But last year, a city-commissioned archaeological survey of the land all but killed any plans for major redevelopment. The survey found that human remains are likely still buried at the site, possibly of former slaves who built Fort Negley. At the end of 1862, Union soldiers forced more than 2,700 black laborers — mostly escaped slaves — to build the stronghold under horrible conditions. Hundreds died during the construction.
After the Civil War, many of the laborers settled near the site, the start of a Nashville neighborhood still largely populated by African-Americans.
Mr. Briley said the new proposal for the land, a stark reversal from what city leaders had once pursued, was the right thing to do. He estimated it would cost the city $1 million to demolish Greer Stadium.
“It’s also a unique way for us to pay attention to the history of this city and what happened here more than 150 years ago,” he said.
Mr. Briley noted that the plans to build a park honoring slaves were started under the previous mayor, Megan Barry, who resigned on March 6 after pleading guilty to a felony theft charge related to her affair with a police officer in charge of her security detail.
While the major redevelopment plans were derailed after the archaeological study, the mayor’s announcement still stunned those who had advocated preservation of the land. Betsy Phillips, a Nashville historian who wrote articles about the Fort Negley debate for The Nashville Scene, said she was sort of in shock after the announcement.
“I already felt lucky that we got the development stopped,” Ms. Phillips said in an interview. “But we thought we already had all the good news to be had.”
Ms. Phillips said the proposal would allow Nashville to protect the historical site and what is buried there as well as to call attention to the city’s importance in the Civil War. The site of the Battle of Nashville in 1864, which delivered a crushing blow to the Confederacy and signaled an end to the war, was not preserved and is now a residential and commercial complex.
“Nashville and Civil War history is really important, and to not have a place where tourists or history buffs could go and see something would just have been a shame,” Ms. Phillips said. “We had lost this part of Nashville’s history.”