Developer Willing to Work with Institution to Preserve Studio ‘A’

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Friday (8-29) evening, local internet traffic in Nashville buzzed with the news that the recent buyer of the city’s historic Studio ‘A’ building had concluded an assessment of the building and decided that bulldozing would be a more cost-effective fate for the building compared to renovations. Bravo Development pulled the West Wing tactic of releasing the information on a Friday afternoon in hopes the news would blend into the background by Monday morning, but Adam Gold writing for The Nashville Scene brought to light the press release from PR firm Seigenthaler Public Relations, as well as an open letter from Bravo Development’s Tim Reynolds.

In both the press release and Mr. Reynolds’ letter, we’re told what we’ve already known for months—that the building was in disrepair, not up to code, and the most cost-effective solution would be to demolish it and start over. This same assessment had already been made preliminarily earlier this month, and the condition of the building was at the heart of why Studio ‘A’ caretaker Ben Folds freaked out when news of the building being sold very first broke. The building that houses Studio ‘A’ and a wing full of offices has bad HVAC issues, has to be brought up to Disabilities Act code, and the cost of such repairs is not worth what any owner can recoup in rent of the building’s spaces.

But not all is alarmist about what was included in the Bravo Development’s statements, despite it being characterized as a virtual death knell for Studio ‘A’ by many. The 20,000-square-foot building at 30 Music Square West was never going to be renovated by a development company or commercial buyer. The only solution to save Studio ‘A’ has been, and continues to be to find and public or private institution that sees the cultural value in the building, not just the commercial value, and that can manage and preserve the space free of strict commercial concerns.

In the statement from Bravo Development’s PR Firm, they state,

Reynolds has approached various cultural institutions about their interest in helping salvage the few elements of Studio A that are under Bravo Development’s ownership. He hopes to have further information on that front in the coming days. He is also looking at ways to commemorate the Studio’s history as part of any development.

In the Tim Reynolds open letter, he states,

We have approached various cultural institutions about their interest in helping salvage the few elements of Studio A that are under our ownership. We hope to have positive news to report about those conversations in the coming days.

There is no question many legendary studio recordings came to life within the walls of Studio A and that those performances are worthy of commemoration; as such, our architects, advisors and designers are confident that there are many creative ways to memorialize these events. Again, we know there are many people who share our appreciation for Nashville’s music-rich history. We want to take the right “next step” with this property with careful consideration of its current condition and limitations.

Whether Tim Reynolds is just telling preservationists what they want to hear or is truly soliciting public institutions to find a new caretaker for the building, this was always the most logical next step in the fight to preserve Studio ‘A’.

As Saving Country Music pointed out in August 6th in an article entitled “What About A Public Or Private Institution Purchasing Studio ‘A’?

Any developer whose plans are simply concerned with the bottom line highest valuation for the asset would likely not be interested in renovation…So who might look to take on Studio ‘A’ simply for the spirit of preserving the landmark, while still getting some functionality out of the existing space? It would have to be a not-for-profit, or a public or private institution not concerned with bottom-line financial outcomes, beyond making a sound investment on a piece of property in a desirable location. And it would have to be someone with the financial resources to purchase it.

Luckily there is precedent for public institutions taking over Music Row properties, and being very successful in that pursuit. Music Row’s Studio ‘B’ on virtually the same piece of property as 30 Music Square West is owned by the Country Music Hall of Fame and is on the National Park Service’s Register of Historic Places. It is co-operated by the Country Music Hall of Fame, who gives guided tours of the studio daily, and another private institution, Belmont University. This partnership has resulted in both the preservation of the site, and the continued use and profit from it as a Music Row institution.

There is another example of an institution purchasing a historic Music Row property that is much more recent, and much more relative to the situation with Studio ‘A’ since the studio will never be donated by its current owners like Studio ‘B’ was. In early July, Vanderbilt University purchased Sony’s century-old office on Music Row for $12.1 million. Vanderbilt was currently occupying 27,000 square feet of space in the building, and when it was put up for sale by Sony, who intends to move to Nashville’s “Gulch” area a couple of miles from its current location, the purchase made sense. Vanderbilt’s close proximity to Music Row made the logistics of the sale feasible, and just like Belmont University, who has numerous co-inhabited properties with Curb Records on Music Row, the university sees the Music Row campus as a natural extension of its borders and interest.

Though there is no good news in the Studio ‘A’ assessment by Bravo Development and Tim Reynolds, there is nothing here that is unexpected. And though some would like to think Tim Reynolds is going back on his word, from the very beginning Reynolds said, “We are now in the early stages of the engineer work and architectural work, but if that can be achieved, we will incorporate that studio and preserve it.”

READ: As It Is With Nashville’s Historic Places, So Should It Be w/ Music

The fight to save Studio ‘A’ is far from over, and the studio very well may still meet its demise. But now it is on the right track to the only possible solution that was ever out there in the first place: finding a new owner with a preservationist’s heart. Studio ‘A’ preservationists should join Bravo Development in the search for an altruistic owner, and make sure that Bravo is doing their due diligence in approaching Belmont, Venderbilt, Mike Curb, Scott Borchetta, The Country Music Hall of Fame, and other Music Row movers and shakers who might be in a position to do right by the Studio ‘A’ space’s historic significance.

Open Letter from Tim Reynolds of Bravo Development:

August 29, 2014

Over the past few months, there has been much public discussion surrounding cultural preservation concerns in Nashville, TN and more specifically, Music Row. As you are aware, last month Bravo Development LLC purchased 30 Music Square West – within which RCA Studio A is located. Our purchase has sparked a public debate on the potential preservation of the entire Music Row neighborhood.

We care a great deal about the history of Nashville and recognize the extent to which all corners of this city have served as songwriting inspiration, settings for landmark recordings, and performance venues over the long history of Country Music. The broader question at hand is how to best preserve that history while protecting the rights of property owners and recognizing Nashville’s evolving business climate.

We understand the property that we purchased was offered for sale for over a decade. The building was built in 1963 and is now in a visibly obvious, compromised state of repair. At the same time, Music Row, Downtown, The “Gulch”, Midtown and the like continue to attract the newest and most creative commercial and residential property offerings in our metropolitan area. Due to the age and condition of 30 Music Square West, management has and continues to face ongoing challenges leasing the property in this competitive marketplace. Based on these co-existing conditions, the building is no longer economically viable “as it is.”

We are in the business of identifying and studying the current use, adaptive re-use and the re-development of under-utilized or under-valued real estate. As such, we have and continue to work with most qualified professionals in exploring the architectural, structural, mechanical and aesthetic suitability of a building within the context of its local competitive market. We have been especially diligent with our analysis of 30 Music Square West and have engaged qualified professionals to thoroughly evaluate the building in its present condition. Now, with the results of those assessments in hand, we will consider all options regarding the best use of this property.

We have approached various cultural institutions about their interest in helping salvage the few elements of Studio A that are under our ownership. We hope to have positive news to report about those conversations in the coming days.

There is no question many legendary studio recordings came to life within the walls of Studio A and that those performances are worthy of commemoration; as such, our architects, advisors and designers are confident that there are many creative ways to memorialize these events. Again, we know there are many people who share our appreciation for Nashville’s music-rich history. We want to take the right “next step” with this property with careful consideration of its current condition and limitations.

Respectfully,
Tim Reynolds
Bravo Development, LLC

Sturgill Simpson Performing in Studio ‘A’: