Lafayette Street: A New Beginning in Nashville
In the US, about 2,000 people are being released today, and every day, from state and federal prisons. When someone is released from the penitentiary, they’re often put outside the prison gates at midnight. It’s likely that they’ll land at the city’s bus station sometime before dawn, with just the clothes they’re wearing, and maybe a few dollars in their pocket. Typically no ID, no food, no phone. No job prospects and possibly no place to live or stay.
Their future is what Project Return is all about; it’s why this work is so critically important – to them, to the community, to all of us.
Project Return is all about the new beginning for each individual who has been discarded and left behind. So when we needed a property to call our own, and live out our mission, it’s not surprising that we were keenly interested in a place that had been discarded and left behind. Nashville’s Cee Bee Food Store on Lafayette Street was falling down around them while it was still in operation, and then – when the store was shut down due to food stamp fraud – the building was left to rot.
But while the Cee Bee was rotting, Project Return had been growing, innovating, launching enterprises, and doing more for more. We have more than tripled in size over the past 10-or-so years – in terms of our numbers of people served, our signature services and assistance, our operating budget, our programming – and we had gotten into the nomadic habit of moving into larger and larger spaces as we continued to outgrow our walls and our leases.
So the Cee Bee property was for us. Large, expansive, centrally accessible, full of possibility. And we were drawn to revive a space that was left for dead, to uncover the beauty beneath pain and destitution, to unleash a building that had been a captive of its own decay.
That’s Project Return! Unleashing the captive, uncovering the potential, reviving the life that’s meant to be lived, setting about to create the new beginning.
As proud as we are of this renovation and new locale, as thrilled as we are to be here, as light and beautiful as this new space is, it’s only the beginning. We are only renters, and this was only a tenant improvement project. We do not yet own the property, and we have so far only developed it just enough to get us on the site and in the building. As we now begin our quest to purchase and build out the property, we invite all to join us in the new beginning.