2023 Mayoral Candidates and Historic Preservation

The Metropolitan Historical Commission, along with partners Historic Nashville, Inc., and Preservation Society of Nashville, recently reached out to the candidates running for mayor for their perspectives on preservation. Seven candidates responded and four did not.

We hope these responses are helpful for you to consider as you head to the polls this week to help shape Nashville’s future. Find your polling place here.

  1. Natasha Brooks – No Response
  2. Fran Bush – No Response
  3. Heidi Campbell
  4. Bernie Cox – No Response
  5. Sharon Hurt
  6. Stephanie Johnson
  7. Freddie O’Connell
  8. Alice Rolli
  9. Vivian Wilhoite
  10. Matt Wiltshire – No Response
  11. Jeff Yarbro

1. The preservation of Nashville’s historic buildings and sites gives our city its unique character and “sense of place” and is an important planning tool in building economic, environmental, and social and cultural stability. Given our current growth, how important do you consider preservation as a goal for the next administration? How would you suggest we protect the historic resources that are most likely to be demolished for new development?

Heidi Campbell: “I am a founding contributor to the Nashville Historic Preservation Society and a lifelong Nashville resident. Too much of the city I grew up in has already disappeared. I am and will continue to be a passionate proponent for preservation.”

Sharon Hurt: “Preservation is of the utmost importance and has been at the center of my campaign messaging. Nashville is a Southern city with charm and history so we need to preserve those characteristics. We can continue to protect historic buildings the same way we have protected important historic buildings at risk earlier in Nashville’s history, like the Woolworth building and other buildings that have been on the Nashville Nine.”

Stephanie Johnson: “I am a long-time Nashvillian, and my family came to Nashville in the early 1900’s. I am very attached to the city and its history. My grandfather built a church in East Nashville, and he and my grandmother built the first house off of Nocturne Dr. in North Nashville in 1958. My family was a part of the development and economic backbone of helping Nashville become what it is today. Preserving its history is one of my top priorities and concerns for our city moving forward. I want any efforts to overhaul preserving our unique structures and many historical places fully supported and funded. When many of us travel the world, we do so to remember and to see the past, why does the US not get the same respect? I will ensure we protect Nashville and I will include our historic watch list as part of my administration’s top concerns and ensure we leave our next mayor a strategic plan on how to handle Nashville’s history, why it is important to us, and what will need to happen next. This includes all our historic cemeteries as well, as my family is buried in Mount Ararat Cemetery. Currently, I am beginning a project to preserve Nashville’s voices, by filming and recording many long-time Nashvillians from different spheres of influence and hopefully house it in our downtown library for a future listening library of 100’s of older Nashvillians who went through so many historic changes. In addition, my team and I are researching historic neighborhood tours and how it can bring new economic activity into our city, and how we can include more neighborhoods.”

Freddie O’Connell: “From the recent PlaceEconomics study, we know that heritage tourism is a key part of our destination economy. We will have to use a mix of tools—from our recently created rebate incentive, to preservation easements, to transfer of development rights—and occasionally landmark specific buildings and leverage overlays. There are times that adaptive reuse or façade preservation will wind up being our best options.

Alice Rolli: “I believe, and said in my launch ad for this campaign, that conservation can live alongside commerce. This is work that resides in my bones. My great-grandfather, Albert F. Ganier served as the President of the TN Historical Society, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Belle Meade Mansion, and Co-founded the Nashville Children’s Museum and state’s oldest conservation group, the Tennessee Ornithological Society.

In 2017 I started a petition that garnered nearly 5,000 signatures – taking on the administration of a then-popular mayor – to help save Ft. Negley park. A link to that work, and all of my writings on the subject, is here.

Historic preservation is incredibly important to me. Balancing that with the rights of property owners and the needs of growth is a consistent challenge. The most successful and most sustainable historic sites have a very clear way of demonstrating their value – through ticket sales or commercially-included purposes (e.g. Frist Museum, Ryman Auditorium).

As Mayor, we need to use the tools available locally and at the state and federal level (preservation tax incentives, preservation grants) to ensure our most important cultural and historic landmarks are not overlooked.

Historic Nashville’s “Nashville Nine” has been a compelling way to draw attention to properties. Going forward, it is imperative that our non-profit partners in this work elevate not only those under threat, but those that have been saved and are prospering. Too often historic groups are pitted against development – and those tired narrative arcs are too easily repeated. Reframing the commercial success of areas that were saved – the Ryman, White Way Cleaners, the Frist Art Museum, and the like – are what will ultimately make this work sustainable.

Historic places give authenticity and roots to a world that feels increasingly inauthentic.”

Vivian Wilhoite: “I believe that historical preservation is extremely important. Historical preservation is the essence of Nashville and Davidson County flare as a city. As Mayor I will involve a combination of legal, community-based and proactive measures, to ensure that historical preservation remains a priority for our city.  I am excited about Mayor Cooper’s hiring of the city’s first ever architect in the Planning Department. I believe that this is yet another proactive step to ensure historical preservation and encourage balance in the designing of our city and county.”

Jeff Yarbro: “The preservation of Nashville’s historic buildings and sites is critical to the city’s future. These sites are not merely economic and social assets; they tell us who we are and where we came from. It is Nashville’s unique history and character that has spurred our recent growth. Ironically, one of the most dangerous aspects of rapid development is that the city becomes indistinguishable from other cities. There is a balance to strike. For instance, we should guard against historic preservation seeming like a bureaucratic jumble of hurdles that are difficult to understand. Instead, it is important that the city and developers working within the city understand how our historic preservation priorities and aims factor into our strategic plans for the city. We should have strict regulations to guard against the demolition of important historic sites, incentives for the preservation and repurposing of historic structures, and active engagement throughout the community to build a broader and more broadly shared set of values focused on historic preservation.”

2. Many of our city-owned historic sites have been in a state of deterioration due to lack of funds allocated for their maintenance. Examples include Fort Negley, Fort Nashborough, Nashville City Cemetery, Shelby Park’s Naval Reserve Center, Lock 2 Park, several Metro Schools, among others. Do you think it is important to demonstrate leadership through funding annual maintenance of Metro-owned historic sites, and if so, what plan would you put in place to accomplish this?

Heidi Campbell: “I absolutely do- and I have always been a supporter of organizations that strive to fund preservation efforts. I also actively seek grant opportunities for such endeavors, and I will prioritize protection and restoration of these important sites as I develop our budget.”

Sharon Hurt: “Yes, I believe it is important to demonstrate leadership and preserve what we can of Metro-owned sites. I would have to look over the budget before committing any money for this though.”

Stephanie Johnson: “I was recently speaking to one of the individuals collecting information on all of our cemeteries in Nashville to understand how Nashville leadership is working to preserve those sites. I believe one of the issues is that a lot of Nashvillians have no clue of their family history. With the Tennessee State Library, we have access to finding who is related to who, this is how I located where my ancestors were buried. One of my first meetings, I would love it to be with our History keepers, urban planners and urban conservation experts and create a task force that creates new ways to fund our historic sites, maintenance plans, and family history finder to start connecting families to their Nashville history. Knowing I have so much history, motivates me to preserve it. In addition, working with groups like Hands on Nashville or Historic tour groups to include a volunteer component to help with maintenance or restoration projects. I was recently at Nashville City Cemetery learning to clean and repair headstones. This would also be a great project for our schools across metro, and would help the next generation learn to care and preserve history.”

Freddie O’Connell: “I do think we need a broader fiscal tool for ongoing maintenance that goes beyond just historic sites; we need it for parks and other facilities, as well. Right now, we have very few dedicated tools, but we recently created a fund balance policy, and I think it would be good to have something like the 4% fund that specifically attempts to quantify our annual maintenance needs.’

Alice Rolli: “Yes. We are committed to work with stakeholders to determine the required funds and available sources. I know what systematic underinvestment looks like and the difficulty of fighting that – you can read my OpEd on that topic from several years ago, here.”

Vivian Wilhoite: “From my first term in 2003 as a Metro Council representative for District 29 to now as the Assessor of Property of Nashville and Davidson County, I believe the city must maintain the historical properties that we own. We must make this a priority in the budget and we must continue to work with groups like Historic Nashville Inc. and other similar groups inside and outside of Nashville to ensure that the owning of properties and allowing them to deteriorate is not historical preservation– that’s just irresponsible government waste. I was ecstatic to help compose the recent legislation that is being used by the Historical Commission to incentivizes private entities to restore and reconstruct historical commercial sites like that of the Second Avenue buildings impacted by the Christmas Day bombing. I hope that the legislation can be used by the owners to reconstruct and restore the Morris Building, the only downtown historical building that was built for the National Baptist Convention and housed many Black businesses in the 1920s. Additionally, I want the legislation to be made available to historical preservation for residential properties. We must do better to preserve and recognize our historical sites both commercial and residential.”

Jeff Yarbro: “Yes, I believe it is important to demonstrate leadership through funding annual maintenance of Metro-owned historic sites. These sites are part of our city’s history, and they deserve to be preserved for future generations. To address the funding issue the next Mayor must convene the Metro Historical Commission, historic preservation groups and non-profits to assess the condition of each historic site and prioritize the most urgent needs. Doing so will help define a dedicated budget that should be allocated specifically for the maintenance and restoration of those sites. Additionally, the next Mayor should bring together business, philanthropies, and nonprofit organizations to advance public-private partnerships to secure additional funding and resources for historic preservation in Nashville.”

3. Nashville’s Music Row is internationally known for its history in the creation of music that is heard around the world and has given us the monikers of “Music City” and “Songwriting Capital of the World”. Since the 1950s, this area has nurtured an environment where all disciplines of the music industry (songwriting, publishing, recording, record labels, entertainment attorneys, artist managers, etc.) are gathered and have flourished. The importance of this area of Nashville has led to its having been identified as a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Currently, buildings that were formerly home to music industry businesses are being demolished to make way for new housing developments, threatening the area and its synergy as a place to create music. What is your stance on this issue, and what type of plan would you put in place if you hope to change the current course?

Heidi Campbell: “As a singer, a songwriter, a music publisher, and the owner of a music licensing business I am intimately familiar with the demolition of the music row I grew up in. I will work with the Preservation Society of Nashville, the Metropolitan Historical Commission, and Historic Nashville to combat further erosion of this cultural treasure.”

Sharon Hurt: “I believe we need balance. We need to balance the new, with our city’s need for new housing and public space, with the beautiful old historic buildings that made Nashville the “It City” in the first place. I will put forward a plan that would bring balance between these competing priorities.”

Stephanie Johnson: “I used to spend a lot of time on music row, due to some programs I attended as a child, and it is quite jarring to see how our city has allowed such drastic changes to an area that means so much to so many. I remember the “Save Music Row” efforts and it should have gotten a lot more support than it did. My biggest regret is that I did not come back home sooner to run for Mayor and get in front of the destruction that has been allowed to occur all over Nashville. As I have said before, my plan is to have an urgent meeting with planning and our history keepers. Metro planning has been the least responses to me when trying to engage and ask questions and once I am in office, it stops, and that office will need to be placed on my emergency overhaul list, when going through metro departments and thinking through how each one serves Nashville. Our metro departments are there to serve Nashville, and I am not seeing Nashville being served too well.”

Freddie O’Connell: “I’ve worked for years with Metro Historic, Metro Planning, partners, and property owners and stakeholders in the area to craft a Music Row Vision Plan. I hope that we codify this as a Music Row Code that creates stronger incentives for preservation, specifically with an eye toward retaining music-based businesses.”

Alice Rolli:“Yes. Italy has its frescoes, Egypt has its pyramids and Nashville has its songwriters. I live one block off of Music Row in the historic Edgehill neighborhood.

As a neighbor and also a business person on Music Row I participated in the Music Row Code process. Many parts of that plan made sense, but others (such as an initial draft to downzone Grand Ave. and place an artificial line, where none existed, literally bisecting existing buildings) did not.

I advocated strongly for ensuring the plan encourages active and existing businesses, such as QuaverMusic (a company I helped grow from 55 to 140 employees – the company now employs more than 250 people – right on Music Row) to locate to and stay on the Row. The plan had near universal concern for slowing the proliferation of big-box apartment buildings which “dropped” into the neighborhood with little regard for activating and connecting to the community.

Companies at the intersection of technology and music are a perfect fit for Music Row. More intentional work will need to be done to grow amenities (like the Well Coffee House) to ensure that companies want to locate and grow on the Row.

Intentional developments fitting with the neighborhood character, such as the Edgehill Village Shops – which includes ~7 restaurants located within the historic White Way cleaners – creates a win-win for historic preservation, character, and appropriate neighborhood scale amenities.

Probably the single most important thing to do is to actually follow the plan. Community leaders are tired of being asked to give input on plans that are all thrown out the window through “SP Swiss-Cheese” when a new developer comes to town.”

Vivian Wilhoite: “I believe we do need to maintain and preserve Music Row. We also must take into consideration how the making of music has changed over the years. But, that does not limit our obligation to preserve Nashville’s history. We can build public/private partnerships dedicated to preserving and restoring the music history of Nashville.”

Jeff Yarbro: “Music Row is home to a unique ecosystem of music industry businesses that have helped to create some of the most popular songs in history. These buildings are not just landmarks, they are also important spaces for collaboration and creativity. Unfortunately, the character of the space is already losing ground. As Mayor I would protect Music Row by designating Music Row a Cultural Industry District, providing financial incentives to businesses that renovate or restore historic buildings in Music Row and working with developers to find ways to incorporate historic buildings into new development projects.”

4. Many states and cities offer economic incentives to owners of historic properties when they make appropriate repairs and renovations to their buildings. These incentives include property tax abatements, grants, fee waivers, to name a few. Knoxville established a historic property grant program in 2017 that has proven successful, and although a pilot property tax abatement program has been established in Nashville, its funding is limited and applies only to commercial buildings. If elected, how would you create new incentives for owners of historic properties, both residential and commercial, in Davidson County?

Heidi Campbell: “I am a strong proponent of historic preservation incentives, and will work with our planning commission on rezoning areas of our city with historical overlays, and with our council on property tax abatements, grants, and fee waivers, and will also work with these organizations to create a comprehensive historic building database.”

Sharon Hurt: “I would consider creating a property grant program similar to the one in Knoxville, as well as other incentives such as tax abatements and fee waivers. As Mayor, I plan on streamlining the permitting process for affordable and attainable housing as well as providing property tax relief for low-income homeowners. We can easily incorporate historic building preservation into these programs.”

Stephanie Johnson: No Response Recorded.

Freddie O’Connell: “We need to review the capacity of the current incentive program to see if it should be expanded. It will be imperative to continue working to also establish a state historic preservation tax credit.’

Alice Rolli: “Yes. There is much to be learned and applied from state agricultural exemptions and their potential applicability to historic zoning and historic tax planning. These exemptions help current operators maintain the character and purpose (farming) and create a very high bar in a sale or redevelopment to change the purpose.

Given the rapid growth in our region, it feels that we have a critical mass of adjoining mayors and groups to advocate for creating a state-level historic fund – not dissimilar to the state’s “Fast Track” jobs fund (where I was a voting member in my time as an Assistant Commissioner in Economic and Community Development).

Looking at both grants and tax policy – both voluntary for the land holder – are important, sustainable, and scalable approaches to the important work of preserving the character of our region and our city. We ought to lock arms with our neighbors in Franklin and Knoxville on this work. Understanding the state tools available were an important component of our work saving Ft. Negley. You can read my approach (bringing to bear a state law applied unevenly) here.”

Vivian Wilhoite: “I am in favor of fully funding a tax abatement program for owners of historical buildings to make the needed expenditures on renovations and maintenance for the upkeep of the historical properties. We need to focus on long-term preservation, however we can which is why I was more than excited to assist in establishing Nashville and Davidson County first ever Historical Tax Abatement Commission. Although it has been established to be used by commercial properties, I want to see the opportunity for residential historical properties to be able to benefit from the Tax Abatement program and I will support to see that happen.”

Jeff Yarbro: “As Mayor I will create new incentives for owners of residential and commercial historic properties in Davidson County by expanding the existing pilot property tax abatement program in Nashville to include residential buildings, establishing a grant program similar to Knoxville’s and developing partnerships with local businesses, nonprofits, and philanthropic organizations to create a dedicated fund for historic property incentives. These incentives will preserve Nashville’s historic character and encourage historic property owners to make necessary repairs and renovations.”

5. In addition to its appeal as “Music City,” some of our city’s best but least utilized assets for tourism are the stories and sites that tell our history – from geologic formations and natural history, Native American sites and early white settlements, slavery in Civil War era Nashville and the Civil Rights movement, as well as the more recent and underrepresented histories of ethnic minorities (Kurdish, Laotian, Hispanic) and other social groups (LGBTQ). How can we raise the profile of our past and celebrate the historic sites and our underrepresented histories to enhance our attractiveness as a tourism and convention destination? What are your thoughts on the need and manner in which to elevate the public’s awareness of underrepresented histories?

Heidi Campbell: “I view the office of the Mayor as a venture catalyst- connecting opportunity with need. This means employing the resources of the office to promote the importance of all aspects of our shared and unique history in this city- with a particular focus on the most marginalized groups.”

Sharon Hurt: “All of these historic sites are important. As Mayor I will do what I have always done and fight to preserve historic Black sites such as Jefferson Street and the historic sites of other minorities in Nashville. That means asking representatives from these communities what is important to them and what they believe is appropriate for tourists to see. We must be thoughtful and sensitive about this topic. In terms of elevating the public’s awareness – there’s millions of ways we can elevate awareness. We can start festivals; rename streets do all the things I have done the past 20 years to serve just this purpose.”

Stephanie Johnson: “I was a part of creating a history and awareness tour for a client here in Nashville, and I know there are other privately funded history groups. We should begin to call our local community members to invest in their communities by becoming new history entrepreneurs. Through our task force we can identify all of these points and begin to identify those in each community that we can support and help fund launching many different historical projects all over Nashville. I would want this task force to hand their plan over to our finance office so we can begin to assess what our return on interest will be in funding these types of projects throughout Nashville. In return, when we have any other incidents of trying to save our history, we have activated a community dedicated to history that will help come and advocate for their cities’ history.”

Freddie O’Connell: “The Nashville Sites program is a wonderful way for people to explore historic sites. There is considerable interest in Nashville investing in a civil rights museum, and I think this would be critically important to permanently putting a focus on our important civil rights legacy, especially if it were housed in the Morris Memorial Building.”

Alice Rolli: “Agreed. This is an area where technology and wayfinding signage can converge to create a really compelling historical map of the city. Think of a “wikipedia” of Nashville’s history – whereby local historians can add artifacts and stories can be elevated through such a process. I’d love to see the Nashville Public Library, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Historic Nashville as well as many of our city’s universities together on such a project – drawing on the success of ideas like the state whiskey trail or state music trails – but using technology to help capture more stories.”

Vivian Wilhoite: “Nashville is so much more than the bars on Broadway. I believe we can begin by making sure that we are marketing all parts of our city, not just downtown. There is also a lot to do in our city for those that do not want to go to bars and who wish to take in our rich history. We need to make sure that we are educating both our residents and our visitors on all that our city has to offer. We must partner with those organizations and entities which house and maintain these historical sites and be inclusive of its importance.”

Jeff Yarbro: “This has been a longtime passion of mine. While we have seen many recent attempts to impose a revisionist history and whitewash out our troubles, the reality of our history stares us in the face every day. You can’t really understand the current demographics, economics, or infrastructure of the city without grappling with the city’s many failures. It is important to remember and reckon with our past – with all of it. I’ve demonstrated a firm commitment to doing just that throughout my time in politics and believe the city is at a critical moment to ensure that we are raising the profile of our past to shape how we plan our future. We should be intentional about creating educational programs and exhibits that tell our history, promoting our historic sites to tourists and convention planners, and working with community organizations to raise awareness of underrepresented histories.”

6. Jefferson Street is a major North Nashville corridor that was home to the “Black Music Row” and even today is home to more than 50 Black-owned businesses and links to three of the four HBCUs in Nashville. There are stories to be told, but there also needs to be a multi-faceted preservation approach that may include historic zoning, National Register listings, historical markers, tours and more, in addition to beautification projects and infrastructure investments by the city. Documenting and recognizing the complex and significant history of this area is a foundational step in its eventual revitalization. Would you support a plan to direct resources to preserving and sharing the historical and cultural resources of this important area, and if so, what specific investments would you propose?

Heidi Campbell: “I would absolutely support this, and would also look to federal and state grant programs for support. As the Mayor I will attend functions and actively promote support from the private sector as well.”

Sharon Hurt: “Yes, I absolutely plan to continue to direct resources to this incredibly historic area. So much of Nashville’s history as Music City originated from the Black community and we need to bring attention to the Black musicians that made Nashville what it is today. I have already done work in North Nashville with my nonprofit JUMP for beautification projects. As Mayor, I support adding historic zoning and historical markers to further highlight the important contributions of Black artists.”

Stephanie Johnson: “Yes, my plan, I have spoken about throughout my campaign, is working to put in place a Black Historical Neighborhood Ordinance, which would help identify all of the historic black neighborhoods, put them first for any home improvement programs and business support. In addition, my office of Preservation will have a business tracker, tracking businesses that have served the Nashville community for more than 60 years ensuring they will not continue to disappear, but that Nashville will begin to protect what has protected her.”

Freddie O’Connell: “Yes. I have already led efforts to keep Fisk University from demolishing the historic Boyd House and participated in fundraising efforts to preserve it. Similarly, I worked to incorporate historic elements in what is now Kossie Gardner Park. But we have more to do.”

Alice Rolli: “As with the above statements, I am supportive of preserving the character of historic buildings and activating their uses to ensure that commerce can live alongside commerce.

It took me four years of personally advocating to finally get a brown interstate sign for Ft. Negley showing Exit 81 and Ft. Negley. Signs matter. Places matter. Executable plans matter – I welcome the opportunity to learn more about the ideas in place and the funding or political will missing to move forward.”

Vivian Wilhoite: “Absolutely. We must preserve and invest in Jefferson Street. Jefferson Street is one of the most historically rich places in our city. We are more than country music. We are Music City that has celebrated all genre of music from the Fisk Jubilee Singers to rhythm and blues to rock and roll to country. There is a lot of good investment occurring on Jefferson Street now, and we need to encourage more. ”

Jeff Yarbro: “There are so many stories that can and should come alive Jefferson Street – and those stories are Nashville’s story. We must preserve the history and culture of Jefferson Street while ensuring it maintains continued vibrancy. Most cities would fight to have a single corridor that is home to three HBCUs and the heritage of that street, but Nashville has never fully embraced it. As Mayor I would support a plan to direct resources to preserving and sharing the historical and cultural resources of Jefferson Street – and ensuring it has a future consistent with that history. Importantly, the City should not impose a vision here, but should facilitate a deliberative process to prioritize beautification projects, infrastructure investments, historical markers to tell the stories of the area’s past, National Register listings to recognize the area’s significance, and zoning to protect the area’s historic character.”

7. The preservation of historic buildings is an inherently sustainable practice. What are your thoughts on prioritizing the retention of historic building stock and incorporating sensitive modifications to reduce energy use and limit waste and debris from demolitions?

Heidi Campbell: “I’m all for it!”

Sharon Hurt: “I support making buildings more energy efficient and using our resources wisely while limiting waste and debris.”

Stephanie Johnson: “I am for this. Any efforts to restore, retain and protect our historic structures is important work and will want to see metro planning and our council creating new standards around how we go about disposing of waste and reducing our energy usage across all of metro.”

Freddie O’Connell: “I’m supportive of doing these things. We have many historic buildings in Metro, Metro Schools, and MDHA, and we should want to take new techniques in building efficiency and apply them in renovations.”

Alice Rolli: “My late grandfather and I both graduated from Hume Fogg high school. When I was a student there in the 1990s we had buckets in the hallway to catch rainwater and the theater balcony was condemned. The gymnasium literally had a brick wall in the middle of it – making it unusable for regulation basketball games.

Following an incredible renovation the building today is able to house more students (higher occupancy is a good thing – more dollars retained in MNPS schools). The school is healthier today for these renovations – healthier both for the students inside and the way that the space and light has been brought into the building – and healthier for the bottom line in the greater number of students who can now be served by the school.

Similarly, the White Way Cleaners complex near my home was entirely renovated and activated for many uses – retail, restaurants, office. Since its renovation it has appeared fully occupied.

These two anecdotes help illustrate that competent improvements can create sustainable long term preservation. Improving occupancy and access to long term monetization sources (ticket sales, enrollment numbers, park visitor count) must be a part of any historic plan.”

Vivian Wilhoite: “I am for prioritizing the historic building stocks that we can. We should not be wasteful in anything that we do. And we must think about the reducing our waste that ultimately harms our environment. ”

Jeff Yarbro: “I agree that the preservation of historic buildings is an inherently sustainable practice. One of the first pieces of legislation I sponsored was to facilitate retrofitting older buildings to make them more sustainable. Historic buildings are often with durable materials that can last for centuries, and they can be retrofitted to be more energy efficient. By prioritizing the retention of historic building stock and incorporating energy efficient modifications, we can reduce energy use, and limit waste and debris from demolitions.”

8. The Metro Historical Commission has been working with Metro Planning, Metro Archives and other local preservation nonprofits over the last two decades to draw attention to the loss of historic cemeteries, especially those in the rural area of the county. These cemeteries are important records of our history. How important is it to fund repairs and maintenance at historical cemeteries?

Heidi Campbell: “Our cemeteries are just as important as any other historical site and should be preserved.”

Sharon Hurt: “I agree that cemeteries are crucial parts of our history and I would consider funding repairs and maintenance at historical cemeteries.”

Stephanie Johnson: “This is very important to me as I have mentioned above. My family is buried in a historic cemetery and I asked a few years ago what is the cost of maintenance and I do have those numbers and understand what it takes to upkeep these places.”

Freddie O’Connell: “As the Council member who has represented Mt Olivet for 8 years, I think our cemeteries are an incredible part of our overall heritage sites and should be funded. See my thoughts on maintenance funding above.’

Alice Rolli: “This is very important and I will rely on a group from Cane Ridge who has done quite a bit on this to help provide advice for our administration.”

Vivian Wilhoite: “I believe maintenance at historical cemeteries is extremely important and that we must make it a priority among the many other priorities facing our city. As a metro councilmember I have worked with city leaders in finding and protecting cemetery sites in neighborhoods and in my first term, I supported wholeheartedly restoration of the City Cemetery in ensuring grave sites of unknown graves of slaves.”

Jeff Yarbro: “Historic cemeteries are important records of our history, and funding repairs and maintenance at historical cemeteries are essential to preserving these important records of our history. This is especially important for rural cemeteries, which are often more neglected than urban cemeteries. In the legislature, I’ve sponsored legislation to facilitate smaller cemeteries sharing maintenance and administrative expenses to facilitate preservation. As Mayor I will support efforts to fund repairs and maintenance at historic cemeteries in Davidson County.”

9. Many cities have planning tools in place that support the preservation of historic resources. They include:

• Demolition Regulations: Ordinances for demolition by neglect; Penalties for illegal demos; Mandatory documentation before demo; Lengthy delays prior to demo; Increased demo fees
• Development Tools: Modifying the downtown bonus height program; addressing the transferrable development rights (TDR) program shortcomings for historic preservation; Exploring land banking models
• Valuation/Financial Resources: Adopting “use value” to determine assessment for historic properties; Waiving permits/fees (fast-tracking preservation permits, waiving parking regulations, or a fee waiver for building permits of a historic property)

Is it important for our city to explore and adopt preservation planning tools that have a long-term impact, and if so, what specific tools would you look to adopt?

Heidi Campbell: “As the only candidate in this race who has been a small-town mayor I am very familiar with these tools and will advocate for the use of all of them to preserve our city.”

Sharon Hurt: “I would consider adopting preservation planning tools but I would need additional information before committing to specific tools.”

Stephanie Johnson: “I see your group has done the work to look into what tools can be used and trust your expertise in these areas. I have also looked to see what other cities are doing and I think you have covered some great ones. The overall view is that it is up to a city and its planners to protect its history. With the task force, these are all models they can work to come up with and I will give my stamp of approval.”

Freddie O’Connell: “Yes. I want to create a mature market for TDRs. I think we could explore other tools as we review fiscal impact.”

Alice Rolli: “The Tennessee Valley Authority has a compelling framework we used at the state level to determine when a factory was likely slated for closure – looking at the year on year power trends of larger power consumers. By investing in power improvements the utility got in front of potential closures.

Systematic underinvestment results in neglect and demolition. I’d like to find ways to get in front of these issues so that we aren’t repeatedly presented with a single narrative of demolition due to neglect.”

Vivian Wilhoite: “I believe we need to have as many tools in our toolbox as possible for the preservation of historical resources and for historic preservation planning. We should have checks in place to ensure that we are not demolishing historical structures without looking at all possibilities of preservation and restoration. Private and public partnerships is key. I support learning more about the ideas you have provided (and either their implementation or further implementation in our city) as well as hearing from the experts in these areas on additional ideas that they have for historical preservation in our city and county.”

Jeff Yarbro: “It’s crucial for our city to consider a wide array of actions to promote historical preservation. Many cities have dealt with this issue in recent years and it’s important to learn the right lessons about what has and hasn’t worked for other cities while still recognizing how unique Nashville is. I will work with leaders in our community to identify the planning processes that will work best for us, and I see a combination of demolition regulations and financial resources being helpful methods to help historical preservation.”

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