Edgehill neighborhood pushes back against development, use of icon

zoning hearing sign
Posted at 5:36 PM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 14:51:03-04

Update: Citing “concerns from neighborhood groups,” developer Marquette Companies said it has withdrawn its planned use of William Edmondson’s name in connection with the development.

Original story:

Neighbors in Edgehill pushed back against a large development at the Beaman Auto site that, according to some, used the name of an icon to try to obtain rezoning.

The development, North Edgehill Commons, is a proposed mixed-use space of hotels, retail and living in several large buildings. According to a spokesperson for developer Marquette Companies, the lot is currently zoned light industrial, but the plan is intended to accent the Edgehill community.

But many people who live nearby disagree. They said they were never consulted with the plan or how it impacts their neighborhood.

"I know from giving out fliers this morning that people are concerned about a hotel being built down on the Beaman property. People are concerned about when they say affordable housing what it will mean to the residents here in the community," said Brenda Morrow, President of Friends of William Edmondson Homesite.

William Edmondson is a neighborhood legend in Edgehill. He was the first African American and Tennessean to have a solo show in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City back in 1937. Edmondson carved limestone gravestones among other sculptures.

The development had plans to rename a green space to Edmondson Park, but that plan also received push back from the community, as some saw it as a way to appease the people who live nearby without engaging in how the development should look.

"William Edmondson is a jewel for this community and he is a source of pride. And the community is very active in protecting his name and very interested in his name being promoted and remembered," said Mark Schlicher, who is also an advocate for the homesite. "However, this developer didn't ask the family if they wanted a part at the development. They didn't ask the neighborhood if they wanted a part at his development and it certainly feels to a lot of people that the developer has exploited William's name to get favorable treatment in his rezoning request."

The family of Edmondson also released a statement Tuesday. They said they don't support the development and accused the developer of appropriating Edmondson's name to gain support for the site.

Opponents also said the new park might detract from current efforts at the Edgehill Community Memorial Garden, which currently honors the late artist.

Development spokesperson Chris Yuko said the company has tried to engage the community five times before. He said they had already scrapped one plan for the site and decided to name the park after Edmondson after hearing of his importance to the community.

"We were responding to neighborhood feedback," said Yuko. "It became aware that neighborhood feedback wasn't all aligned and this was something that was not working alongside what they had planned but they saw as something working against what they had planned and I have fully committed to pulling William Edmondson's name from the park."

A public meeting was scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the midtown hills police precinct.

A planning commission meeting is planned for June 24 to also discuss the issue.

Schlicher said he hopes the issue is deferred for two months so the developer can more actively engage the community.