Music Row Needs to Be Valued and Protected

Anyone who’s explored Nashville’s famous Music Row knows that there’s no better way to understand the city’s cultural identity. According to a new proposal from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the local Music Industry Coalition (MIC), Music Row should be a “cultural industry district.” Being labeled that gives the famed district a chance at preserving and protecting buildings from imminent destruction.

Never before has a neighborhood in Tennessee been designated a “cultural industry district” before.

The intent is to keep Music Row as vibrant and exciting as it’s ever been. Records are recorded, music business is conducted, and stars are made on Music Row. It’s an important part of Nashville’s identity.

Developers have been scoping out Music Row for a long, long time. They’ve been hungry for property sales like a group of sharks. About two years ago, historic RCA Studio A was at risk of being demolished in favor of condos (gross). It wasn’t until philanthropist Aubrey Preston and partners Mike Curb and Chuck Elcan stepped in, forming The National Trust and the Music Industry Coalition.

In a statement read by David Brown, chief preservation officer and executive vice president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation,

We believe designation of the Music Row cultural industry district is essential to build new programs and policies that honor Music Row’s historical legacy, recognize the music industry’s impact on Nashville’s economy and help to plan for its future.”

Last year, the National Trust found that Music Row was filled with 200 active music businesses and 66 properties they deemed “worthy of preservation.” MIC and the National Trust have made a series of recommendations to Nashville officials, including the Planning Department, which oversees all this zoning business.

It’s tricky, managing neighborhoods that people are fighting to preserve. While many of those buildings have history flowing through their walls, many of the properties would likely collect a profit if they were to be sold or open marketed as condos. Such is the world of realty. Imagine how many historical buildings and neighborhoods have been demolished or rezoned in the name of a bigger profit.

What needs to be done to save Nashville’s favorite district? Well, a lot of boring zoning law stuff like tax incentives, economic enticement tools, tax credits, sales tax exemptions, parking infrastructure, you get it.

One of the recommendations from the National Trust included creating a far more comprehensive tourism strategy to bring tourists into Music Row’s most famous recording studios, record label offices, and venues. Anything to bring people into this bright, exciting neighborhood is a good idea. Work on that front is ongoing.

Some may think that this is all a waste of time. After all, neighborhoods and cities evolve and change over time, right? You can’t rightly preserve everything, can you? Sure, but that misses the point. Music Row is Nashville, plain and simple. Those bright lights, the constant stream of new, exciting music filling the air, and the smell of hot chicken is what makes Nashville a truly remarkable city. It’s so important that a core to Music City’s identity is preserved and protected.

But most importantly, Music Row needs to be valued. Nashville was born for music, and to take that away would mean ripping Nashville’s heart from its chest. To protect Music Row is to ensure that Nashville’s unique creative culture will continue to thrive and grow.

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