A Nashville Developer Takes Over A Rare Oasis Of Green Space, Setting Off A Battle Along Music Row

Jul 24, 2017

A private developer has taken over large portions of a neighborhood park just off Music Row — to use as a staging area — and some neighbors are furious.

They say no one told them that for at least the next year, most of Tony Rose Park would be the property of one of Nashville's biggest developers. They say the move signifies a new level of intrusion.

Tony Rose Park is about the size of a football field, tucked in to a quiet neighborhood. It's filled with old trees, a no-frills jungle gym and an aging gazebo. Then there's the swaths of metal fencing taking up about two thirds of the park. That's for Panattoni development, since it needs more space to build its $35 million headquarters next door.

Rachel Ziljstra is the board president of the Edgehill Village Neighborhood Association. She says residents and neighbors were clueless about losing their park to a big-time private developer. The move feels underhanded, she says, even if that wasn't the intention.

"But it does feel like the developer and the city thought no one in Edgehill would notice," Ziljstra says. "I can't imagine this happening in Centennial Park. I mean, it just wouldn't happen."

Panattoni's plans for the park were submitted to Metro Parks. On the right is the park in its current state, with large portions blocked off for use by the developer. On the left are the plans for Panattoni's improvements.
Credit Metro Parks Department

Even the district's city councilman, Freddie O'Connell, was never made aware of the plans. He found out when the neighbors did. A Metro employee told him the Parks Board approved the request in February with no opposition.

"My immediate response was, well, nobody knew. I didn't even know," O'Connell says. 

The Parks Department says neighbors should have been made aware by the developer.

In an emailed statement, Hayne Hamilton, a senior development manager with California-based Panattoni said, "in hindsight we recognize that we should have made our own efforts to further engage the community in the process. We hope to re-connect with the community in the immediate future to review the plans and to hear and incorporate their suggestions regarding proposed improvements."   

Panattoni told the city that their construction crews will occupy the park for at least a year, filling it with trailers and supplies. In return, they'll invest $90,000 in park improvements. Plans submitted to the city show a new volleyball court, sidewalks and new trees. But Ziljstra says no one in the neighborhood has ever requested a volleyball court. She says residents would much rather have a new dog park or an upgraded gazebo.

"You can find common ground in parks," Ziljstra says. "And that's why this would have been so easy, had they reached out. Because I feel like people would have gotten really excited and used this as a positive way to make improvements. And instead it doesn't feel that way."  

Plus, she's worried the $90,000 Panattoni has promised won't cover the improvements, especially after a year of construction wear and tear.