Nashville Suspends New Development Applications on Music Row

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
A guitar painted with the likeness of Elvis Presley stands outside RCA Studio B, where Presley recorded during his career, on Aug. 8, 2014 in Nashville, Tenn. 

"This is about the essence of what Nashville is."

The Planning Commission of Nashville decided Thursday night (Feb. 12) to halt new applications for development within the city's historic Music Row neighborhood for 12 to 18 months.

The Commission "[recommends] deferral or disapproval of any rezoning request on Music Row for the next 12-18 months, to allow time for development of a design plan for that community," it wrote in a statement.

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"This came out over a discussion over a new application last night," Craig Owensby, the Planning Department's public information officer, tells Billboard. "Essentially what's going on is the Planning Commission decided last night to put a hold on new development applications pending a study of the entire area that would provide some guidance on what's best for Music Row as whole."

Owensby tells Billboard that applications already underway will continue.

The campaign to preserve the character of Music Row -- where a 15-minute stroll up and down its verdant streets will take you past the offices of dozens of recording studios, music-focused tech startups, entertainment lawyers, the buildings of Sony and Warner Music, the rights organization BMI, many of the smaller concerns situated in beautifully maintained homes -- began in earnest last summer, when Ben Folds attempted, and ultimately failed, to preserve the historic Studio A and keep it as a working space. "This whole #‎SaveStudioA and #‎SaveMusicRow thing was never about me (or the former owners or Tim Reynolds) and that's why the issue has resonated with people here and around the world who are concerned about retaining Nashville's identity, culture and music economy," Folds wrote at the time.

Advocacy for preservation of the neigborhood was bolstered this past January, when the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced intentions to classify the area as a national treasure.

It's easy to characterize the fight as a David and Goliath-type battle between artists and developers, but Owensby says "there are more than two side -- this isn't about tearing down a few houses, this is about the essence of what Nashville is. It's a much wider issue and it needs to be addressed in thoughtful and careful manner." The Commission will solicit input from "property owners, developers, residents,  the music industry and all interested in the future of the area," it writes.