The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named Nashville’s Music Row to its list of Most Endangered Historic Places. With 50 demolitions in the historic area of Music City since 2013, Music Row is one of 11 places named endangered.
While many people throughout Nashville have been fighting for the saving of Music Row, metro council member Jeff Syracuse, who works in the area as associate director licensing customer relations at BMI, says more needs to be done at both the local and state level. And, with the area now being named an endangered place it will call attention to the public and create more awareness of Music Row’s potential demise.
“What we are really talking about is preserving the cultural history and identity of Music Row,” Syracuse tells Billboard. “From an urban planning perspective, there is not a lot of consistency. Music Row has always been kind of a hodgepodge of various architecture styles and, so, how do you protect that? That’s been the challenge.”
The hope, Syracuse says, is to take the issue up to the state level. In early 2019, a bill to give Tennessee a state historic tax credit did not pass, making it more difficult to preserve and restore small towns in the state. The passing of this bill could essentially be used as a tool to help save Music Row.
“We need, not only additional tools for historic preservation, but I believe we also are going to need more aggressive tools that help build and preserve affordable places to live and work,” Syracuse says. “Some sort of historic overlay tool could be used to basically cap development potential.”
Syracuse has been part of ongoing conversations to create a non-profit to help facilitate the preservation of Music Row, specifically in saving its buildings and making them affordable for new residents and businesses. Several buildings were knocked down for the creation of high-rise apartment and office buildings as well as luxury condos on 16th and 17th Avenues, pushing out songwriters and publishers in the process. A plan discussing Music Row’s future is also being developed locally which will be presented to the Metro’s planning commission in June.
“I don’t want to see Music Row just to be maintained and preserved as this historic community of, ‘This is what it once was,’” Syracuse says. “I want Music Row to thrive at the 21st century and be same place that was the creative mecca that it was so many decades ago — that’s the balance.”
He adds, “What we are hoping was that the state tax credit deal would pass, then the Metro Council could pass the creation of a cultural industry district [to] utilize that state tool. I hope that we can bring it back next year and then actually have a cultural industry district that has some efficacy basically. [We’re] trying to figure out a way to be sensitive to property rights [and] at the same time save a piece of Nashville’s soul.”