Neighborhood Groups Push Back Against Controversial North Edgehill Development

Nashville, TN (TN Tribune)–Three grassroots groups in Nashville’s Edgehill neighborhood are pushing back hard against a Chicago developer over a proposed high-density hotel development on the north end of their neighborhood. They have called a community meeting for Tuesday, June 15 at 6PM at the Midtown Hills Police Precinct, 1441 12th Avenue South, Nashville for the developer to face their questions and objections.

The groups are calling on the Planning Commission to defer the developer’s rezoning application for sixty days, and for the developer to start “clean-slate” negotiations with the neighborhood.

Southside New Hope Neighbors Association (SNHNA), Edgehill Village Neighborhood Association (EVNA), and the Friends of the William Edmondson Homesite Park & Gardens have each sent letters to the Metro Planning Commission, sharply questioning various aspects of an SP Zoning application that was recently filed on behalf of Chicago-based Marquette Properties, Inc. by local architecture firm Tuck-Hinton., which seeks a significant increase in height and density compared to base zoning and land use policy.

 

 

Marquette Properties’ Director of Development (Southeast) Chris Yuko is expected to fly in from Chicago to address the meeting.

 

Marquette is attempting to purchase and develop the Beaman car lot site at 12th Avenue S. and Haynes Street on the border between the Gulch and Edgehill. They have filed a rezoning application under Metro’s “SP Zoning “ordinance, seeking to significantly increase height and density for a mixed-use development anchored by a ten-story hotel and multiple highrise and mid-rise residential buildings. The development, originally called “North Edge”, was rebranded as “North Edgehill Commons” in Marquette’s latest filing with Metro Planning.

 

The Edgehill groups assert that the “community engagement” process required by SP Zoning process has been rushed, perfunctory and incomplete, and that Marquette broke their promise to bring their proposal back to residents before submitting to Planning. They also point to what they say are major omissions and flaws in Marquette’s proposal.

 

The Friends of the William Edmondson Homesite group also accuses the developer of attempting to exploit the name of famed Edgehill historical sculptor William Edmondson for private gain, belatedly adding a “community greenspace” bearing his name in an apparent bid to curry community support. They note that William Edmondson descendants were not contacted nor consulted by the developer.

 

In June, 2018, the “Friends of the Homesite” group organized a successful effort to turn back a plan by the previous Mayor to sell the nearby Murrell School property, a park-like community greenspace that includes the historic site where William Edmondson created “divinely-inspired” limestone sculptures that earned him the first solo show by an African American at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, in 1937. Since that victory, the group has developed a community-led “Higher Vision Master Plan” for a park, sculpture garden and William Edmondson Library and Cultural Arts Center. They have been meeting with Mayor John Cooper’s administration in an effort to move the plan forward.

 

We can’t help but notice the similaries between the details of our community-led Master Plan, which we developed with the community, and the Marquette plan that seemed to drop out of nowhere and was not requested by the community nor the Edmondson family,” said Mark Schlicher, a founder of the Homesite group. “The difference is that our plan grew out of the community at a beloved, historically-significant site in the heart of Edgehill. Theirs is inexplicably placed on a former used car lot at the fringes of the neighborhood, wedged between a luxury hotel and upscale condos.”

 

The Friends of the William Edmondson Homesite Park & Gardens is a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to preserve, protect, and enhance the historic site in Edgehill where groundbreaking African American artist William Edmondson lived and worked. They also are volunteer stewards of the surrounding neighborhood park and community gardens. Since 2018, after convincing Metro Council to turn back an effort to sell the property to developers in 2018, the Friends of the Homesite has partnered with the Edgehill neighborhood to develop a “Higher Vision Master Plan” for the future enhancement of the site as a living memorial to Mr. Edmondson and a place for the community to come together for recreational, cultural, and educational purposes. They rely on community donations and volunteer labor to maintain the site, and are partnering with Metro Nashville departments to help realize the neighborhood’s goals.

 

Recent projects have included the installation of a State Historical Marker honoring Mr. Edmondson as the first African American artist given a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1937, installation of a new playground funded by neighborhood donations, and the planting of over forty species of trees, which has earned the park a designation of a Level 1 Arboretum from the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council.