Historic overlay proposed for downtown's Arcade area scrapped

Monday, June 6, 2011 at 9:05pm

Talks of introducing Metro Council legislation that would create a new downtown historic overlay to protect the architectural character of Nashville’s Arcade area are dead.

Metro Councilman Mike Jameson, who represents parts of downtown, told The City Paper in January that he was exploring a possible overlay bounded by Third and Fifth avenues to the east and west, and Church and Union streets to the south and north. The Metro Historical Zoning Commission backed the proposal.

But after soliciting input from affected business owners through community meetings and surveys, Jameson said there wasn’t full agreement among stakeholders in all parts of the proposed district.

“After the ballots were counted, we had a majority of people in favor of the overlay by nearly a 2-to-1 margin,” Jameson said. “But because there were individuals who did not want to be in an overlay, and because they were centrally located within the proposed district, it made it impossible to apply.

“It would have looked like Swiss cheese, which is a no-no when it comes to historic district overlays,” he added. “There is generally support, but until we reach the day when there’s unanimous support, we just can’t move forward.”

With Jameson term-limited from his District 6 seat on the council, the historical overlay will have to be an item pushed by another council member to become a reality.

The new historic overlay would have been the third applied to parts of downtown.

In addition to the Arcade, other landmarks within the boundaries of the proposed district would have been Printer’s Alley, the Downtown Presbyterian Church, the Southern Turf building, the former Noel Hotel, St. Cloud Corner and several structures on Fifth Avenue, where civil rights protestors in the 1960s staged sit-ins. 

Historic overlays establish a set of guidelines to direct future construction, development and other structural changes in the area. They often institute architectural, design and building material considerations in an effort to preserve historical integrity. 

Celebrated by preservationists, overlays often cause headaches for the development community.

1 Comment on this post:

By: livinglively57 on 6/7/11 at 8:18

Such a shame as we have lost so many historic structures in our downtown area to Parking Lots. Our Arcade is a precious jewel in our downtown...I'd have to do some searching but I don't know that this is but one of a few left in the country.

I hope that one day this is pushed to the forefront again. We should protect the historic areas that are left.