NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – This, in exchange for that.

It’s the most recent pitch to ditch Church Street Park.

The park was closed last year for renovations in preparation for the Anne Dallas Dudley centennial anniversary.

New grass has since been planted and new landscaping has been installed. A local developer says the atmosphere and walkability of the Church Street neighborhood has much improved since the park closed.

That developer, Tony Giarratana, has an idea for what to do next, if the most recent improvement to the park doesn’t work.

It comes after the Metro Parks and Recreation Board asked for the public’s help.

“We were involved in creating this park and almost immediately it turned bad,” Girratana said. “There were people camping out on tarps, people defecating on the park. We even have pictures of people having sex.”

In a board meeting Tuesday, Giarratana spoke to board members and sent them all letters saying this:

“I am very hopeful that when it reopens that improvement will continue and that the park will not just become a prettier homeless encampment. However, if the park reverts to its prior unacceptable state after reopening, I am requesting that the Board issue a request for proposals for the long term repurposing of the park in a manner that will enhance the Church Street neighborhood, including our magnificent Robert A.M. Stern designed library across the street.

If the Board issues an RFP, my company will submit a proposal which I will preview for you here:
A. MDHA owns property at Jo Johnston and 16th Avenues that it has sought to redevelop for
permanent supportive housing for several years. Our company will provide the funds and expertise
to undertake development of such a property with 60 residential units: 15 units for homeless youth,
15 units for homeless veterans and 15 units for intellectually disadvantaged (“IDD”) residents. As
each IDD resident needs a caregiver, an additional 15 units would be provided for those caregivers.

B. Conceptual plans are attached, subject to MDHA approval. The project has a budget of $9 million
without our fees and would be financed totally by my company and associates. Upon completion,
the property and completed development would remain the property of MDHA, or one of its
nonprofit affiliates. This project would be a significant advance towards achieving Metro’s stated
desire to provide permanent supportive housing for homeless and other disadvantaged residents.

C. In return, Metro would convey the park property to our company with entitlements that would
facilitate a magnificent redevelopment of that property which would enhance the Church Street
neighborhood, including the Library, and provide an enormous boost to Metro’s property tax rolls.
I want to emphasize that our primary goal is a positive repurposing of Church Street Park.

“I’m not from out of town, coming in and building something and going to sell, make a dollar and go away. This is my home and I know these people and I see these people everyday, that’s the reason I care about Church Street and downtown,” Girratana said.

Last year, the Historical Capitol Corridor Foundation gave the Board a $465,000 in-kind grant to make improvements and for programming to Church Street Park. We’re told those activities were temporarily suspended because of COVID, but if all goes well, the board expects Church Street Park to reopen in the spring, at the earliest.

In the meantime, the Board decided during its November meeting to give individual and organizations the opportunity to share their ideas for the park. If next steps are required, they will be addressed in future board meetings. Contact Alexia Poe with the Historical Capitol Corridor Foundation for additional information on the grant.