Saturday, November 3, 2018

Save Church Street Park

by Councilman Angie Henderson, Reposted from Facebook
Angie Henderson
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  If you care about the standards Nashville sets for swapping, selling, or renting your public park land for private, profit-making purposes, please follow this matter closely and share with fellow lovers of parks. If you were interested or engaged in the Fort Negley/Greer Stadium/Cloud Hill debate, you should be engaged in this matter too.

Ask yourself what has been the catalyst for these two recent contentious conversations about our parks? 
#1.  A developer has an idea/desire and goes to the Mayor’s Office where the developer finds a willing ear and a pride and penchant for deal making. The developer and the Mayor’s Office compile a complex package with several community benefits, which obfuscate the deal’s core flaws and make it appealing to a variety of constituencies. After everything has been worked out to the maximum benefit of the developer, they trot the deal out for some token “community engagement.” As I said regarding the Cloud Hill proposal, this approach to community planning is top-down and backwards. Smoke and mirrors. Again. 

The recent Plan to Play Master Plan calls for MORE park space and pocket parks in the downtown core. Swapping this lone park, ideally located right across from our beautiful downtown library, for an awkward parcel on James Robertson Parkway with high traffic volume, high speeds, next to a traffic island and a parking garage, one building away from the bus station, at a major intersection and immediately adjacent to the already sizable and successful Public Square Park, is NOT a gain or even a balanced swap. It is a loss for Church Street, the core of downtown, which is already lacking green space, and for Nashville’s future.

Church Street Park has several problems and challenges today. A group of homeless persons spend the majority of their day in the park and thus in the absence of intention, vision and planning, the park has been allowed to languish rather than being elevated into the gem that it can and should be for everyone who lives and works nearby. Every major city has homeless persons, and every major city has pocket parks. We are not unique. If we truly want to make this a great park, we can. Not saying it’s easy, but it’s the right thing to do.

With the passage of the proposal before the Parks Board, Church Street Park will cease to exist and become another Giarratana high-rise tower. To soften this blow, it is proposed that he would contribute funds and design for the adjacent street to become an enhanced, park-like streetscape. I’m sure that would be lovely, but we don’t have to swap the park to create that. Just like we don’t have to swap the park to design and build supportive housing for the homeless on 2nd Avenue North that the city already owns.

This “swap” is a bad deal. I urge you to speak up to the Parks Board to oppose it, if you agree. Don’t hesitate to contact me, if you’d like to discuss or learn more. Please follow the provided link to read deal-related documents and be sure to send an email asap to metroparks@nashville.gov and councilmembers@nashville.gov. The developer’s team has already set up an automated email to encourage support of the land swap. It is important that you lend your voice as well.

The public hearing on Oct 22 at 6:00 PM is specially called, and the Parks Board will deliberate and vote on the matter at their regular noon meeting on November 6. Don’t delay! Your participation is needed to #SaveChurchStreetPark. Please share this post!

Rod's Comment: I support saving Church Street Park.  As Councilman Henderson points out, the reason behind this proposed swap is that the Church Street Park has been taken over by the homeless. The park is not a pleasant place to sit and enjoy the outdoors.  If not for the homeless takeover, it could be.  If you are not familiar with the park, it is directly across the street from the stately downtown public library. It has a nice fountain and the back wall of the park features a large interesting mural.  

I don't know the limits of policing authority to curtail the homeless residency in the park but surely
Church Street Park
there is something that can be done to reclaim the park for public use. It seems to me that the park could restrict homeless use by prohibiting overnight sleeping in the park, perhaps closing the park from  12 AM to 6 AM and posting and enforcing a "Keep Off the Grass" rule.  Rules against alcohol consumption and other violations could be enforced. In any event, it should not be the policy of the city to close a park and develop the land, just because it is being used by the homeless. There has to be a better solution.  Cities in which people live need green space. 


Also, we cannot just surrender public places to the homeless.  The grand public library is frequented by the homeless who sit in the reading room and who use the public restroom.  Should we close the library? 

Ms Henderson is also right about the deal.  Even if the city deemed it a good policy to close the park, it should be closed and the site developed in an open transparent process not by means of a backroom sweetheart deal. 


Since Ms Henderson posted the above to her Facebook page, the Metro Parks board's acquisition committee, in a tie vote, voted 3-3 on recommending approval of the Church Street land swap deal. Mayor Briley appeared before the Committee speaking in favor of the deal as did the district Councilman Freddie O'Connell.  Councilman Angie Henderson spoke against it. This coming Tuesday, the full seven-member Park Board will take up the issue. The Committee's vote will not be binding but would carry considerable weight with members of the Metro Council who ultimately will decide the issue.

To learn more about the issue and the details of the land swap, read the Tennessean's coverage at this link.  If anyone is inclined to appear at the Park Board meeting, the board meets at 12:00 p.m., on the first Tuesday of each month at the Parks Headquarters, 2565 Park Plaza. The next meeting at which time the Board is taking up this issue is November 6th. There is not a public hearing on the issue but sometimes the presence of members of the public at an event can impact a body's decision. I have not seen any public call for supporters of the Park to attend the Board meeting. 

If you are inclined to communicate your position on the closing of Church Street Park to a Park Board member, follow this link for a list of members and their contact information. To contact all of the Park Board members as well as Metro Parks staff send email to metroparks@nashville.gov. It is also important to let members of the Council know of your concern. To email all of the Council members in one email, email to councilmembers@nashville.gov.

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