Future uncertain for 88 Hermitage Avenue and the relocation of a MNPS school

Nashville 2019

Future plans for a historic building and the relocation of the Nashville School of the Arts, are unclear. 

On Tuesday, Metro Council decided not to buy the property on 88 Hermitage Avenue. On the state-owned property, sits what was once the “Colored Department” for the Tennessee School for the Blind. 

The decision dissolves plans to relocate the Nashville School of the Arts to the property.

In a statement to News 2 a spokeswoman for Metro Nashville Public Schools said:

“We’re disappointed. Not only did we believe that we had an ideal location for a new Nashville School of the Arts facility, Metro Council had already approved funding for MNPS to purchase the site. The district must now turn its attention to finding new options.” 

Metro Council had approved just over $11 million for the property. 

On Tuesday, 21 votes were needed to purchase the property, but the council vote was 17-6 in favor of purchasing the property, the resolution failing by four votes. Eight members abstained and eight did not vote or were not present.  

Early calls for preservation at 88 Hermitage Avenue 

Last week, Councilman Fabian Bedne shared a letter he wrote with three other members of the Planning, Zoning and Historical Committee asking the school district to make preservation a priority at the site. 

Two days after that letter was sent, the Committee received correspondence from the district’s architect David Proffitt. 

In the letter obtained by News 2, Proffitt said the district planned to commemorate the history at the site by doing the following: 

  • Erecting appropriate plaques telling the story of what once stood at the site
  • Saving a good portion of the current brick facade for inclusion into the entry of the new facility
  • Save the interior, carved monument plaques and incorporate them into the new design
  • Provide appropriate space on the site for historic markers as needed
  • Have the facility physically measured and photographed with a level of detail consistent with historic record-keeping practices

These commemorative ideas were followed by reasons the structure couldn’t be preserved, 

“It is not feasible to utilize the existing structure.The facility itself is not conducive to a design of a modern arts center and educational facility,” Proffitt said. “Its location within the footprint of the property makes it unfeasible to build around or include in the design to make it visible or viable in any way. Moreover, the plans include a parking garage on the backside of the cliffs similar to the parking facility at the Courthouse which makes it impossible to keep the present structure.” 

Future of the Nashville School of the Arts remains unclear 

News 2 requested a walk-through of the Nashville School of the Arts. The district declined that request. 

District 17 Councilman Colby Sledge represents the area where the school is currently located. At Tuesday’s meeting, he advocated for Metro Council to buy the property, 

“This is a vote of whether you feel better about this property being in Metro’s hands or you feel better about this property being in the state’s hands where the state can sell it to anyone,” Sledge said. “They can sell it developer and we have no say. We have zero say.” 

Sledge added that the current building for the Nashville Schools of the Arts is ‘woefully inadequate,” and teachers and administrators want to be closer to downtown for cultural and musical amenities. 

With the district now seeking other areas for the Nashville School of the Arts’ relocation, Councilman Fabian Bedne said he was disappointed that chance to collaborate, didn’t work out, 

“My daughter got a great education from the Nashville School of the Arts, but I believe I can’t put my own personal feelings ahead of the city’s needs,” Bedne said. “So although I personally wanted to see it happen, I feel that as a city we need to look at our history and preserve our history. My background in architecture informs my belief that it [preservation] can be done.”   

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