In December of 2021, Garth Brooks paid $47.9 million for the property and structure residing at 411 Broadway in Nashville, right in the heart of the city’s bustling Lower Broadway entertainment district. Eventually, it will be Nashville’s hub for all things Garth, including a restaurant and bar, event and performance space, as well as a merch store. The three-story building that used to be the old Sportsman’s Club has already housed a temporary Garth store, but the full plans and an opening date for the new Garth megaplex have yet to be revealed.
Last week, it was announced that Garth Brooks would be using his acquisition of 411 Broadway for altruistic purposes as well. At least, that’s what’s been presented on the surface. In a press release from the Metro Nashville Police Department, it was announced that free of charge, Garth Brooks would be offering up space on the property for a police substation, as well as a Nashville Department of Transportation and Multimodal Infrastructure (NDOT) traffic control room, and that Garth would even be constructing the facilities for the city pro bono.
The press release states the new police substation and NDOT hub “…will be developed by Brooks at no cost to Metro taxpayers and will add critical resources to both departments’ efforts to reduce traffic congestion and keep the city’s busiest few blocks secure.”
The Metro Nashville Police statement also makes sure to state, “Garth Brooks is the 7-time CMA Entertainer of the Year, a first for any artist. He is also the first and only artist in history to receive nine Diamond Awards for the now nine albums certified by the RIAA at over 10 million album sales each. He remains the #1-selling solo artist in U.S. history, certified by the RIAA with 157 million album sales.”
It seems a little strange that a press release from a local police department would speak in such detail about the professional accomplishments of someone like Garth Brooks. But then again, this news is a little strange in itself, except from someone like Garth Brooks. In fact, this is a very Garth Brooks thing to announce—meaning something that on the surface is presented entirely as an act done out of the kindness of Garth’s heart, while in truth, there could be very self-serving purposes to this donation. As the old saying goes, there’s is no such thing as a free lunch.
411 Broadway is a unique property in the Lower Broadway area for a host of reasons. It has a much bigger footprint than many other parcels in the region, with more real estate facing Lower Broadway than many of the other businesses, along with a whopping 43,000 square foot of space as presently constructed. And unlike many of its neighbors, 411 Broadway is not as “historic” as other structures, since it was built in 1949, and has been overhauled from the ground up previously. The glass and blue steel front of the building seems more indicative of the 70s or 80s as opposed to the 1800s. The previous owners of the property used the cavernous space for 20 hotel rooms, and an ax throwing parlor among other attractions.
Nonetheless, the Garth Brooks property does fall within the jurisdiction of the Metro Historic Zoning Commission, or MHZC. On Wednesday, August 17th, the developers of the Garth Brooks property were in front of the commission making their case for an addition to be added on the side of the 411 Broadway building. This addition would be five stories and span the length of the current building, with balconies on the front overlooking Broadway. The new police substation and NDOT hub will be located at the front of this addition with access to the 1st floor and 2nd story balconies, with the balance to be utilized in the Garth Brooks entertainment complex, including the 3rd story balcony.
But you may be asking, where is the space coming from for the new addition in the crowded Lower Broadway corridor, and where every square inch of real estate is worth a fortune? It’s coming from an alley adjacent to the 411 Broadway property. The press release from Metro Nashville states,
“As part of the agreement, which is subject to Metro Council approval, Metro will authorize a commonplace condemnation of an alley adjacent to 411 Broadway, the site of a future Brooks entertainment concept. Metro Government authorizes approximately between 15 and 30 alleyways each year to developers, property owners and other third parties as part of the standard city planning and permitting process.”
The press release makes sure to characterize the condemnation of this alley as perfunctory and commonplace, and perhaps it is. But it’s also not without consequences, or significant benefits for Garth Brooks. Even though part of the new addition will house the police substation, the rest of it will be part of the Garth Brooks entertainment concept. By partnering with the city, Garth Brooks is picking up a large portion of real estate and square feet for his Lower Broadway business without having to pay for it since the alley is being condemned by the city as opposed to paid for out of Garth’s pocket. And yes, Garth will now own the property, not the city. Garth will then lease the property back to the city in a long-term ground lease.
On the open market, the alley property it would be worth millions of dollars, while the condemnation of the alley will have significant implications for the other business in the area, and for one business especially: The Ernest Tubb Record Shop.
Sharing the alley with Garth’s development at 411 Broadway is the historic building at 417 Broadway that has housed the Ernest Tubb Record Shop since 1951, and which was built before The Civil War. Though nobody “owned” the alley, businesses in the area utilize these alley spaces for dumpsters, temporary or employee parking, parking for deliveries, overflow during special events, and other uses in an extremely cramped environment. The Ernest Tubb Record Shop most certainly utilized this alley for all of these purposes.
And those are not the only concerns for the ally adjacent to the historic property being developed. After months of turmoil and concern that the Ernest Tubb Record Shop property would be sold, closed down, and redeveloped, a new partnership group including Nashville-based real estate investor Brad Bars, Russian-born renown Nashville studio musician Ilya Toshinskiy, and Ernest Dale Tubb III purchased the property in late July with the intent of re-opening the Record Shop which closed earlier this year, while revitalizing the historic property. No only are they going to lose the alley which they could have utilized, the new owners are significantly concerned that the construction could impinge upon or damage the historic property.
At the Metro Historic Zoning Commission meeting on Wednesday, August 18th, a lawyer representing the new Ernest Tubb Record Shop ownership group spoke, raising the first concern they have with Garth’s development overcrowding the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, and specifically a set of balconies on the 2nd and 3rd floor of Garth’s proposed addition that will crowd out the sight lines for the iconic Ernest Tubb Record Shop sign.
“That alley is going to be taken from us, so we would like to be more involved in that conversation,” the lawyer said. “What we’re also concerned about is that if you look at these balconies, number 1, they’re not historically allowed on Broadway. But what we’re also concerned about is the Ernest Tubb sign, which is going to be there forever—the building has been there since 1850, the Midnite Jamboree is one of the longest running programs on WSM and will continue—we’re really worried about that sight line, and how that’s going to block that sign from the side of the road. And there’s no need for the 3rd level observation deck … we are [also] worried about building so close to us, what that’s gonna do, and if that’s going to deteriorate from our storefront …so that’s something we’re super concerned about.”
A contractor representing the Ernest Tubb Record Shop spoke about how the construction of the Garth Brooks addition could very well damage the historic Ernest Tubb Record Shop building, and asked for a 60 day pause in the process so that a soil assessment and other evaluations could be done.
“We don’t want to inhibit progress on the alley, or needlessly stall construction,” he said. “However, the structural integrity of our building could be seriously impacted by the activities of 411 Broadway. Our building predates the 1850s. It predates The Civil War. The 411 infill project will require excavating over 14,000 cubic feet of soil, which currently rests against and stabilizes our foundation. It is entirely foreseeable that excavating this material away from the foundation may impact the structural integrity of this historic building on Broadway. A forensic study of our foundation, and how it may be affected by the proposed construction is necessary to proceed prudently with this project.”
Then Ernest Dale Tubb III spoke, mirroring the concerns of others.
“I have concern for the excavation of the alleyway for structural reasons obviously. A big concern of mine is growing up here in Nashville, and 71 years ago when my grandfather opened that store, they bolted that sign to the front of that building, which makes it probably the most iconic sign down on Broadway. It made it through the 70s and 80s when nobody wanted to go to Broadway, and in my mind, the line of sight when you’re standing on 1st Ave., or at the top of 5th is that you see that sign. The balconies create an obstruction of view.”
It also came out during the Historic Zoning Commission discussion over the proposed Garth Brooks addition that it was the recent sale of the Ernest Tubb Record Shop property that facilitated the condemnation of the alley, and the acquisition by Garth Brooks. Saving Country Music has been unable to confirm if the previous owners of the Ernest Tubb Record Shop building had a proper lease agreement on the alley itself with the city, but it was alluded to during the discussion that they did, and part of facilitating the new purchase of the Record Shop property was ending that lease agreement.
Ultimately, the Historical Commission said they were not able to grant a deferral to allow a forensic foundation study before the Garth Brooks addition is to be constructed, because that is not within the commission’s legal purview. They also chose to not ask for removal of the balconies that will impinge on the sight lines of the iconic Ernest Tubb sign. They only made some rulings on railings, how windows on the addition must be fixed instead of opening, and said that the 3rd level balcony needs to step back.
You can see the whole discussion on the Garth Brooks addition at 411 Broadway below:
On hand at the Historic Commission meeting to advocate for the Garth Brooks addition moving forward were a representative from the contracting and development company working on the project, as well as a representative from the Mayor’s office. With Nashville Mayor John Cooper, the Metro Nashville Police Department, as well as MDOT all advocating for the project, it puts the ownership group that just acquired the Ernest Tubb Record Shop building at a natural disadvantage. Not only was Garth Brooks able to walk away with the land that was once used as a city-owned right-of-way, he also has advocates from the city working in his favor in the zoning and permitting process for the entire project in exchange for a small portion of the new addition being used for public works.
Hopefully, the new development ultimately does not impinge on the Ernest Tubb Record Shop or their plans for re-opening, does not damage the historic building, or affect other businesses in the Lower Broadway region. But with Garth’s penchant for going big, and now with multiple Nashville offices advocating for his project, it is imperative that the public pay attention, and those that the public have entrusted to oversee such developments are making objective decisions on how the Garth Brooks development at 411 Broadway is handled moving forward.
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The new ownership group of the Ernest Tubb Record Shop has not announced a re-opening, but have made their intent to preserve the building and business known, with more plans to be revealed soon.