Musician, historical commission at odds over home's future after fire

Todd Austin wants to demolish his home and build an exact replica after a fire. (WSMV)

A local musician is in a battle with a Metro commission. At issue is the future of that musician's home.

"Most people in Nashville refer to me as Toddzilla," Todd Austin said.

Jones World, Purple Masquerade, Funk Hammer; they're just a few of Austin's bands. For 22 years, the house he painted purple in part for his love of Prince has been home base for what he does.

"Everybody in my world refers to this as the little purple house of funk," he said, standing in front of his home on Forrest Avenue. "Amazing music has been made here. We've recorded here, rehearsed here."

Five months ago, something happened at Austin's home.

"We got a call from ADS Security that my house was in flames," Austin said. "I lost a lifetime's worth of musical gear I collected, handwritten notes from my mom I'll never get to read again, a 1964 Corvette convertible. I had to bury my seven cats in the backyard. That was the most horrible day of my life."

Austin said after an electrical fire, he wanted to demolish the rest of his home and build an exact replica. He said because the house is in a historic overlay, the Metro Historical Commission wants the front of the house refurbished.

"That is going to cost about $100,000 more than it would to take the house down to the foundation and rebuild a replica," he said. "My insurance coverage just didn't cover that much money. So far, the attitude has been bureaucracy: one; compassion: zero. If I can't get this reversed some way to built it like I need to, I'll probably have to sell my property and walk away. After 22 years, that's heartbreaking."

A rep for the Historical Commission did not directly comment on the situation Thursday but said a new staff recommendation for the property would be posted to the page for Metro Historic Zoning Commission meetings soon.

A staff recommendation from last month denied a full demolition for the property and suggested Austin reapply with an engineer's report after a cleaning of the front part of the house. Following cleaning work, the recommendation sought new estimates for a total renovation of the front of the house followed by reconstruction of the back compared to a total reconstruction.

Attorney Adam Dread is now representing Austin. A petition site in support of Austin has nearly 9,000 names and can be found at

Flyers have been circulating seeking people to support Austin at a Historical Zoning Commission Meeting on Nov. 15.

"I don't think the historic overlay was intended to push out a longtime homeowner who suffered a tragedy," Austin said. "As surreal as the fire was, this power struggle for the house has been unbelievable."

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Forrest Sanders is an award-winning reporter, videographer and editor at News4.

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