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Cracked Concrete Wall


Nashville Leaves Building Preservation Money On The Table

As the battle between growth and preservation rages, Nashville rarely uses the most lucrative incentive to rehabilitate old buildings, and lags drastically behind Memphis, Knoxville and even Chattanooga over the past 14 years.

The federal historic tax credit pays up to 20 percent of the rehabilitation costs to fix up commercial buildings.


Developers have taken advantage of the program across Tennessee, which ranks 25th nationally in terms of development costs associated with credits obtained. But Nashville is not keeping pace with its peer cities. Since 2002, Memphis projects have used the tax credits 73 times compared with just eight for Nashville. Knoxville had 43 projects use the tax credits, and Chattanooga had 14.


Preservationists tout the tax credits for saving historic buildings, aiding complicated projects and helping the economy. Since 2002, Tennessee’s 169 projects cost $600 million and generated $99 million in tax credits for property owners. According to research by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, those projects have generated $588 million in household income and $114 million in federal, state and local taxes....

Karen Goodlow

Nashville's preservation community scored a major victory last year when interior design firm Karen Goodlow Designs stepped up to save the historic Gallatin Avenue firehouse, which had fallen into disrepair. After over one year of interior construction, the company opened its doors in mid-September and is looking to lease additional space for retail or office tenants.

Karen Goodlow shares Mathews' view that the approval process is rigorous, and expensive, but she said the tax credit program was still worth it for her project despite the extra costs.

“I love historic buildings and historic architecture,” she said. “I always admired the building. I would drive by and say, ‘I hope they don’t tear it down.’ You can’t replace or remake the beauty of a historic structure. I just love them. So for me I wanted to put my business in here and I wanted to see it restored just because I loved it. My love for it was greater than my fear of the obstacles.”

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