A Proper Place To Play
Madisonians prioritize a new public park on Madison Station Boulevard
Fri 13 May 2022
Share this story!
A century ago, the open space behind the Madison Branch of the Nashville Public Library was filled with children at play. It served as the recess grounds for students at the former J. Taylor Stratton School, which once occupied the site. Today it’s a staging ground for construction equipment and materials to build the new Madison Station Boulevard and other nearby projects. The hope in Madison, though, is that soon the space will again be filled with people at play, folks of all ages. The new park promises to be a green-space jewel amidst ongoing mixed-use development.
“The actual park idea in the downtown Madison area has been discussed since 2012,” explains Eric Hoke, the Design Director at The Civic Design Center, a local non-profit helping communities advocate for civic design that will improve quality of life. “There has been a series of visioning efforts that have led us to where we are today. It’s not exactly a new idea. We’re just starting to see the vision more clearly. I think the stars are aligning.”
District 8 Metro Council Member Nancy VanReece, who serves the Madison community, hopes the proposed park becomes a reality within the next two years. “It’s been part of the complete Madison Station vision for quite some time, and it’s already been designated as a priority in the city’s Capital Improvement Budget,” she observes. The need for a mixed-use park in downtown Madison was also noted in Plan to Play, Metro’s parks, and the greenspace master plan adopted in 2017.
The future park is currently referred to as Madison Station Park; however, another name is being considered.
“I’ve reached out to the Sturdivant family [the descendants of famed country singer Kitty Wells], and they are on board with the idea of calling it The Kitty Wells and Johnnie Wright Park,” VanReece says. Naming the park for these two country music legends, who lived in Madison, is in keeping to have a park that in some way celebrates the artistic heritage of the community. It would be a fitting commemoration for the famous couple. Wright died in 2011, and his wife Kitty in 2012.
Together with other stakeholders in the Madison Station area, and with the support of grants from The Park Foundation and The Memorial Foundation, the Civic Design Center has conducted a series of community meetings to gather ideas about what kind of park stakeholders desire. The group also worked with HDLA, a local landscape architecture firm, to generate schematic drawings, some of which accompany this article. What has emerged from these efforts is a thoughtful design that seems to have a little something for everybody, with open space, a walking path, shade, sports courts, playgrounds, native plants, and proximity to entertainment venues, businesses, and transportation services. The park is centrally located on Madison Station Boulevard, directly across the street from the Timberhawk Hall, the entertainment venue currently under construction, and close to Amqui Station, Nashville Fire Department Station 31, and FiftyForward, a lifelong learning and community center for adults over age 50.
It has this nexus of the community already. I think it could anchor downtown Madison to make it a true community center.
“We will be able to activate that park so easily between all of us,” Brandy Lamb, Director of FiftyForward, says. “It’s in the perfect spot. We’ll be able to immediately extend and enhance some of our programming through the park.” She’d like to see outdoor tai chi and yoga classes, and she’s excited that the FiftyForward walking club and other social groups will have a pleasant outdoor place to gather. Of course, there will be a basketball court, a tennis court, and perhaps a pickleball court and splash pad. “I love how they have thought it out so carefully and that it is not just a single-use kind of park. It’s made to be accessible, so that’s great for our members, of course. The Civic Design Center impressed me by keeping in mind what people wanted and making it a reality,” Lamb observes. “We’ll have a little town center gathering place in Madison. I see it as such a benefit. It keeps checking all the boxes and making sense,” she adds.
At least 6000 people are within walking distance of the park, and, as the area develops, it will serve even more. It’s also just a short walk from the busiest bus stop in Metro, which happens to be in front of the library. The new park will be close to many businesses along the Gallatin Pike corridor, like Madtown Coffee and Subway, and the new transit center proposed for the developing Madison Station area.
“It has this nexus of the community already. I think it could anchor downtown Madison to make it a true community center,” Hoke observes. “And I think we’ve set Metro up to implement this park fairly quickly, once approved. The stakeholders have been involved since the beginning; it’s their vision.”
The matter involves getting the park to the top of the mayor’s priority list. The project carries a price tag of just over $6 million. “We’ve asked folks to let the mayor know they want it, and he’s heard loud and clear,” VanReece says. “I’ve recently had two long meetings with him to talk about its importance, and I have no reason to believe he’s not going to do the right thing. The last meeting we had was to help him see how the footprint of what is going to be the mall, Madison Square Station, fits into that project.” VanReece hopes to see shovels in the ground sometime next summer. “I’ve held elected office for over seven years, and this is one of the things I’ve been working on the whole time,” she says. “I feel very optimistic about it.”