Reported By Dennis Ferrier
The biggest effort in recent memory to protect downtown Nashville's remaining historic buildings begins Tuesday.
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The city of Nashville is considering a historic overlay that would preserve 300 pieces of Nashville history.
The property owners will receive a ballot asking a simple question: do you want a historic overlay for your building? If the owner answers yes, then they are agreeing they cannot tear their building down in exchange for huge tax benefits and other incentives.
The three historic areas left in Nashville unprotected are Printer's Alley, Nashville's old gentlemen's quarters, which includes the classic Southern Turn Saloon; Fifth Avenue national historic district; and the American Trust Building, the Federal Reserve.
"It's the core left of our downtown that really tells the history of our city," said Tim Walker of the Metro Historic Commission.
All three are national historic districts, but that does not provide protection. A historic overlay, however, does.
"It doesn't freeze a building in time, but it does protect viable buildings from being demolished," said Walker.
The heart of a historic overlay is that it doesn't allow the property owner to demolish a building, but it does allow certain historic improvements, as well as huge tax breaks and other incentives.
Councilman Mike Jameson is a big supporter of a historic overlay. He's quick to point out that no area in Nashville that has ever been given a historic overlay has asked out of it; in the end, he said, it's a good deal for everyone.
"The bottom line is just how much it matters to you to have a city hold on to those valuable icons in its history," said Jameson.
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