Protect Nashville’s E. S. Rose Park

Overview

From 2006 to 2010, the Organized Neighbors of  Edgehill (ONE) unsuccessfully sought to prevent a 40-year lease allowing the use of E. S. Rose Park by Belmont University athletics programs.

Since 2017, Belmont has been seeking to expand its use of public land in Edgehill through the construction of  a two-story, 20,000+ square-foot athletics and office building — first directly in Rose Park and, since October 2018, on the adjacent property of Rose Park Middle School.

A Rose Park committee comprising board members of neighborhood organizations and other volunteers has been working to seek compliance with Belmont’s original park lease commitments, fair terms for any potential Belmont expansion, and a future framework to prevent further loss of neighborhood infrastructure and resources.

Updates (August 10, 2020)

MNPS Board of Education

  • A proposed lease agreement with Belmont is on the consent agenda for the meeting of the MNPS Board of Education on Tuesday, August 11, at 5:00 p.m.. The agreement is being presented as a “Recommended Revision to the Previously Approved Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between MNPS.”
  • District 5 Board Member Christiane Buggs met with the Edgehill Rose Park Committee and Council Member Burkley Allen on July 25. She stated at the meeting that the Board would not be taking any action on the proposed lease at this time. She was surprised to discover that a proposal had been submitted for Board action and reached out immediately.
  • The Rose Park Committee has submitted a letter to Dr. Battle and the MNPS Board requesting the removal of the proposal from the Board’s consent agenda and deferral of action on the proposal to allow for full consideration of concerns and recommendations.

Discussions with Council Member Burkley Allen

  • The Rose Park Committee has participated in four online meetings with Council Member Burkley Allen: on March 23, May 14, July 23, and July 25.

    The March 23 and July 23 meetings were convened by Council Member Allen and included Metro officials and representatives of Belmont. The May 14 and July 25 meetings were requested and hosted by the Rose Park Committee.
  • Council Member Allen has indicated agreement with 40 of the 50 recommendations in the Rose Park Committee Draft Report following the community meeting hosted by Council Member Allen in December 2019.
  • Metro Audit findings related to the proposed school lease were published on April 6, 2020. Council Member Allen recommended a second audit to answer remaining questions about the origin of the proposed lease. The Rose Park Committee submitted a list of these questions to Council Member Allen on June 5.

    Council Member Allen responded on July 6 that Metro Council attorney Jon Cooper had reviewed the questions and concluded that they do not “approach the qualifications of illegal or unethical so that it would merit the review of the Metro Audit committee.” Council Member Allen has requested a response to the questions from Belmont.

Timeline

1963–2006

E.S. Rose Park serves the Edgehill neighborhood and Nashville as an entirely public park for over four decades.

The creation of E.S. Rose Park in the early 1960s occurred in the context of urban renewal and involved the relocation of parts of the Edgehill neighborhood. The park was named in memory of Reverend E.S. Rose of the Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Easley Memorial Center, was named in memory of Reverend Thomas Henry Easley of New Hope Baptist Church.

2003

Belmont University officially opens its current 6,000-square-foot, one-level indoor batting facility in the Greer Stadium area of Fort Negley Park.

Belmont’s batting facility has been in operation since this time. Belmont has not paid Metro for its use of public land but does charge at least one MNPS baseball team for use of the facility. The total revenue collected by Belmont from MNPS and other sources through its operation of this facility has not been disclosed.

2006

Belmont unsuccessfully seeks to acquire the Greer Stadium portion of Fort Negley Park for its outdoor intercollegiate athletic programs.

2006–2011

Belmont successfully obtains Metro permission to redevelop Rose Park and to lease the park for 40 years. Legal challenges by the Organized Neighbors of Edgehill (ONE) are unsuccessful. Belmont celebrates the opening of the Rose Park athletics complex in 2011.

2017–2018

Neighborhood opposition with the support of Metro officials successfully prevents Belmont from constructing an athletics and office building in Rose Park.

2018–2019

Belmont seeks to use the property of  Rose Park Middle School for its building plans, asking informed MNPS officials to keep these plans confidential. The proposal is presented to the MNPS Board of Education as a request for an “easement,” and the application for a building permit refers to a “2 Story hitting/Clubhouse Facility for Metro Schools.” Belmont begins construction on the property of Rose Park Middle School without a valid lease. When challenged, Belmont eventually halts construction and seeks Metro Council approval.

2019–2020

Legislation supporting Belmont’s proposed Rose Middle Park school lease is deferred indefinitely. Council Member Burkley Allen hosts a community meeting in December 2019 to discuss five key areas of concern. Members of the Rose Park Committee are invited to assist in facilitating the meeting and to prepare a report documenting neighborhood concerns and recommending steps to address them. Council Member Allen agrees to support most of the recommendation in the report.

Metro Government Support

Council Member Freddie O’Connell, Council Member Tanaka Vercher, and former At-large Council Member Erica Gilmore have provided unequivocal public support for Edgehill’s efforts to protect Rose Park.

At-large Council Member Mendes has also engaged with the community and successfully moved for the indefinite deferral of the proposed school lease in December 2019.

At-large Council Member Burkley Allen has engaged with the Rose Park Committee since 2017 and has indicated that she supports most of the committee’s recommendations. Most of these still need to be reflected in the amendments that she has proposed.

Mayor John Cooper and Vice Mayor Jim Shulman have also both made clear public statements of support. Videos of these statements are available on a Protect E.S. Rose Park YouTube channel.

Speaking in July 2019 at Edgehill Community Day in Rose Park, Mayor-elect Cooper encouraged Edgehill to protect its assets  from powerful interests:

“The first thing is to keep your assets for the community. And don’t let some other group, whether it’s a respected university or Metro Government, take your assets.”

“Belmont’s original batting cage proposal was not a cage; it was a building; and it was deceptive. I and others on the Council tried to help Edgehill push back on this enough [until] what happened is that they went into MNPS.”

Referring to Rose Park as “a treasure,” Cooper also called for steps to restore greater community use and enjoyment of  the park as a whole:

“It needs to be a treasure for the community and for those ball teams and for our young people to have routine access back to their own facilities. And until that happens, an injustice has been done.”

Speaking at the same event, Vice Mayor Shulman reiterated his opposition to the original 2007 lease of the park to Belmont:

“I was actually on the Council when this thing was done and voted against this because it is a limited amount of public space that belongs to the public. It does not belong to Belmont University, and I voted against it. It happened anyway, I know, but I voted against it.”

Documents