Hill, and the future of the site.
But the hardest conversations I have in the district have nothing to do with the site.
They’re the text messages I get from neighbors saying they finally found a house they could afford, 15 miles away from their current rental. They’ll be leaving the neighborhood they love, because they can’t afford to buy here.
They’re the meetings I attend where people say, “I just want to live in peace with my family,” as they detail the ongoing crime at their apartment complex, where an out-of-state landlord let the housing fall apart while profiting off federal tax credits.
They’re the one-on-one conversations I have with artists who speak with relief when they finally find a studio space after losing their old one, and yet they wonder how long this new one will last.
So, when I look at Greer Stadium now, with punched out windows, eight-foot-tall weeds and graffiti all over the outfield wall, I can’t help but think, “What am I going to do about it?”
The Cloud Hill proposal chosen for the site does something about these issues. It creates a large, multi-use park. It builds housing for a family of four making $30,000 a year.
It creates city-owned manufacturing space for artists, makers and entrepreneurs to support themselves and grow jobs. It provides opportunities to bring in basic services lacking in our area. And it costs taxpayers nothing.
And while I share the desire to conduct a thorough archaeological study to ensure we properly honor, recognize and detail the history of Fort Negley, that work will be done in vain if nobody shows up.
About 12,000 people came to Fort Negley last year, representing less than 2 percent of Nashville’s population. If the city makes another dawn-to-dusk pasture out of the Greer Stadium site, then all we will have created is an expensive monument to our own guilt.
Meanwhile, Nashvillians will continue to suffer.
I admit my own blind spots in discussing the future of Greer Stadium, namely, coming to black city leaders asking for approval, instead of working alongside each other in guidance and active participation.
That is a mistake I committed out of ignorance, and I intend for it to be the last time I do so. Given the site’s history as a contraband camp for black laborers, many of whom were impressed into Union Army work against their will, black Nashvillians should have a leadership role in building and benefiting from Cloud Hill.
I’m going to listen better and take more guidance from community leaders who can help me better serve the district.
But honoring the past shouldn’t come at the expense of my constituents’ futures. I believe that a major part of our duties as Metro Council members is to help make Nashville more livable for all people, no matter who they are, where they come from or how they got here.
Cloud Hill could be a way to make Nashville more livable for many of our neighbors, who are finding our city harder to live in every day. The question remains: What are we going to do about it?
Colby Sledge is the Metro Council member for District 17.