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The Big Stakes in a Fight Over a Little Park in Nashville

Church Street Park is a small downtown space known to draw people experiencing homelessness. Now it’s slated to be replaced with a condo tower.
The new Nashville skyline is booming with development. But the plan to replace one small downtown park with a new condo tower has proved controversial.
The new Nashville skyline is booming with development. But the plan to replace one small downtown park with a new condo tower has proved controversial.Dan Reynolds Photography/Getty Images

In the heart of downtown Nashville, Church Street Park fits like a coin pocket. At just a quarter of an acre, it’s dwarfed by the central library building that looms across the street. Nearby stand soaring new condo towers, home to the white-collar workers who are fueling the city’s massive recent growth.

The park has never been a great public space. First built as part of a 1996 master plan to revitalize Church Street, downtown’s by-then nearly abandoned historic shopping corridor, the little park has narrow sidewalks and curious landscaping that, locals say, leaves little breathing room and too much cover. It’s known as a place where drug deals go down. Homeless individuals sometimes park their shopping carts there before entering the library. Before a hepatitis breakout earlier this year, some used its small central fountain to bathe. (It was drained due to health concerns.)