Fighting to Save Local Treasures

You’ve heard me say it before: in community development begin by looking back. That often means researching your community’s history using books, photographs, maps, etc. It’s a method of developing an understanding of the reasons your community developed in the first place.

Sometimes, though, the past is looking you right in the eye. That’s the case on Music Row in Nashville, TN. Efforts are underway to preserve Music Row. According to the National Trust for Historic Places,

Nashville’s Music Row has had a profound influence on the growth and evolution of American music, shaping many genres of music and launching the careers of some of the biggest names in the business over the last 60 years.

Through some odd mix of good fortune and dumb luck, a handful of national treasures like Music Row have lasted to the present day. These national treasures may be few and far between, but more local treasures surround us. It’s important for community developer’s to protect such treasures, not only as a way to promote their communities, but also as a way to preserve valuable lessons from the past. Recent work surrounding Nashville’s Music Row offers valuable lessons on how this can be done.

Recent research by the National Trust for Historic Preservation revealed that Music Row is the only place of its kind remaining in the U.S. where the music industry has been clustered so tightly in one area. Over the past few years, however, Music Row has seen 35 demolitions and a near-loss of the famed RCA Studio-A.

So how have community developers with a stake in Music Row worked to preserve their treasure?

First of all, acknowledgement of the area’s importance. In January 2015, the National Trust for Historic Preservation officially designated Music Row as a National Treasure. According to the Trust, “National Treasures are a portfolio of highly-significant historic places throughout the country where the National Trust makes a long-term commitment to finding a preservation solution.”

Acknowledgement in this manner opened Music Row to fundraising abilities, research capabilities, legal expertise, and organizing strength that would have otherwise been difficult to come by.

Your community’s treasure needn’t be national in nature in order to be eligible for acknowledgement. Perhaps your treasure is eligible to be named to the National Register of Historic Places. Perhaps your state or local government has a program to identify local treasures. Or, perhaps it is as simple as telling the treasure’s story locally (this is a method I regularly employ through our local newspaper. It’s quick and cheap, and it often reaches everyone that needs to be reached).

Next, through cooperation of like-minded organizations, those fundraising abilities, research abilities, legal expertise, and organizing strength of the Trust were put into practice. The Music Industry Coalition, an organization dedicated to Nashville’s music history and future has worked side by side with the National Trust. Moreover, the two organizations have activated local and state entities to assist in the research and preservation efforts.

Finally, throw in a couple of big names for good measure! The National Trust and the Coalition recently announced that Tree Vibez Music, founded by Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard of multi-platinum selling Florida Georgia Line, have joined the effort to preserve Music Row.

Taken from the Trust’s Press Release announcing the new partnership:

“Like so many others, Music Row has been a huge part of mine and Tyler’s career,” said Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley. “We wanted to find a way to give back for all it’s given us and help preserve its legacy. We’re excited for these Music Row stories to educate and inspire music lovers from around the world for years to come!”

Think of people, businesses, or groups who have benefited from your local treasure. Working with such individuals not only adds clout to your efforts, but also offers the individuals an opportunity to give back.

So, my fellow community developers, get out there and begin by looking back. If you’re lucky enough to have a local or national treasure looking you in the eye, be sure to acknowledge its importance, cooperate with like-minded groups, and work together with those who have benefited from your local treasure. And, stay tuned to The Small Street Journal as we begin to shine a spotlight (streetlight?) on such efforts.

Have you taken part in preservation of a local or national treasure? I’m on the hunt for community development success stories. If you’ve been a part of a success story, or you know of one, please share it in the comments section, below:

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