A Step Into the Future

The early report on the archeology study of the Greer Stadium site just released has focused our city’s attention on this important piece of property and the need to come to a decision about what our city should do with these 21 acres.

As with many parts of our city, the historical record of what happened in this location should be honored and appreciated. No one disagrees with that. 

The preliminary findings of the archeology study show possible evidence of human remains in several areas of the site. As we’ve said from the beginning, we are very sensitive to this possibility and want to understand more.

It’s also important to remember the archeology study is not yet complete. Our plan is to wait for the full report to understand what's next, and our commitment is to work with the city and the community.

In the meantime, it is important for Nashvillians to understand why Metro should consider doing anything at Greer Stadium.

More and more, as we move forward in the 21st Century, we see that the challenges facing our city are more complex, and the resources we have to deal with them are more limited. We absolutely must explore new and creative ways to solve our problems. Old solutions simply won’t work.

The Greer Stadium site is an opportunity for Nashville to address a number of challenges head on. So what do we do?

I suggest the best thing to do is what was proposed by Metro almost a year ago, and that is to create a neighborhood for affordable living that addresses as many of Nashville’s challenges as possible. Let’s use this place to address affordable housing. Let’s use it to provide jobs and living opportunities for lower income Nashvillians. Let’s use it to provide active park space to be used by all. Let’s create a memorial for the unique and important history of those who built Fort Negley.

We have a chance, not only to honor the past, but to create solutions for the future. And we can do both of those things at the same time.

Projections show that if we don't address our affordable housing needs now, there will be a 31,000 unit deficit by 2025. The Cloud Hill proposal calls for building a total of 294 apartment units on the site, 200 of which would be affordable and workforce housing. Obviously that doesn’t solve the whole problem, but it definitely helps.

More importantly, it creates a new set of priorities that could serve as a template for the future growth of the city. The fact is the Cloud Hill development team answered Metro’s RFQ for this site with an unconventional approach, based on the belief that there are different ways to create community. That’s what Cloud Hill is – a different kind of development, where the social needs of the community take precedent over the ‘net present value’ calculation that makes financial return the sole measure of success.

And one other important distinction – Cloud Hill will access capital in a different way that does not require us to rely on public subsidies and taxpayer dollars.

Our city certainly would benefit from additional park space in this location, and the Cloud Hill proposal offers more than 13 acres of open space for recreation, as well as space that can be used to honor the African Americans who built Fort Negley, many of whom died on this site.

Some suggest this 21 acres should be turned into a park dedicated to honoring the past, recreation and nothing else, which addresses one set of community needs, but does not provide the resources to do so, and wastes the opportunity to do more.

The question is, should we try to do more with the Greer Stadium site?

We believe it is possible to address multiple needs – including the needs most ardently voiced by our critics. That is what we should do. Because if we don’t take advantage of this opportunity to create a new way of tackling our 21st Century problems, they’re going to continue to mount, and the solutions we offer will continue to lag behind them. We have to get ahead of our problems. Cloud Hill is a step in that direction.

I should add that the Cloud Hill plan is not final, and our team will seek ongoing community input about the types of jobs, retail, amenities and economic development the community deserves.

All of this calls to mind a recent column by the well-regarded urban futurist Richard Florida.

Florida warned that cities that are attractive to creative workers are, in some ways, victims of their own success. Their increasingly disproportionate concentration of wealth, opportunity, and education has led to what he calls “the fundamental contradiction of modern capitalism,” in which prosperity raises income inequality and increases divisions.

What’s the solution? Florida suggested that this gap can only be bridged at the local level, by public/private sector alliances of local developers, community activists, mayors and civic organizations.

Cloud Hill is just such an alliance. Let us move forward with this effort and prove what this city can do when it works together.

william rosenthal