Historic preservation overlay delays Margaritaville

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 1:18am

Investors in a future Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Café on Broadway downtown may have to tweak parts of their building design to comply with the area’s historic zoning overlay.

Nashville’s much-anticipated Margaritaville Café, a beach-themed chain restaurant named after the famous gulf-and-western entertainer, is slated to go inside an 18,000-square-foot structure built in 1860 that previously housed Global Café and Planet Hollywood.

The structure, situated in the heart of the city’s honky-tonk district, falls within the Broadway Historic Preservation overlay, which was created in 2007 as a compromise to historic preservationists for stomaching a proposal for a Westin hotel that was never built.

Needing clearance for construction, the restaurant team took their design schemes last week to the Metro Historic Zoning Commission where the applicants deferred their plan one meeting after the commission’s staff recommended changes to comply with the overlay. The proposal will go back before the commission next month.

The staff cited the need to alter specifications for the restaurant’s proposed signs –– height reductions and the removal of moving and lights, for example –– and to scrap plans to replace the existing storefront with what’s known as a nanawall. Basically, the nanawall would act as a sliding windowed-wall, which would be kept open during warm weather.

Mark Bloom, a partner at Corner Partnership and co-owner of the building, called the sign changes “workable,” but said he and others “feel pretty strongly” about the need for the nanawall to make the restaurant more accessible to patrons.

“That’s a big one for us,” Bloom said of the nanawall. “There’s not many $10 million investments on Lower Broadway. This is a major investment ... It needs to be done right.

“If we come to an agreement, then everything will move forward, but nothing’s a given,” he added. “I think that there’s probably a way to meet in the middle to get it done.”

Tim Walker, executive director of the historic zoning commission, called the Margaritaville Café team “great to work with,” but pointed out the proposed nanawall would not mimic the original storefront and therefore would not comply with the historic overlay.

“We’re there to protect the character of the building,” Walker said.

Bloom and others had originally sought to begin construction on Nashville’s Margaritaville in April, and to open the restaurant by the end of the year.

10 Comments on this post:

By: BEOWULF on 3/23/10 at 6:51

BEOWULF: Keep the historic storefront. Americans have little respect for anything historic or traditional. Mr. Buffet should make this restaurant a tribute to the city that helped him get where he is today.

By: shinestx on 3/23/10 at 7:43

Preserve the storefront, but see if there is anywhere else the nanawall can be attached to the building. That's a great option to have for nice days, and the other M'villes have it.

By: fdanshep on 3/23/10 at 8:19

The Historic Zoning Commission needs to be reasonable in their restrictions but at the end of the day, remain true to their mission statement.

By: xhexx on 3/23/10 at 9:44

They should not be allowed to violate the historic zoning regulations and destroy the storefront. If they are allowed to, in a couple of years when they fail, we'll have an empty building in a historic district that's been ruined and doesn't fit in. Nobody thought Planet Hollywood would fail either. Lot's of businesses have come and gone in that building since 1860.

By: JeffF on 3/23/10 at 10:02

Who didn't see this confrontation coming when the restaurant was announced? There is not any chance that both the old building folks and the MDHA will both get out of the way of any large private investment in downtown.

I particularly find tragic humor in the last posting where business failure is assumed and that the added costs of appeasing the old building nuts had nothing to do with it.

By: skeptic1 on 3/23/10 at 11:44

Keeping the historic storefront didn't help Planet Hollywood or Global Cafe stay in business. The storefront design itself is rather blah. I pass there everyday and couldn't tell you what is special about it.

As a tourist, I've enjoyed the nano-wall concept in New Orleans, Savanah, and Pensacola (non-Margaritaville) restaurants and the many sidewalk cafe opportunities in Asheville and Orlando. Note: I may live here but I spend my tourist dollars elsewhere.

As far as clinging to the maudlin historical architecture, there is probably a faux-facade compromise that would give the place the look of the historical when closed but still be able to slide open to the street when weather permits.

My family has been in the South since the 1630s. We are not overly sentimental about material things.

By: shef2 on 3/23/10 at 8:34

Jimmy Buffett should pull out of the deal, and let Downtown Nashville struggle to find anyone else who would go into that spot.
Good luck on that one, Historic Zoning Commission.

I've been to Margaritaville in Key West. (So has Alan Jackson...)
It was great-! My friend & I had a lot of fun there-!

It's been quite awhile since Global Cafe closed, hasn't it-?
(I never went there.)

I did go to see some friends play @ Planet Hollywood, when it was @ that location.
Bad food, and service to match.

Downtown Nashville should work like crazy to get Margaritaville in that spot-! Get real-! There's Help, and there's Hinder. What are they thinking-?!?! TRY HELPING-!
WORK WITH EACH OTHER, & COMPROMISE-! IT'S A WINDOW...

By: nashvillebizlady on 3/24/10 at 4:52

I couldn't agree more skeptic 1 and shef2. We should be lucky that they want to take over that space. It didn't do well as Planet Hollywood or Global Cafe. I think this restaurant/venue will be great for Music City. The Historic Zoning Commission sounds like a bunch of sticks in the mud... I vote Margaritaville all the way!

By: dargent7 on 3/25/10 at 6:51

The nit-wits and bozos who want to "tweek" Buffet's restaurant/ bar better get with it and soon. They don't want "windows that OPEN" and will probably demand guns are allowed, especially past midnight. The developers should take their $10 million and head out of town. Who needs Nashville's inane nonsense?

By: Loner on 3/26/10 at 7:12

Hey, a beachfront-themed liquor bar in landlocked Tennessee seems like a natural fit....fake palm trees, trucked-in beach sand, tropical-looking thatch roofed tables....."Yellow Bird" quietly streaming in the background, as pistol-packing, cowboy-hat-wearing, tea-bagger-types elbow up to the bar......perfect!

What on earth could the wussy preservationists be concerned about?