Nashville’s beloved Music Row in danger of being lost to new developments

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Music Row is the heartbeat of Nashville, but it’s in danger of being lost as dozens of buildings have been demolished to make way for new developments, like apartment buildings and a hotel.  

From songwriting sessions to publishing houses, and even the law firms and hair salons, Music Row is a community built for those in the industry to have everything they need within a short walk. 

“What makes it really special is that in this neighborhood, campus-like neighborhood as a lot of people to describe it, you have everything needed for the music industry,” Carolyn Brackett with the National Trust for Historic Preservation told News 2.  

She said they’ve been involved with preserving Music Row for four years, since saving RCA Studio A from redevelopment. An effort singer-songwriter Ben Folds lent his voice to.  

“If you had stood in the studio as long as I did for 15 years and had people come off the street over and over and over again who had made an Elvis record, or they had brought their friend in to play on the Dolly Parton record, you can’t let a place like that go. It doesn’t matter if it’s beige, it’s very beige,” said Folds.  

Studio A was saved from the wrecking ball when a few music lovers focused on preservation bought it, but the efforts uncovered an even bigger issue.

“Once we came in and started talking with people and looking at the whole issue of Music Row it became obvious that Studio A was just one aspect of it, it was really all of Music Row that was at this point in danger, that we are in danger of losing all of Music Row,” Brackett explained.  

Right now, efforts are focused on saving several businesses in the heart of the row on 16th Avenue from the Panattoni Development Co., including Bobby’s Idle Hour, Rhinestone Wedding Chapel, Warner/Chappell Music and the former offices of the Ed Bruce Agency, where Bruce wrote, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys.” 

“If we lose these five buildings, we feel we are really at a turning point,” said Brackett.  

She told News 2 in the last five years, Music Row has lost 43 buildings, all of which had music industry connections, past or present. Apartments have replaced most of them.  

“The message has got to be loud and clear that we are going to lose Music Row if you keep taking five buildings here and four buildings here, six buildings here and demolish them and putting up a generic office building or a generic apartment building. In 10 years, Music Row won’t be here,” explained Brackett.  

The goal is now to win over the district’s property owners, so we don’t lose one of the main threads our city is built on.  

“There is only one Music City in the world. There is only one city who’s precisely built on music and you have to have some living history evidence. It’s not just a plaque or a museum,” said Folds.  

One of the main issues with the new development is that zoning keeps giving exemptions, said Brackett, so the new buildings don’t fit with the character of the other buildings on Music Row.  

There is a petition circulating right now trying to stop zoning exemptions on Music Row. Click here for the petition. 

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is also looking at incentives to help small businesses to stay on the row as well as creating preservation tools that Nashville doesn’t have.  

Click here to view more stories featured in “Progress vs. Preservation: A Nashville 2018 special.”

News 2 tracks the historic growth in Middle Tennessee with our special Nashville 2018 reports. Click here to learn more.

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