Nashville’s newest green space is aiming to preserve history in a neighborhood facing displacement.
The pocket park located on 16th Avenue and Jefferson Street is named after North Nashville entrepreneur Kossie Gardner Sr.
With a legacy dating back 100 years, Gardner is known for his role in the creation of the affluent African American Gold Coast subdivision in Bordeaux. He also operated a Jefferson Street funeral home just steps away from the new Kossie Gardner Sr. Park.
Gardner had a dairy farm and is credited with operating the first motorized ambulance service in Nashville.
“He was also big on helping people,” says Gardner’s grandson, Kossie Gardner III. “It wasn’t just about ‘he had this business and he was successful.’ It was that, but it’s always he was there to help others.”
Metro Councilwoman Sharon Hurt says the idea for the park began after concerns of stormwater runoff and flooding on Jefferson Street, adding that a repository was built underneath the park’s surface to address the issue.
Hunt says the plan was to pave over the repository, but community leaders suggested the space be used as a resource to preserve the history of the neighborhood.
With gentrification looming, and fears that native residents would be displaced, community members organized to maintain the legacy of Jefferson Street that Gardner helped to create.
“We worked with the Historical Commission and the Arts Commission, really to make sure that any art or historical acknowledgments that are here, recognize and take into consideration the culture of this neighborhood,” Metro Parks Director Monique Odom says.
With rising property costs on Jefferson Street, the park is seen as a way to provide ownership to North Nashville residents.
Construction of the park is expected to be completed by early summer. It will include a mural wall, play equipment and plaza space.
“Parks and Recreation wants to play a role in helping North Nashville maintain its culture,” Odom says.
“While we are certainly welcoming to folks from outside of Nashville, and even other neighborhoods, it’s important that longtime residents feel at home.”