News, events, and bulletins for neighbors living in Historic Germantown, Nashville, TN.

Monday, November 06, 2006

9:10 PM

posted by HGN Secretary |


Public forum: Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Monday, November 13, 5:30-7:30 PM
Sponsored by Councilman Mike James, the forum will include a survey of the audience for the councilman to gauge public opinion.

Metropolitan Planning Commission, Howard School Auditorium, Tuesday, November 14, 4 PM
The Commission will approve to approve or disapprove the Westin proposal. If the vote is “yes,” it will take a simple majority to pass in Council; if the vote is “no,” it will take 27 votes for Council to approve.

Please plan to attend and voice your position.


As a tourism destination

Broadway is, according to the Convention and Visitors Bureau, our “point of difference” in a world rapidly becoming homogenized. The CVB promises music “presented in an authentic, unique, friendly and unpretentious atmosphere.” That phrase perfectly describes Broadway. People from all over the world visit Nashville because of what they find on Broadway.

From the press: “For years, the Metro Historical Commission has been working to preserve Lower Broadway’s historic buildings and revitalize the area without glitzing it up too much. Keeping a place Real is a challenging task. . . . . Slick drives out Real every time. That’s bad news for places like Broadway.” (Preservation magazine, 1996) “The haunting lyrics of songs like Chiseled in Stone are not the same when you are sitting in a posh hotel.” (Letter to the Tennessean, a visitor from Abingdon, VA, November 1989) “Lower Broadway is one of the only streets in downtown Nashville that is attractive to pedestrians. Nashville is in danger of cleaning up to the extent that a visitor cannot recognize the attributes for which it is famous. Broadway has the only real music culture left in Nashville and [is in danger of being] replaced with artificiality.” (Robert Campbell, former architectural critic, Boston Globe, 1987)

To the city’s architectural and historical significance

In the late 1700s, Nashville was settled in this location because of the Cumberland River and its role in river transportation. Goods from all over the world arrived at the city’s wharves at the foot of Broadway and were distributed to the buildings on Second Avenue (Market Street) and Broadway. Since that time, the buildings that were these centers of trade have withstood natural and human challenges. Several of the buildings survived the Civil War; most were flooded numerous times. Still they have remained through the years, visible reminders of the city’s earliest days.

No part of our city is more historic, more tied to the river to which Nashville is now seeking to reconnect, than this small, fragile, human-scaled section of downtown. In no other part of our city can we touch and see our early commercial history as we can on Broadway. These buildings, worn as they are, tell the authentic story of our city’s development.

Broadway from Second Avenue to Fifth Avenue was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in July, 1980, for its architectural merit and its significance in the city’s commercial history.

From the NR nomination: “Nashville, a river town, grew outward from the banks of the Cumberland. The Broadway District begins just one block from the river and encompasses some of the oldest blocks of the city.” It was the center of furniture, hardware, feed and grain trade.

“In the 1920s Nashville became the center of the newly emerging Country and Western music business. The Ryman Auditorium . . . . became the home of the Grand Ole Opry in 1941. . . . . Soon after the Opry came to the Ryman, the Broadway district became the home of a number of Opry-related businesses and remains so today. . . . . . This aspect of Broadway’s history is relatively recent but is of extraordinary importance to Nashville as country music continues its phenomenal expansion in world popularity. If the country music phenomenon can be said to have a focus, that focus is on the Broadway district.”


Effect on historic fabric

The developers plan to demolish three historic buildings eligible for the National Register. One of those, Richards and Richards Storage, is a building type so endangered that the State Historic Preservation Office says it may be individually eligible for the Register.

The developers promise preservation of three storefronts on Broadway. Their plan calls for removing the inappropriate changes made to the Broadway facades. But, with the gutting of the interiors of the buildings, 19-story rear addition and 13-story addition to the east side of the historic structure, and changes to the Third Avenue elevation, this is “preservation” of only parts of two exterior walls, not total preservation of historic structures.

That block will be removed from the National Register if the Westin is built as planned; it will no longer contain any historic buildings. This will be the first reduction in size of any National Register district in the city. And it sets a dangerous precedent. If this is allowed, on what basis can other large-scaled development be denied?

Note: The developers say that the National Register listing will be affected only if someone initiates de-listing. This is a highly visible project; the proposed changes will be evident. To preserve the integrity of the National Register, the State Historic Preservation Office reviews National Register listings regularly and de-lists those that no longer meet criteria.


Broadway is a neighborhood of historic buildings that range from two to five stories; the tallest building is about 70 feet high. The Westin will rise to 19 stories, approximately 200 feet.

To compare with the Hilton Hotel behind the south side of Broadway in the block between Fourth and Fifth: The Hilton sits 225 feet from Broadway and is 120 feet tall at its highest point. The lower tower of the Westin will sit 60 feet from Broadway and rise to 140 feet; the higher tower, 200 feet tall, is 130 feet from Broadway.

On Third Avenue, South, the tower has a minimal setback of 20 feet before rising to 200 feet, destroying the fabric and scale of that block. Currently, that block is a virtually intact pedestrian-scaled streetscape.

Changing the Rules

The Westin as proposed cannot be built by right. The current zoning does not allow it.