Tag Archives: E. S. Rose Park

Belmont University Building Proposal Q&A

On Wednesday, September 19, Council Member Colby Sledge hosted an informational meeting regarding the proposed Belmont University building in E.S. Rose Park.

The questions below regarding “Background,” “Present Decisions,” and “Future Plans” were sent to Council Member Sledge immediately following the meeting with a commitment to publish any answers received on the Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition website.

Council Member Sledge responded to these questions and the three additional questions below in the context of a substantive telephone conversation on Monday, October 8, and also published the presentation slides from the informational meeting online.

He has expressed support for the community in seeking fuller answers where needed and has specifically committed to providing a detailed response to the question (Additional Question #2) regarding community priorities and concerns.

Background

1. How did this Belmont University athletics building proposal come about in the first place?

What process was used to seek this building proposal and the required lease amendment prior to being filed with Metro Council?
How long had this been planned prior to filing?
Who, other than Belmont University and Council Member Sledge, was consulted or involved in the drafting of the lease amendment?

These are questions for Parks.

2. Given Belmont had been using batting facilities at Greer Stadium, what is the relationship to the Cloud Hill/Fort Negley development and what, if any, public information is available about this?

Also questions for Parks. Cloud Hill was one reason that the Belmont batting facility needed to be replaced, but there are other issues, including the structure itself and damage to it through vandalism.

A short way of saying this is that Cloud Hill isn’t happening but that Belmont still needs a new facility and location.

3. Why were community meetings not organized prior to filing the amendment with Council?

This is now moot.

4. The terms of the lease amendment:

How, and by whom, was the lease amount of $5,000/year ($416-17/month) determined?
How, and by whom, was the original location determined?

Also questions for Parks.

Present Decisions

1. Is it true, as Council Member Sledge has written that “the road to repealing this amendment may be nearly impossible without repealing the entire lease”?

Yes, this is my understanding.

Would rescinding a flawed lease amendment void the lease, or would it merely give Belmont the theoretical option to withdraw from the original lease?

(Not answered.)

Has Belmont threatened to do withdraw from the original lease if/because they wouldn’t be allowed to expand their footprint in Rose Park?

No. Not to my knowledge.

2. Is it true, as the Parks department has written, that lease amendments without an RFP process do not legally require community meetings? Where is this stated for public information?

These are questions for Parks.

3. The Parks master plan seems clearly to define “neighborhood,” “community,” and “regional” parks in terms of specific size measurements. Other Nashville “community parks” have a wide range of uses.

Is it true, as Vice President Rogers has repeatedly stated, that Metro’s definition of a “community park” favors the kind of organized athletic activities that dominate Rose Park as a result of the sportsplex? If yes, where is this currently stated for public information?
Even if Rose Park is intended for athletic use, why does Belmont University, a private institution, feel entitled to this public parkland?

These are questions for Parks and Belmont.

4. The proposed building:

How tall is the proposed building?

34 feet tall (20 feet first floor, 14 feet second floor).

What is the floor plan?

I should have a floor plan in the presentation Saturday.

Why haven’t architectural renderings been made publicly available?

The presentation in September had a slide showing an outside rendering of the building.

5. Is the proposed location of the building a result of a legal technicality (the reference to “abutting the baseball field” in the original legislation), or is this really where Parks thinks such a building might make sense?

How does this athletics building fit with plans to expand the Easley Center?

These are questions for Parks.

6. We have been told that there would be 5-7 Belmont University offices, but Vice President Rogers did not mention these at the September 2018 Parks Board meeting.

How much space in the building, if any, is reserved for exclusive private use by Belmont University?

The floor plan will help to clarify this.

7. Belmont employees are required to submit “a one-page essay of about 300-400 words that describes how your Christian faith informs and influences your personal and professional life.”

Does the use of a Metro Parks building for offices that will therefore only be used by staff who adhere to this discriminatory religious requirement exclude non-Christians from Metro Nashville’s public property? Does this violate Metro’s (a) ethical or legal provisions or (b) values?

Jason Rogers said that Belmont has a three-tier approach for faculty, staff, and students. I have asked Parks about any potential legal issues.

8. Council Member Sledge indicated at the meeting of the Edgehill Village Neighborhood Association on Monday, September 17, that he might file legislation supporting the building prior to the public meeting scheduled for October. Does he intend to do this, despite the unambiguous expectation of the Parks Board that the amendment not be filed without meaningful community consultation?

No longer a concern.

9. Council Member Cooper stated at the Parks Board meeting that a slow, careful process was needed to respond to the mistakes made last year and that “the reward is to bring a big, inclusive vision to Rose Park.”

Is this going to happen?
If yes, by what mechanism?

The community meeting on Saturday is meant to be a step in this direction.

Future Plans

1. Belmont’s enrollment since the signing of the original lease has grown from 4,765 (Fall 2007) to 8,318 (Fall 2018) and is projected to continue growing. How can the concept of a shared park accommodate this growth, and at what point does the protection of community use become critical?

2. Is there a plan for Rose Park beyond Belmont?

3. Can Metro Parks work with the public on a plan for Rose Park that recovers previously lost assets – tennis courts, non-programmed green space (actual grass rather than astroturf), connectivity, etc. – and opens possibilities for community-focused development (public art, cycle paths, historical preservation, etc.)?

These are questions about Parks planning. The upgrading of the Easley Center to a regional center is in the Capital Improvements Budget (CIB), but this is a wish list. The Capital Spending Plan (CSP) is what matters; it’s the real-world funding for real-world projects.

(The upgrading of the Easley Community Center is included in the Metro Parks “Plan to Play” Strategic Plan and was included in the CIP at Council Member Sledge’s request.)

Additional Questions

1. Following on the September meeting, has there been any exploration of a Community Benefits Agreement in connections with the proposed Belmont building?

That is not the right tool in this case because the lease and lease amendment are basically already agreements between Parks and Belmont.

2. What is the mechanism in the proposed lease amendment for legally assuring community interests such as use of space (on the conservative end), full public use of the building (on the other end), or a guarantee against further Belmont expansion in the park?

These are not part of the lease amendment. How community benefits could be added is a good question.

3. Can the Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition have a place on the program for the community meeting?

No. We only have the space for 90 minutes, and the format is designed as a way of getting into a community conversation as quickly as possible. I’ve obtained large maps of Edgehill for community asset mapping and hope that really good conversations come out of people gathering around together and talking about this proposal in a larger, more comprehensive context for Edgehill.

Protect Nashville’s E. S. Rose Park

Urgent Action Needed:

Ask the Parks Board to Protect Nashville’s E.S. Rose Park

Belmont University plans to present to the Metro Board of Parks and Recreation this Tuesday, September 4, a proposal supporting the university’s plans to built a two-story athletics (indoor batting facility) and office building in Nashville’s E.S. Rose Park and guaranteeing Belmont’s primary use of the building for over 30 years.

The Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition needs your support in asking the Metro Parks Board:

(1) to defer action on this proposal, and
(2) to honor a previous commitment for at least one community meeting.

The Metro Nashville Government approved an earlier proposal supporting Belmont’s plans in 2017. The building was misrepresented to Metro Council members and the Nashville public as a “batting cage structure,” and the process did not include any community meetings.

The Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition and others are trying to protect Rose Park and calling for an open process in decisions about the future of the park.

Urgent Action 1: Write to the Parks Board

The Metro Board of Parks and Recreation is scheduled to consider the Belmont building proposal at its meeting this Tuesday, September 4, at 12:00 noon.

Please email members of the Parks Board and your Council member by Tuesday morning in support of the Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition’s request to defer this proposal and to honor a commitment to hold at least one community meeting.

Include a clear subject line such as “Protect Rose Park” or “Defer Belmont’s building proposal.”

Metro Parks Policy 3000.29 on public-private partnerships reads in part:

“In order to ensure the public interest in creating such a public/private partnership, the staff of Parks and Recreation, in conjunction with the area council representatives, will hold a minimum of two community meetings to ascertain the need for services identified to validate the assumptions. Additionally, the council representatives should endorse the planned development.”

The Parks Department is aware of this policy but has written that community meetings are not legally required in the case of Belmont’s proposal to construct a building in a Nashville park. This logic would allow Belmont University to continue new building in E.S. Rose Park without any community input. Please ask the Parks Board to reconsider this position.

Email addresses:

Parks Board Members
Mr. George Anderson, Chairperson (Gja2220@gmail.com)
Mr. Stan Fossick, Vice-chairperson (sfossick@midsouthwire.com)
Dr. Michelle Steele (Michelle.steele@lipscomb.edu)
Ms. Tari Hughes (tari@cnm.org)
Ms. Susannah Scott-Barnes (susannahbscottbarnes@gmail.com)
Ms. Jill Speering (jill.speering@mnps.org)
Mr. Jeff Haynes (jhaynes@boyle.com)

Others:
Metro Parks Director Monique Odom (monique.odom@nashville.gov)
District 18 Council Member Burkley Allen, (burkley.allen@nashville.gov)
At-Large Council Member John Cooper, (cooperatlarge@nashville.gov)
At-Large Council Member Erica Gilmore, (Erica.Gilmore@nashville.gov)
District 19 Council Member Freddie O’Connell (freddie.oconnell@nashville.gov)
District 17 Council Member Colby Sledge, (colby.sledge@nashville.gov)

Urgent Action 2: Attend the Parks Board Meeting

The Parks Board meeting on Tuesday, September 4. at 12:00 noon will be held at 2565 Park Plaza.

Everyone in Nashville has the right to be concerned about the construction of a building by a private organization in one of our public parks, and everyone should have the right to speak in opposition to this proposal.

If possible, please attend the Parks Board meeting on Tuesday and let your voice be heard.

Stay involved

We are very grateful for support and ideas from anyone who cares about the Edgehill neighborhood and protecting Nashville’s parks.

You can join the Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition email list online if you would like to receive regular updates about Rose Park and Edgehill.

If you’re mainly interested Rose Park, please just send an email to edgehillneighborhoodcoalition@gmail.com, and we’ll only write to you about that.

Why we should protect Rose Park for Edgehill

The original proposal for a two-story Belmont building in Rose Park was absurd in financial terms ($417/month lease fixed for over 30 years), in the location of the building on or near the Fort Morton historic site overlooking downtown, and in the reservation of the second floor of a public building for private (Belmont) use.

The revised proposal has not been published, but available information, including Belmont’s presentation at the July 10 Parks Board meeting, indicates that changes include a small increase in the size of  the building, its proposed relocation to the south side of Rose Park, and an annual grant of over $24,000 in addition to the lease for at least part of its duration.

Writing about the revised proposal in his July 6 newsletter, Council Member Sledge stated:

“I’ll put it bluntly: I don’t expect this to garner a lot of community support, at least from those with whom I have conversed over the last year.”

Both proposals are bad for Edgehill. We do not want Belmont University to build further in our community park. We need to work toward the restoration of Rose Park as a family-friendly, community park rather than making this increasingly difficult or even impossible.

The Rose Park Athletics Complex has been designed for organized athletic events that one would expect to find on a university campus. It does not prioritize the purpose of a public park for free and open access for spontaneous play and recreation.

The need for Rose Park as green space is increasing with the growth of the Edgehill neighborhood, whose population is expected to increase 6-8-fold in the next 10 years. “Major open space centered on E.S. Rose Park, Reservoir Park and the former Murrell elementary” was Goal 1 of Edgehill’s 2005 Detailed Neighborhood Design Plan, and this goal is even more important today.

Why we should protect Rose Park for Nashville

Both proposals are also a bad move for Nashville, which is facing a crisis of public trust and urgently needs demonstrations of accountability and transparency in decisions regarding the use of public land.

Authorizing Belmont’s construction of an athletics building in Rose Park would be the only such decision by a city government in the United States that we are aware of. Columbia University’s plan to build a university gym in Harlem’s Morningside Park is a famous exception, but this was in 1968 and was not allowed to happen even then.

If Belmont is allowed to build an athletics facility in Rose Park, Metro Nashville will have established a precedent affirming:

(1) the Metro Government’s support for private organizations to construct buildings in Metro parks without community support,
(2) the leasing of park land for private use and office space,
(3) the allocation of space in Metro Parks buildings for exclusively private use (in this case half of the building for more than 30 years), and
(4) the claim that the Parks policy requirement for community meetings is not applicable in these cases.

E.S. Rose Park history

E.S. Rose Park is a public park in Edgehill at 1000 Edgehill Avenue, east of 12th Avenue and adjacent to both Carter-Lawrence Elementary School and the Rose Park Middle School. It opened in 1963 as a segregated park for African Americans in Nashville and is 55 years old this year.

The site of E.S. Rose Park is central to the history of the Edgehill neighborhood. Beginning around 1830, former Nashville mayor Robert Brownlee Currey and other slaveholding white Nashvillians lived in country residences on and around Rose Park, then called Meridian Hill. Many African Americans worked in these homes and farms, but the rapid growth of the African American population of this area came with the Civil War. During these years, Meridian Hill became the site of Fort Morton (a companion to Fort Negley opposite the Franklin Turnpike), an African American “contraband camp,” and then “New Bethel,” the African American community that later developed into Edgehill.

Meridian Hill was proposed as a park (and reservoir) location as early as the 1880s but instead became a city quarry known as Rock Crusher Hill. The Civil War history of the site was not forgotten, and the Ku Klux Klan announced its return to Nashville at a cross burning there in 1923 attended by about 1,500 members and initiates.

The creation of E.S. Rose Park in the early 1960s occurred in the context of urban renewal, which reshaped much 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. The park served the Edgehill neighborhood and Nashville as an entirely public park for over four decades.

How is Belmont in a Nashville park?

The Metro Nashville Government approved the original Belmont-Rose Park lease in 2007. The Organized Neighbors of Edgehill (ONE) opposed the lease agreement through the legislative process, the courts, and direct protest. ONE lost its final judicial appeal at the end of 2009. In 2010 Metro Council Members Mike Jameson and Jamie Hollin filed — but then withdrew — a bill to rescind the Belmont-Rose Park lease on the basis of Nashville’s non-discrimination values and policies. Belmont proceeded with its construction plans and celebrated the opening of the current athletic complex in May 2011.

This history is recent and well documented online:

Belmont News, January 2006

Nashville Scene, March 2007

Parks Board minutes, May 2007

Parks Board minutes, September 2007

Belmont Vision, November 2007

State Appeals Court Ruling, December 2009

Belmont Vision, January 2010

Nashville Scene, December 2010

Belmont Vision, February 2011

Belmont Building in E.S. Rose Park — Request for Deferral and Community Meeting, August 30, 2018

Dear Metro Parks Board members:

Following on the request submitted last week, we are writing to state more fully our reasons for seeking a community meeting prior to Board action on the proposed E. S. Rose Park lease amendment.

As you know, Metro Parks Policy 3000.29 (“Public/Private Partnerships”) reads in part:

“In order to ensure the public interest in creating such a public/private partnership, the staff of Parks and Recreation, in conjunction with the area council representatives, will hold a minimum of two community meetings to ascertain the need for services identified to validate the assumptions. Additionally, the council representatives should endorse the planned development.”

We believe that the requirement of two community meetings does apply to Belmont University’s plans for Rose Park, that the problems resulting from not holding community meetings last year are very evident and widely acknowledged, and that these mistakes should not be repeated with the revised lease amendment.

Belmont University’s intention to construct a two-story athletics building in Rose Park and to maintain primary use of this building for over 30 years would represent a very significant private use of public land and would clearly have serious and long-term consequences for the Edgehill neighborhood.

Arguments that have been advanced against the requirement of community meetings in this case — that the lease amendment is not an RFP process and that the Parks policy only applies to “public assets which are not currently being utilized” — could also have been used in 2007 to avoid meetings regarding the original Rose Park lease.

Significantly, this did not happen. At least eight community meetings from this period are documented in the minutes of the Parks Board, and two of these, as required by the policy, were held by Metro Parks.

More importantly, the failure to hold community meetings regarding the proposed lease amendment violates the intention the Parks policy and similar provisions for the protection of public assets.

The practical consequences of neglecting or refusing to hold community meetings are clearly evident in the progress of the first Belmont building proposal through the Metro Council in 2017.

Council Member Burkley Allen, who was one of three sponsors of the bill, stated at the July 2018 Parks Board meeting:

“This is one, as many people have said, that sort of took us by surprise. When we voted ‘batting cage,’ I was thinking ‘fence,’ not ‘two-story building.’ So … we let some information not be known ahead of time ’cause it simply wasn’t clear to us.”

Nothing like this could could have happened if the Parks requirement of two community meetings — or even one community meeting — had been honored. The repeated misrepresentation of the Belmont building as a “batting cage structure” would have been immediately corrected, and Council members would have known what they were sponsoring or being asked to vote for.

The official position of the Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition and hundreds of petition signatories is that a bill passed under these conditions should be rescinded in order to allow for an open and truthful community process. Protecting this process — not its outcome — is also our purpose in requesting the two community meetings provided for by Parks policy.

We would prefer community meetings on the basis of a “reset” — as we experienced very positively in the case of Tony Rose Park — but our request to the Parks Board is simply for community meetings prior to any formal Parks Board action that would further weaken the influence of the Edgehill community in conversations and negotiations with Belmont University.

Prior to the July 2018 Parks Board consideration of Council Member Sledge’s revised lease amendment, he wrote in his newsletter:

“I’ll put it bluntly: I don’t expect this to garner a lot of community support, at least from those with whom I have conversed over the last year.”

We respect the candor reflected in this statement but believe that legislation — particularly in matters of this importance — can and should be based on community support.

The Parks Board recognized this problem at its July meeting, and Ms. Tari Hughes secured a commitment from Council Member Sledge to hold at least one community meeting. This was an enormously important positive development from our perspective. For it to have real meaning, however, the commitment needs to be kept. We are therefore requesting deferral pending at least one community meeting.

Thank you very much for your consideration, and please feel free to reach out to any of us if we can provide any further information or clarification.

Sincerely,

Avy Long
Joel Dark
King Hollands
Ben Tran