Controversial development plan adopted for Music Row's future - Southern Business Review

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Friday, June 28, 2019

Controversial development plan adopted for Music Row's future


A controversial plan guiding the future of development in Nashville's historic Music Row district won unanimous approval on Thursday evening. 


The Metro Planning Commission adopted the 87-page Vision Plan partially disputed by both historic preservationists and business owners. 


Planning officials and community stakeholders hashed out the document during regular meetings over several years, hoping to rein in rampant, haphazard development without pushing away desired new investments. 


In May, Music Row was named one of the country's most threatened landmarks by the National Trust for Historic Preservation because of the extensive development. 




But business leaders in the area argue the demands of historic preservationists are too restrictive and are driving away some music companies. 


The plan attempts to find a compromise. It establishes new rules for building throughout the district, concentrating high-rise development on the northern end along Broadway. 


"New York has its theater district. California has Silicon Valley. We have Music Row," Metro Planning manager Joni Priest said. "We want to keep the organic character of the community."


But it sets out a new direction for the neighborhood where Patsy Cline recorded "Crazy."




It calls for more parks, retail shops and restaurants along 16th, 17th and 18th avenues between Broadway and Wedgewood Avenue. Those uses have historically been restricted or discouraged. 


The core of Music Row — including Roy Acuff Place, Music Circle and Chet Atkins Place — is reserved for smaller music-related Class A office buildings as well as cafes and music venues. 


Building heights would decrease from a maximum of about 25 stories on the northern end, to 5-to-12 stories in the core. 


The Edgehill-adjacent streets are reserved for smaller creative uses like recording studios, event venues, bars and restaurants. 


The southern gateway to the district, along Wedgewood Avenue, is designated for residential and live-work developments with maximum heights of three stories. 


'Music is the heart of this city'


The plan serves as a template for new laws to come. 


"It's going to be a work in progress and we're committed to continuing to work the issue," said Planning Department Executive Director Lucy Kempf. "Music is the heart of this city and a character-defining feature and we have to nurture that. This is one of the first plans we've worked on where we've been concerned with how you cultivate a healthy industry."


Now, the district's streets are mostly lined with offices, single family residential homes and multifamily housing complexes. 




Since 2010, property values skyrocketed 176% and developers demolished 53 buildings to make way for new projects. Many of those developments are large apartment and condo complexes that dwarf the older craftsman-style houses characteristic to the area. 


"Recent multi-family development on Music Row has significantly degraded the vibrant creative cluster," the plan states. "From 2010 to 2019, 3,274 residential units have been constructed in this area. Large-scale apartments, flats and luxury condos exacerbate the infrastructure and affordability obstacles already constricting the creative cluster."


Restrictions raise 'red flags'


But the impending restrictions could bring new problems, business owners said. 


David Mastran, president of Quaver Music music-based education company on Music Row, said he is concerned the plan will lead to new zoning rules preventing him from expanding his his growing business. 


“The vision plan raised many red flags to us,” Mastran said. “I have concerns about the political influence of the preservationists. Is the goal to revitalize Music Row or to create Museum Row? We should be looking into the future, not backward.”


Historic preservationists have identified at least 55 properties for special development protections. The future of those sites remain in dispute, though, as some owners argue they're too restrictive. 




"We are very concerned the plan may include legislation related to historic preservation that would strip of us of our property rights," said Josh Gruss, CEO of Round Hill Music. "If we're not given certainties our properties will be free of encumbrances, we're worried we'll have to tear down the buildings. We would definitely need eight stories of Class A office space."


Marti Frederiksen, a songwriter who co-owns Sienna Studios, said he doesn't think one of his buildings deserves its historic status. 


"I have a house next to an older house that they kind of glued together and they're calling one historic," Frederiksen said. "It isn't very beautiful. And we have critter issues."


But Brenda Enderson, the owner of Rhinestone Wedding Chapel, pleaded for a preservation rule. Her building is slated to be torn down to make way for new Class A offices. 


"I implore you to keep the character of Music Row and not to build these gigantic buildings," Enderson said. "The tour buses will go through and say: 'This used to be Kenny Rogers' place.' Let there be some identity left on Music Row."


Sandy Mazza can be reached via email at smazza@tennessean.com, by calling 615-726-5962, or on Twitter @SandyMazza.