Country legend Ray Stevens’ 1.26-acre, six-parcel site located at the corner of 17th Avenue and Grand Avenue in the heart of Nashville’s Music Row area, is now under contract. The property’s total parcels include 1701 and 1707 Grand Ave., as well as 1007, 1009, 1011 and 1013 17th Ave S. The six parcels had been listed for sale at $13.5 million.
Real estate developer Hall Emery has purchased the property, with plans to demolish the current structure in favor of a modern business office, aptly called 17th & Grand.
According to both Stevens’ business associate “Buddy” Kalb and Hall Emery president David Wells, the vision for the new space will focus on offering a modern layout and technological amenities to attract and retain various music industry operations and businesses to return to the Music Row area.
Kalb tells MusicRow.com, ‘I remember when you would have a songwriter write a song and take it to their publisher in one building and the publisher could take it across the street to the label or the producer and you would get a hit. I could see someone writing a song on the fourth floor and taking it downstairs to the second floor or third floor to pitch it to the right person.”
According to Wells, current plans for the location include one building, up to seven stories high, and 160,000 square feet, as well as accommodation for 450 parking spaces. Wells notes the building will also have a retail component.
He adds that they are considering the possibility of adding more floors, totaling 10 floors if needed, to accommodate the right tenant. He says he has been in discussions with the city’s planning department, as well as with neighboring businesses around the property.
“We want to offer space that can fit the needs of larger companies, but we will also have smaller offices and co-working spaces for individual music industry members who need office space,” Wells tells musicrow.com. “We will have the modern efficient space that larger companies need, and smaller office spaces, like 5,000-6,000 square feet.”
Wells estimates the new facility could open as early as 2021, but says 2022 is a more likely time frame. Only tentative renderings for the building’s design have been made at this point.
Wells declined to name a purchase price for the property, as well as possible rent prices for the new office spaces.
Stevens has held the majority share of ownership in the property for 45 years, with the estate of country guitarist/producer/industry executive Chet Atkins controlling the remainder of the property’s ownership. The Atkins estate has signed off on the sale of the property.
“Ray has had numerous offers for the property, and he’s not been happy with Music Row facilities being gobbled up, to build apartments and condos,” Kalb states. “Hall Emery had a vision for a music business center that would retain companies already here and attract new ones.”
Stevens owns five pieces of property in the Music Row area. In January, Stevens opened the Ray Stevens CabaRay Show Room, a 35,000-square-feet dinner theater located at 5724 River Road out by Nashville West. Stevens previously moved his recording and TV production businesses to the location, and has opted to also relocate his business operations to the CabaRay Show Room.
Wells says as designs for the building are detailed, they hope to incorporate pieces from the current building into the design of the new space, and will include elements in the common areas that celebrate the history of the Music Row area, as well as Stevens’ career.
“It is going to be something special and it checks all the boxes that the city wants,” Wells says. “Having people like Ray give their support, the people of Music Row are very supportive.”
The development is the latest in a swiftly changing tide in the Music Row area, as the older homes that have long housed the labels, publishing companies and other businesses that helped create the legendary hits that the Music Row area is known for, have been purchased to make way for an assortment of condos, apartments and hotels.
The changes have sparked tension in the Music Row community, most notably in 2014, when historic RCA Studio A was nearly demolished in favor of a condo development, before an 11th hour save by preservationist Aubrey Preston. Condos and apartments have sprung up on 16th and 17th Avenues, and most recently, developer Pannatoni brought anger to some in the music row community when it was announced that a six-story office building was being planned for property on 16th Ave. S., including land where long-time industry watering hole Bobby Idle Hour stands.
Over the past decade, several top labels and music companies, including Sony Music Nashville, WME, Triple 8 Management, MCA Nashville (under the UMG umbrella) have moved off the row, in search of modern business space that can accommodate expanding staffs and modern technological needs.
Other businesses such as SESAC and the Country Music Association, have moved locations while still keeping their operations centered in the Music Row area. Publisher and label BBR Music Group/BMG has signed on as a tenant in a property that is currently being constructed at the CMA’s former office at One Music Circle S.
Wells and Stevens hope the development of 17th & Grand will offer one more enticement for both current and interested music industry businesses to keep their offices in the Music Row area.
“When I first moved to Nashville 20 years ago, we drove down Music Row to see where the music is made and where the industry happens, and I was like, ‘This is it?’ It’s not quite what you expect.’” Wells says.
“We want to transform the Row into the business mecca it was,” he continues. “We can add by adding new facilities to “knock the dust” off the row. Companies from New York and Los Angeles want to move parts of their operation here and we want to make that feasible.”
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