The Way Forward for Music Row

May 31, 2019 by Erica Stewart

As the media coverage of our naming Music Row one of this year’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places continues to grow—including placements in Rolling Stone, CNN, and USA Today—the National Trust has prepared and submitted formal comments to the Metro Nashville Planning Commission on how to strengthen the Music Row Vision Plan, a document meant to inform planning decisions affecting the future of this one of a kind ecosystem of music-related businesses.

The full text of our letter is below. Don’t forget to add your voice! Public comment is being accepted until June 3. Urge Nashville lawmakers today to preserve and protect this epicenter of America’s musical heritage.

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To Metro Planning Commission members:

I am writing to urge your support for bringing greater tools and resources to the preservation of places where so much of America’s music history has happened and continues to happen: Music Row.

The draft vision plan developed by the Metro Planning Department staff is to be commended for addressing important needs to sustain Music Row including limiting large-scale residential development, seeking affordable spaces for the music industry, encouraging “third places” for gatherings and entertainment, and highlighting traffic and parking issues.

However, the plan does not include a strong historic preservation component, which is essential to protecting the overall look, feel, and context of Music Row.

In January 2015 the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Music Row a National Treasure in recognition of its importance to Nashville’s identity as Music City and to America’s cultural heritage, as well as concern for the impact of development. Between 2013 and 2019, 50 buildings were demolished on Music Row. Of these, 38 were music-related (past and/or present), and 64 percent were demolished for new development permitted by Specific Plan (SP) rezonings.

On Music Row the existing fabric of older buildings provides critical space for entrepreneurial ventures. The National Trust and Historic Nashville, Inc., working in partnership with the Metro Historical Commission, Metro Planning Department and many stakeholders, have proposed sound solutions that will ensure Music Row's sustainability as a center of culture and creativity.

I urge you to consider and support these recommendations:

Discontinue Specific Plan exemptions that ultimately encourage demolitions;

Eliminate recommendations for increased building height allowances anywhere in the Music Row area;

Further develop the Transfer Development Rights (TDR) program to place the receiving area outside of Music Row, to offer owners of historic properties the opportunity to sell their development rights on a first-come-first serve basis, and to identify an entity that will manage the TDR program;

Support Metro Council’s designation of the Music Row Cultural Industry District in recognition of its unique role in Nashville’s economy and its worldwide significance

Provide support to create a non-profit entity that would manage a revolving fund to preserve significant properties for use by music businesses; provide financial options to music businesses for expansion, rehabilitation, retention, and innovation, and promote Music Row to attract new music businesses.

The goal for Music Row is not simply to save old buildings. It is to save a music industry ecosystem that has thrived in one place for more than 60 years due to its built environment that reflects a unique sense of place that is unlike any other in the nation.

I urge you to work closely with these partners to make sure what makes Music Row so special is enhanced by new development, not destroyed by it.

Thank you.

Applications for the Telling the Full History Preservation Fund grant program are due December 15, 2021.

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