September 26, 2014

[Update] Time is Running Out to Save RCA Studio A in Nashville

  • By: National Trust for Historic Preservation

Written by Carolyn Brackett, Senior Field Officer

A crowd gathers at RCA Studio A for the unveiling of Historic Nashville’s Nashville Nine. Credit: Robbie Jones
A crowd gathers at RCA Studio A for the unveiling of Historic Nashville’s Nashville Nine.

As the new owner of RCA Studio A readies demolition plans to make way for condominiums and a restaurant on Nashville’s famed Music Row, supporters, including acclaimed singer-songwriter Ben Folds, “American Pickers” star Mike Wolfe, award-winning songwriter Trey Bruce, and groups including Historic Nashville and Save Studio A, are rallying to save the historic studio.

The alarm was sounded in June when Ben Folds learned that the studio he has leased for the past 12 years was being sold to Bravo Development, which intended to tear it down. (Read our previous story about the studio's history as well as Folds' involvement.)

Then, the studio’s impending demolition landed in the spotlight again on September 23 when Historic Nashville, Inc. hosted its annual “Nashville Nine” announcement of the city’s most endangered sites at RCA Studio A and included the studio on its list.

Announcing the list was Middle Tennessee resident and ardent preservationist Mike Wolfe of “American Pickers” fame. Wolfe began by saying, “It's with a heavy heart that I stand in this building and even talk about this today ... how does something like this even happen?"

He had strong words for the proposed demolition of RCA Studio A and other development that destroys historic resources: “Nashville is not the Wild West of development; people cannot come in here and do whatever the hell they want to do.”

(Left) Mike Wolfe of American Pickers with Melissa Wyllie, chair of Historic Nashville, Inc. (Right) Wolfe announced the Nashville Nine list at RCA Studio A. Credit: Robbie Jones
(Left) Mike Wolfe of American Pickers with Melissa Wyllie, chair of Historic Nashville, Inc. (Right) Wolfe announced the Nashville Nine list at RCA Studio A.

In the case of RCA Studio A, there is no historic zoning or landmark status to prevent the building’s demolition. Bravo Development owner Tim Reynolds has filed for a demolition permit, maintaining the building is in such disrepair that it cannot be saved. The building’s tenants have received eviction notices effective November 30 with demolition planned for early 2015.

The Metro Nashville Historic Zoning Commission has flagged the demolition permit for review, which only delays demolition for 90 days. (Metro Code allows a 90-day stay on buildings that are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.)

In a statement to local media, Reynolds said examination by the engineering and architectural firms he hired found structural, electrical, and other problems that made preservation too costly.

“We have already investigated every way to preserve the property, but could not find a feasible solution. I would encourage those who desire to preserve 30 Music Square West to channel their energy and efforts into raising the necessary capital to purchase the property," Reynolds said.

Artist’s rendering of condos planned for 30 Music Square West. Credit: Bravo Development
Artist’s rendering of condos planned for 30 Music Square West

Save Studio A, a new group formed by Trey Bruce, counters Reynold’s claim that the building is in disrepair with an independent structural report. The group has also started a petition asking the owner to work toward a solution to save the studio. (You can find the structural report and petition at SaveStudioA.com).

Reynolds says he will entertain offers from potential purchasers until September 30, and studio supporters are working to find a buyer who can meet the asking price, reported to be $5.1 million.

Trey Bruce shared the sentiments of many supporters who say they aren’t giving up: “After it’s gone, it will be too late for a great idea for this property. We have to do it while it’s still here. If it’s impossible, then we tried. If it’s only hard and difficult, then we have to do it.”

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