The Metro Historic Zoning Commission on Wednesday approved design plans for a new Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Cafe on Broadway, ending a brief tug-of-war between developers and historic preservationists.
“The commission acted responsibly and took into account all the necessary criteria, and rendered a very rational and commonsense decision,” said Larry Papel, a partner of Corner Partners and co-owner of the building.
“We’re ready to finish up the construction documents and proceed,” he said, adding the hope is to open the restaurant by the end of the year.
Nashville’s much-anticipated Margaritaville Cafe, a beach-themed restaurant named after a song by the famous gulf-and-western entertainer, is slated to go in an 1860s-era building at 322 Broadway. The structure falls within the Broadway Historic Preservation overlay, created in 2007 to appease historic activists for stomaching a proposed Westin Hotel that was never built.
As first reported by The City Paper, investors in the new Margaritaville had hoped to replace the building’s storefront with what’s known as a nanawall, which essentially would act as three large sliding windows, allowing for an open-air feel during warm weather. In March, the historic zoning staff recommended disapproval of the wall. Since that time, parties reached a compromise, and the commission signed off on the plans.
According to the restaurant’s architect, William Hastings, the project’s windows — positioned side-by-side — will no longer consist of separate frames. Instead, when the windows are closed, they will each appear as one pane of glass.
“With this frameless system, it reads now as one solid frame,” Hastings said. “That was the major issue because originally, historically, that was a solid sheet.”
The decision should set a new precedent, as the commission elected to make Margaritaville’s use of the storefront and nanawall a “test case” for the approval of similar windows on Broadway in the future.
“Margaritaville likes to open up onto the street, as many other restaurants on Broadway do now,” said Papel when asked why the restaurant needs the nanawall. “It’s great for streetscape. It brings life to the street. It also promotes sales.”
The commission also voted to exempt Margaritaville from two other design guidelines.
For starters, the primary Margaritaville sign will be 16 feet, 6 inches tall, a full foot taller than the overlay permits. In addition, letters on that sign will be allowed to flash after the commission agreed that its style fit in appropriately with other signs in the honky-tonk area.