Battlefield group seeks cash after GE property appraisal

February 26, 2020, Jason Reynolds, The Murfreesboro Post

The ‘Old General Electric Property’ is located just to the north of the intersection of N.W. Broad and Thompson Lane.

The sale of the GE/O’Reilly distribution center site to a battlefield preservation coalition is still pending despite hitting a roadblock, a state official said.

The coalition has been trying to buy the property for more than a year to add it to the Stones River National Battlefield, said Nina Scall, program director of the Tennessee Wars Commission, a division of the Tennessee Historical Commission. The deal was scheduled to close in October 2019, then mid-March of this year.

However, the appraisal came in higher than expected, at $4.7 million, Scall said, adding she did not recall how much the organization had expected the appraisal to be.

As a result of the high appraisal, one of the coalition partners, American Battlefield Trust, is reapplying for more state grant money, Scall said. It has an application pending with the Historical Commission.

The new closing date is targeted for June 1, Scall said.

The Tennessee Wars and Historical commissions in February 2019 announced it planned to grant the American Battlefield Trust more than $1.82 million to buy the 42-acre site on Northwest Broad Street at Thompson Lane.

The state has granted $1,827,502.38 toward the purchase price, Scall said. The total amount needed is $4,471,533.01. The American Battlefield Trust, a preservation group, is working to raise $170,000. A National Park Service program also plans to kick in some money, and the seller is giving a discount, she said.

This tract connects two widely separated wings of already-preserved battleground, helping tell a more complete story of the battle that ushered in the third year of the Civil War, the American Battlefield Trust website says. 

O’Reilly Auto Parts bought the General Electric property in 2017 to build a distribution center, according to previous press reports, but that plan never materialized. The company planned a 443,775-square-foot distribution center and 7,225-square-foot retail store at the site where it would employ 425 people.

City officials had expressed concerns over the traffic impact, press reports said. An O’Reilly official also said the city had told the company its plan did not match the city’s vision for development, despite the property being zoned for industrial use.

During its attempt to make the site work, O’Reilly reworked its traffic plan and proposed to modify Thompson Lane, widen Northwest Broad Street and erect a traffic signal.

Previous reporting by Sam Stockard contributed to this story.