Greer Stadium will be converted into a park honoring the historic site of Fort Negley, Mayor David Briley announced Tuesday — a move historic preservation groups have been advocating for months.
Briley is requesting $1 million from the city's reserve fund to demolish the former minor league stadium and begin restoring the park. The Metro Council will decide in April whether to grant the funding. He is also commissioning a landscape study on how to best honor the black laborers who built Fort Negley.
"Our city has never really done what is necessary to acknowledge the sacrifice of the slaves in our country, to atone for what is and what will be a great scar on our nation's history or to take steps toward reconciliation," he said.
This follows about nine months of controversy surrounding the future of the Greer Stadium site.
Last May, the city selected a developer to build a $100 million mixed-use complex, called Cloud Hill. But almost as soon as the developer was chosen — a group that included music producer T-Bone Burnett — historic preservationists began fighting the proposal.
At issue, they said, was that Greer Stadium sits on part of Fort Negley. The historic Civil War fort was built for the Union army by black laborers whom preservation groups believed were buried on site.
The Fort Negley Park, as it was later known, eventually fell into disrepair until the 1990s, when efforts began to restore the site. By that time, sections of the park had already been leased to the Adventure Science Center and Greer Stadium.
Last year, Metro commissioned an archeological review to determine if the site contained unmarked graves. The report found there was a "high likelihood of human remains," prompting then-Mayor Megan Barry to halt the Cloud Hill Project.
In addition to demolishing the ballpark, the city will conduct a cultural landscape report, funded by the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, among other contributors. The report will further investigate the presence of human remains on the land and help decide how to preserve the history of the space.
In January, Cloud Hill developers announced they were withdrawing their proposal.
Historic preservationists applauded the news.
Krista Castillo the Museum Coordinator at Fort Negley, says the new section of the park will allow for conversation on a part of Nashville history that often goes unspoken.
“We can afford to give the entire 60 acre property what it deserves,” said Castillo. “We need to stop ignoring the contributions and experiences of minorities and the common people. We focus far too long on battles and leaders and it’s time to start thinking about the average common people who contributed to making Nashville what it is today.”
It was Briley’s first major move in his new role as mayor. Briley joked that he didn't want to let one week go by without making a major announcement. He took office last Tuesday night.
WPLN's Sara Ernst contributed to this report.