NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Buildings like the Parthenon often puzzle visitors to Nashville, but there were a few other developments proposed over the years that would have likely turned just as many heads.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately in some cases, these projects never materialized. Had these projects been built, Nashville’s skyline and even downtown scene could have looked very different.
Some ideas were met with wide criticism, while others were a bit more celebrated. However, different obstacles eventually got in the way. Take a look back at some of the projects that could have been below.
Glass bubble over Lower Broadway
At a time when it was hard to imagine downtown Nashville busy with tourists, Ryman Auditorium area developers were looking to transform part of “problem-plagued” Lower Broadway into a festive, sparkling new market under glass.
The project would have spanned between Broadway and Commerce Street and what is now Rep. John Lewis Way North and 2nd Avenue North, with a mall covered by a two-and-one-half block glass bubble, according to reports in an April 18, 1987, edition of the Nashville Banner.
Under the glass bubble would have been a vast green space surrounded by restaurants and retail shops, giving the area a park-like atmosphere. Developers also envisioned entertainers such as jugglers and musicians performing along the strip.
At the west end of the mall would have been a renovated Ryman Auditorium and to the east, an entertainment center. Plans were also suggested for a 1,000-unit residential development attached to the mall, with future growth ideally bringing in hotels and office buildings.
While redeveloping and revitalizing Broadway received a large amount of support at the time, with renovations to the Ryman Auditorium beginning a few years later, some ideas like the large glass bubble never quite made it out of the planning phase.
At one point, Nashville’s skyline could have included a guitar-shaped skyscraper, similar to The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in South Florida. The project, dubbed Strings, included plans for a 32-story, mixed-use, high-rise tower with 300,000 square feet of space.
Developers envisioned restaurants, offices and luxurious residential condominiums filling that space, with a 40,000-square-foot outdoor rooftop also serving as an entertainment area for musical performances.
Besides a guitar-shaped exterior, other amenities planned for Strings included floor-to-ceiling windows, high-speed elevators, onsite parking, 24-hour security, a fitness center and up to five restaurants and bars on the top two floors, according to reports in Nashville on the Move, a local real estate blog.
The project drew doubts from real estate professionals and locals who criticized the design, with a headline in an August 22, 2012, edition of the Tennessean reading, “Guitar skyscraper is not the right image.”
One of the biggest obstacles holding the project back in its early development stages was finding a building site. SoBro, the Gulch, Music Row and West End Avenue were all proposed areas. However, the project never got off the ground.
Church turned whiskey distillery
Back in 2019, specific plans were announced for a new whiskey distillery under the brand “Heaven’s Door,” a collection of handcrafted American Whiskeys co-created by Bob Dylan.
Developers planned to transform the 160-year-old Elm Street Church at 410 Elm Street into Heaven’s Door Distillery and Center for the Arts, featuring not only the distillery but a whiskey library, a restaurant and a 360-seat live performance venue.
The renovations to the church would also have featured some of Dylan’s paintings and metalwork sculptures. Dylan was slated to help open the distillery in fall 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic put progress on hold.
Renovations were pushed to 2021, but still never materialized, and by 2023, the project was seemingly scrapped when the property was put up for sale on loopnet.com.
Shipping container entertainment venue
The concept of transforming shipping containers into new spaces isn’t necessarily unique or new to Nashville, with 83 Freight opening a residential community in the Wedgewood Houston neighborhood in 2021.
However, plans were in the works for another shipping container project that same year. The same people who were involved in the Heaven’s Door project planned to create a food, beverage and live entertainment concept called Recess on an adjacent property.
The facility would have been located on an 0.75-acre site at 625 Fourth Avenue, where upwards of 2,000 patrons would have been able to sit inside some of the shipping containers, stacked up to five levels tall, according to reports by the Nashville Post.
The space would have also included cabanas and terraces, multiple food offerings such as hot chicken, BBQ and pizza, and a stage for live performances. However, like the whiskey distillery, the project never materialized, and the property was later listed for sale in 2023.