Sensing that plans for the $8 million riverfront adventure park had been circumvented by Mayor Karl Dean’s administration without a public process, District 6 Metro Councilman Mike Jameson emceed a passionate meeting in front of an overflow crowd at the East Park Community Center on Saturday.
At the meeting, Jameson laid out a timeline where Dean was allegedly on the verge of announcing riverfront development plans that put the adventure park on the back burner. Jameson said the announcement was to come Feb. 19 and that the only reason it didn’t happen without any public notice is because he raised an issue.
At Saturday’s meeting, Metro Development and Housing Agency Riverfront Development Director Ed Owens offered an emotional crowd an alternative plan for developing the riverfront.
Owens said he was asked by Dean to revisit the plan that had been put in place with 16 months of public meetings and cost $450,000 in consultant fees. The plan called for the first phase of riverfront redevelopment to take place on the east bank and include the adventure park and an urban forest pilot project.
But, Owens cited the uncertain economic climate, along with a project to bury Nashville Electric Services power lines on the west bank of the river as potential reasons to revise the priority list for riverfront development.
That was unacceptable to Jameson, who accused the administration of lacking transparency and of hijacking a process that was many years in the making.
“I don’t think you’re ever going to get the adventure park,” Jameson warned the crowd.
Owens offered an alternative plan to add green space landscaping to the riverbank as a first phase that would then go on to complete projects on the west bank, tied to burying the NES lines.
“This is an alternative plan,” Owens said. “It’s not the plan.”
But the crowd unanimously made clear it wanted the adventure park, which is already designed and “shovel ready” to be the first installment of riverfront development.
Owens said MDHA would have a page on its web site to solicit public comments beginning Monday.
“After Mayor Dean took office, he appointed Ed Owens to MDHA to work on
riverfront redevelopment from a comprehensive approach," commented Mayor's office spokesperson Janel Lacy Saturday after the meeting. "The riverfront
redevelopment plan was completed over two years ago. Ed is now going
through a public process of determining if what was set out two years
ago still fits the needs of our community today. That was the purpose of
the community meeting at East Park.”
In attendance at the meeting were several public officials and neighborhood association presidents, who all expressed support for making the adventure park the first phase of the project.
For more on this story, read Monday’s City Paper.