Transitioning from a career in biology pre-med to real estate and business, DeLisa Guerrier has never shied away from a challenge. These days, she’s a licensed contractor and co-owner of Guerrier Development, which she owns with her husband. They have several industrial, commercial, and residential projects from one end of Nashville to the other – but it’s their incredible plans for a local theme park that has everyone reeling. If you haven’t yet heard about Storyville Gardens, you’re in for some exciting news!
The first proposed theme park in Nashville since the late, great Opryland USA closed down in 1997, Storyville Gardens has Music City all abuzz with the concept of a whimsical, literary adventure for all ages, complete with rollercoasters and interactive components. And while they aren’t yet releasing any details on the park’s future location, its 2025 grand opening can’t come quickly enough! Please welcome this week’s FACE of Nashville, Co-Owner of Guerrier Development and Co-Creator of Storyville Gardens, DeLisa Guerrier.
What launched the Storyville Gardens concept? Was there a lightbulb moment?
My husband and I have three children, and I grew up in California, where there were always things to do. There was always an adventure — something fun to look forward to. I felt a gap here in Nashville. We were taking our children to the movies every weekend. We love the movies, but we found ourselves driving to Chicago or St. Louis or Atlanta after a while. I told my husband, “Maybe we can replicate a park that I grew up going to in California.” That’s how it all started! In April 2017, the light bulb went off, and I connected the dots with the literacy piece. It was really with the intent to bridge the gap with literacy challenges as well. We started down that path and found out how big the gap really is here in Nashville and how huge the market is.
What can visitors expect when the park opens in 2025?
They can expect not to be underwhelmed! We did our best to bring in the top industry leaders, so we can not only say we did it, but that we did it right. There are scales of theme parks. I’ve been to places that call themselves theme parks but almost feel like a fair. And then you have Disney, where you walk in, and it’s huge and immersive; you feel like you’re in the story. That’s what we’re aiming for. Not many people can compete with Disney, and we don’t intend to, but we’re bringing a high-quality project where people can step into these stories and books. The goal is to inspire, and it’s not just for young children. It’s for all ages. If we can inspire a child or teenager to go pick up a book and read — or even better, to pick up a pen and write their own story — we’ve done our job.
What is the most exciting part of the project for you?
As you can imagine, I hear a story about Opryland every day — someone met their husband or wife there, had season passes as a teenager, or worked there growing up. There’s this huge memory; it’s their childhood in the form of a theme park. To think that’s what we’re bringing to the next generation and generations to come, that this will be a place where families can create memories and generations can come together in this city, is what I’m looking forward to most.
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How do you feel it will be unique from other theme parks?
I think the intent drives the difference, and that intent is to change our children’s trajectory with reading and writing. Statistically, 70% of children were not up to grade-level reading pre-COVID. Now, the numbers are even more challenging. There are studies that prove that if we can get them to read for fun, their test scores increase. So, that’s the goal; we have a unique opportunity. There are so many things woven throughout each attraction, experience, and interactive section that we’ll use to inspire them to read for fun. That’s what sets us apart from every other theme park in the world.
A lot of people have asked, “How do you plan to bring a story to life?” and I usually say two words: Harry Potter. When we look at the impact that Harry Potter has made across the world, which started with a book, that’s what we plan to do on a large scale. If we can inspire in that way, then it’s a job well done.
Given that the park is driven by inspiring books and stories from around the world, what are your top reads of all time?
First, Where the Crawdads Sing. Also, there’s a book called Genevieve that was very impactful growing up. The book that changed my life, and my mom will tell you this, is this book called Get Lost, Becka! That’s from when I first started reading, and I remember it to this day because I read it over and over again for probably six months.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was, “Do not ever start anything that you cannot finish.” My mom and stepdad told me that growing up. It was implanted in me so young that I almost become overly focused and honed into what I’m doing and can’t stop! This project probably looks like a giant to so many, and they probably wonder how we’re going to pull it off, but God has opened a lot of doors for us. I would never have stopped because the vision was there, and the project is right.
Aside from faith, family, and friends, what are three things you cannot live without?
A good book, especially the Bible. Puzzles — I love puzzles. I do them every day, probably to the detriment of other things! And I’m a California girl at heart, so I need a beach at least twice a year.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, DeLisa, and thanks to Stephanie Marie Photographie for the photos.
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