A new historic overlay could be coming downtown to protect the architectural character of the area surrounding the Nashville Arcade and Printer’s Alley.
Boundaries for the proposed historic overlay would be Third and Fifth avenues to the east and west, and Church and Union streets to the south and north. The overlay would be the third to affect downtown, with protections already in place for Broadway and Second Avenue.
“It encompasses the core of our historic downtown,” said Metro Historic Zoning Commission Executive Director Tim Walker, adding the proposed boundaries include the city’s old business, shopping and entertainment districts.
Metro Councilman Mike Jameson, who represents parts of downtown, sent a letter to downtown property owners earlier this week alerting them of the possible overlay. He said the decision whether to continue pursuing the overlay would be contingent on the majority preference of affected property owners.
“This is an area of town that has several structures of enormous significance to the city’s history,” Jameson told The City Paper.
The public is invited to attend a meeting on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Downtown Presbyterian Church to discuss the proposal.
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.
To be approved, the historic zoning commission, Metro Planning Commission and Metro Council would need to clear the overlay.
Besides the Arcade and Printer’s Alley, other buildings within the proposed boundaries include 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.
“These emblems of our heritage are certainly worthy of preservation, but our efforts must be balanced by concerns for property owners’ rights,” Jameson wrote in the letter. “Accordingly, I am working with the Metro Historical Commission and others to create an overlay that allows flexibility for property owners, supports new development and emphasizes potential financial incentives.”
Nashville currently has 21 historic overlays, along with several overlays directed at specific landmarks.
Celebrated by historic preservationists, overlays sometimes cause headaches among the development community. In the last year, there have been two clashes resulting from the Broadway historic overlay.
One dispute involved a canopy erected by the bar Rippy’s. The other involved a proposed windowed-wall for Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Cafe. The historic commission and the principals involved settled differences in both cases.
Walker said the hope would be to make the new historic overlay “developer friendly.”
“If there’s no support, we won’t go forward with it,” he said.