Fort Negley Park Supporters File Lawsuit Alleging Metro Nashville Violated Laws in Choosing Developer

By Wendy Wilson  |  Tennessee Star

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Metro Council member Steve Glover and a handful of other supporters of Fort Negley Park announced Tuesday they were filing a lawsuit alleging Metro government did not follow its own laws and procedures in selecting the Cloud Hill Partnership to redevelop the historic park.

The group, which included an Abe Lincoln impersonator, stood on the steps of the Metro Courthouse downtown for a press conference before filing the suit in Davidson County Chancery Court.

“This process needs to start over,” said Attorney Jim Roberts.

Roberts said secret meetings led to the selection of Cloud Hill and that the process needs to be redone in a more transparent and public way.

Bert Mathews, whose real estate firm founded the Cloud Hill team, held a fundraiser for Nashville Mayor Megan Barry when she was running for mayor. Barry spearheaded the efforts to select Cloud Hill.

The proposal to redevelop Fort Negley Park has been controversial across the Nashville area among various communities and has draw national attention. The main concern is historic preservation.

Cloud Hill’s plans call for building affordable and workforce housing, shops and restaurants and creative spaces for artists. The fort would remain intact, but critics say the land around it is not the right place for a housing and commercial development.

“We don’t need to be turning Fort Negley Park into the Gulch,” Roberts said.

The fort was built during Union occupation of Nashville during the Civil War and was constructed with the forced labor of slaves and free blacks. Union troops at the site included black soldiers. The African-American presence at the fort has led a number of blacks in the Nashville area to object to the redevelopment plans.

Kwame Lillard of the African American Cultural Alliance was among those standing on the courthouse steps at Tuesday’s press conference. He called the fort a unique tourist attraction and said Metro should look for ways to enhance the fort and bring even more people to the site to learn about the role Nashville played in the Civil War. He said he hopes the lawsuit will help the public better understand what is going on and what is at stake.

“We have to take this route because nobody listens,” he said. “The court will listen, we think.”

The Nashville Sounds minor league baseball team played at Greer Stadium at Fort Negley Park from the early 1970s through the end of the 2014 season. The team then moved to a new stadium north of downtown, leaving the old stadium abandoned.

Developer Devinder Singh Sandhu filed an ethics complaint against Metro officials after he lost out to Cloud Hill. He alleged that the bidding process was not equitable and lacked transparency.

Barry spokesman Sean Braisted, who observed the press conference Tuesday, told The Tennessee Star that Sandhu has exhausted his appeals with procurement officials. However, Barry’s office still has not yet negotiated lease terms with Cloud Hill and is awaiting the results of an archaeological study of the the site.

Braisted said Metro followed all laws and procedures before selecting Cloud Hill and that the process was competitive.

However, the process is far from over. Before the project could go forward, it would have to be approved by the Metro Board of Parks and Recreation and the Metro Historic Zoning Commission as well as Metro Council.

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