Crafton wants Metro Archives to move to Ben West Library building

Friday, March 11, 2011 at 4:34pm

The Metro Council is set to weigh in on a memorializing resolution that would request Mayor Karl Dean’s administration take necessary action to relocate Metro Government Archives holdings to the downtown Ben West Library building.

The resolution, filed by Bellevue Councilman Eric Crafton, comes as Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling last week sent a letter to council members announcing the relocation of the archives to Hickory Hollow Mall in Antioch is off the table, a plan originally put forth in the fall. The city’s archives are currently housed at an undersized Green Hills building. 

The resolution, which would only symbolically express the council’s position, is to go before the council on a vote Tuesday March 15. The request also asks that the Ben West Library building, which anchors the southwest corner of Polk Avenue and Union Street, become home to a new Davidson County museum. 

“It’s the best spot for the archives because No. 1. the city owns the building,” Crafton said of the Ben West building . “And it’s already been renovated to a large degree because we held council meetings and had the law department over there for two years when the courthouse was being renovated.

“The building is already built to house books and different things like that,” he said. “It’s also in close proximity to the [Main Library] and the state archives.”

Riebeling has said the mayor’s administration is working with Nashville Public Library Director Donna Nicely to find the “most suitable and affordable archives location.” Metro Government Archives is a division of the Nashville Public Library.

The old Ben West Library has long been bandied around as a possible home of the archives. In 2006, the move seemed on track, but it never materialized. 

“It has been proposed that we move Metro Archives to Ben West previously,” Nicely said. “If the council would like us to look into that again, we’re happy to do so.”

Nicely said she has not been in discussions with the mayor’s administration about the Ben West Library building.

In the fall, Dean announced plans to relocate the archives to space inside the J.C. Penney building at struggling Hickory Hollow Mall, a proposal that was roundly criticized by Nashvillians who frequent the archives.

The archives relocation was initially pulled when Dean retreated on plans to move the fairgrounds expo center to the mall. But at the time, his administration still expressed intentions to move forward with opening public entities including a new library and community center at the mall. Those moves still aren’t fleshed out, and the archives move is off the table.

This isn’t the first time Crafton has made an appeal that Dean and Nicely explore the Ben West Library building. In January, Crafton sent a letter to the two expressing his support for the structure as the new home of the archives. More than 20 council members co-signed the letter. 

3 Comments on this post:

By: MocMewn on 3/11/11 at 7:29

I make a proposal that Metro not purchase or rent ANY property until they have renovated or sold ALL unoccupied Metro owned-property. Also, they should NEVER start a proposed project when they don't own all the land that the project encompasses.

I do have a question..... What's wrong with the Southeast branch of the Public Library and why we need a new library in the old JC Penney building, when a perfectly good library is only a couple of blocks away?

By: govskeptic on 3/14/11 at 5:11

Looking back the Ben West Library to be used as an Archive
was one of the points/reasons given when the new Downtown Library
was being proposed. It's the most logical place for this use!
For the city to purchase any building at Hickory Hollow is just wrong.

By: Bookish59 on 3/14/11 at 10:45

Finding a building equipped to handle the heavy weight of books and records is challenging. We know the Ben West Library building was built to handle that kind of weight. It's the logical place for the Metro Archives, and close to the State Library & Archives. Mr. Crafton is definitely on the right track.

One caveat -- the city has to reserve some parking for visitors to the Archives at that site!