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Metro City Council considering buying downtown property for $20 million

Downtown Property (Photo: FOX 17 News)
Downtown Property (Photo: FOX 17 News)
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Metro City Council is considering buying a historic property downtown for $20 million.

Council members already voted against buying the same property back in 2019 for about half the price, at $11 million.

Council members were split in 2019 because they couldn’t agree on the future of that historic building.

But some city leaders, including Mayor John Cooper, are currently trying to buy the property for a second time for double the cost.

“I think it absolutely makes sense for Metro to add it to its portfolio. I just wish we had done it three years ago when it was initially proposed,” Council Member Freddie O’Connell said.

O’Connell is sponsoring the bill to buy the property and sponsored the failed bill back in 2019.

Plans in 2019 included tearing down the building on site and using the property to build a new Nashville School of the Arts (NSA).

Then-Council Member Cooper voted against the project, saying he opposed tearing down the historic structure.

“I also will vote no, not that we don’t want it, but it’s a terrible precedent for development in Nashville,” Cooper said in 2019.

Three years later, the mayor has changed his stance. He included the purchase in this year’s budget, with plans to turn it into a park.

FOX 17 News reached out to his office asking why he changed his mind, and what his plans are for the building. We are waiting to hear back.

Councilman O’Connell says the parks department has plans underway to incorporate the property into Wharf Park along the Cumberland.

He says there’s also opportunities to use the land for affordable housing or other uses moving forward.

“I have been to several public meetings about proposals for Wharf Park, I have heard conversations about both general housing and adaptive reuse rates. So there may be both some preservation and some opportunities to create housing at this site adjacent to a new park that I would say I am very supportive of,” he said.

City council members expressed concern in 2019 that the city could lose out on the opportunity to buy the property if they didn’t move quickly. The state is within their rights to sell the property to a private bidder.

Council members say that threat still exists today, despite no change to property ownership since this was discussed back then.

“If Metro doesn't buy this, the state could certainly sell out for private development, which would happen. Not that that would necessarily be bad. But the best hope that we have for possibly preserving the historic building and honoring the legacy of the site is for Metro to own it. So that's a reason why I support buying it,” Council Member Brett Withers said.

The $20 million price tag just covers buying the property. Council already approved that amount as part of the most recent Capital Spending Plan as part of Wharf Park, along with $1.7 million for planning.

The city has not shared information on what it would cost to preserve or renovate the building, or the cost of possible future projects for this space.

A spokesperson with Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) says the city is no longer pursuing the property for a new school. They are actively working to find a new home for the School of the Arts.

“We are in the process of reviewing existing properties through our capital planning process for potential future locations of a new NSA campus, but no determinations have been made at this time,” a spokesperson said.

Council will discuss the proposal at their next meeting on Thursday, May 5.

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