Nashville Seeks Moratorium On Music Row Condo Onslaught

The onslaught of high-end condo developments along Nashville’s storied Music Row looks to be coming to an end – at least for now.

City planning officials are recommending a moratorium on new projects seeking to raze or significantly alter buildings that helped build up Nashville’s reputation as the capital of country music.

The moratorium could run for a year and a half while officials work on a comprehensive plan to balance growth with the history of Music Row, city planning commission spokesman Craig Owensby said Friday.

Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP, file
A guitar painted with the likeness of Elvis Presley stands outside RCA Studio B in Nashville, Tenn.

“Local history and local culture are very important in Nashville and particularly in that community, because that’s what gives us our identity,” he said. “It’s what people think about when they hear about Nashville in other cities and countries.”

The panel’s decision came Thursday as it took up the latest proposal to turn Music Row structures into a condo complex. Owensby said commissioners decided to recommend a blanket moratorium rather than continue to evaluate individual proposals. The Nashville Metro Council has the ultimate say over planning decisions.

Music Row has long been home to an eclectic mix of recording studios, record label buildings, publishing houses and music industry office space. But its location just southeast of downtown has also made it a prime target for development.

“What’s happening here is there is a tsunami of opportunity that very easily could wipe what we know as Music Row off the map,” said John Dotson, vice chairman of Music Industry Coalition, a group advocating for the area’s preservation.

“Music Row puts the ‘music’ in Music City,” he said. “It’s why 12 million come here every year to visit.”

Preservation efforts were jump-started last year amid plans by a developer to raze RCA Studio A and to build luxury condominiums in its place.

The studio was developed by country legend Chet Atkins in 1964, and the likes of Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings have recorded music there.

Singer-songwriter Ben Folds has rented the studio for 12 years and led efforts to save the space that culminated in philanthropist Aubrey Preston’s last-minute purchase of the property from the developer in October.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean lauded the planning commission’s recommendation to suspend development on Music Row.

“It’s important that we think carefully about how Music Row, a historic and iconic area in our city, gets developed,” he said in a written statement.