A North Edgefield neighborhood group filed a petition Monday in Davidson County Chancery Court to suspend a demolition order for a historic East Nashville fire hall, continuing an 18-month fight against Walmart for the building’s ownership.
Walmart obtained the Gallatin Pike property when it rezoned a shopping center in 2007 and turned the fire hall over to North Edgefield Organized Neighbors Inc. in 2009 through a quitclaim deed. The vacant building, which operated as the East Nashville Fire Hall from the 1930s until 1989, is in the parking lot of a Walmart Neighborhood Market.
NEON hoped to preserve the aging building and turn it into a community arts and cultural center, but when a fire severely damaged the hall in December 2011, the Metro Department of Codes and Building Safety posted a demolition order, citing the cost of repair as exceeding the value of the property.
According to the petition, NEON was barred from repairing the building until the demolition order was lifted, and so began a lengthy appeals process.
At a January 2012 Codes Department hearing, NEON contested the order for demolition, but the group’s jurisdiction was contested by a lawyer for Walmart who claimed the company now owned the property due to a reversion clause in the deed based on damage.
“In the event that the property and/or improvements thereon are subjected to any casualty or condemnation,” the deed reads, “then the property shall revert to (Walmart).”
Both the reversion clause and the original demolition order were upheld by the codes department.
A month later, NEON appealed through the Property Standards and Appeals Board, which voted in April 2012 to defer the decision to the Chancery Court.
One year after the Chancery Court maintained Walmart was the legal owner, NEON tried to contest the property board again and was asked to present the extent of the damage and financial ability to repair it.
The East Nashville group hired structural engineer Tony Azimipour as a consultant, who filed an affidavit reporting that the fire hall was structurally sound, and estimated a $193,000 cost and 180-day time period for repairs.
NEON brought the report to the board but said it had been unable to raise the necessary funding due to confusion over ownership.
Walmart had also hired a consultant, architect Michael Emrick, who attested the building had suffered damage to “all or substantially all of the Firehall structure,” and the company maintained the damage prompted the reversion clause.
The property board dismissed NEON’s appeal and affirmed the original demolition order, and in May 2013, the Chancery Court awarded the fire hall’s legal title to Walmart.
Monday’s petition requests the Chancery Court issue an order to the property standards board “to prepare and deliver the entire administrative record … for purposes of a judicial review” and to suspend the demolition’s affirmation until the review has been completed.