Nashville’s Downtown Partnership Celebrates 20 Years

Nashville’s Downtown Partnership Celebrates 20 Years

By MP&F Staff

The Downtown Partnership is celebrating its 20th anniversary. MP&F is proud to be a part of downtown Nashville, as Partner David Fox recaps the last two decades in this guest column that ran in the Sept. 25 issue of The Tennessean.

“Congratulations to the Downtown Partnership as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.

As a partner in a company that has operated in downtown Nashville since 1987, I can say that it has made a difference for our city to have an organization like the Downtown Partnership totally focused on making our downtown as functional and user-friendly as possible.

As my partner Mark McNeely, who’s on the board of the Downtown Partnership, likes to say, “If you want to make a difference in this city, being downtown is a big advantage.”

That’s why MP&F chose 611 Commerce St., Suite 2800, as our address at a time when Ned McWherter was governor, Phil Bredesen was aspiring to be mayor, and the downtown of today wasn’t even a glimmer in anyone’s eye. Maybe Bobby Mathews could see what was coming, but the rest of us were just trying to keep it in the road.

It is truly amazing to see Lower Broadway today and think back 20 years to a time when the three honky-tonks on the street were surrounded by pawnshops, adult bookstores, furniture outlets and boarded-up buildings. The future of the Ryman Auditorium was in question. And the vision of downtown as a tourist destination was a light at the end of a very long tunnel.

Fast-forward to today, to a truly transformed urban core. Today, there are dozens of honky-tonks and other tourist-centric venues on Lower Broad, and that number is growing. Yes, we have Honky-Tonk Central; but we also have the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. We also have the Music City Center, the Downtown Public Library and the Country Music Hall of Fame – all of which our company helped open, I’m proud to say. We have the CMA Music Festival, the Fourth of July celebration on the Cumberland River and Live on the Green, to name just a few big downtown events. We have the Titans, the Predators and now the Sounds downtown. And the number of people living and working downtown has grown.

There are two very distinctive, visual memories I have of downtown.

The first occurred in 1994, when the Bridgestone Arena was a big hole in the ground and Russ Simon decided to build a little mound of dirt in the middle of the hole, spray-paint it green, and hold a closest-to-the-hole golf contest with proceeds going to charity. The day before the contest, as we were looking down on the hole from above, a big, red Cadillac pulled onto the site and a fellow got out of the car, pulled his clubs out of the trunk, and started taking some practice swings. From 28 floors up, it was hard to tell who it was, until one of our observant country music fans shouted, “Oh, my God, that’s Vince Gill.” And half the office ran for the elevator.

The second, and more moving, moment was watching the river rise on the morning of May 3, 2010. We watched the water move up Broadway, filling in the side streets as it crept westward. Remembering that moment and the challenge our city faced in dealing with the flood, and reflecting on just how well we handled it – thanks to the strong leadership of Mayor Karl Dean and an outpouring of volunteer support — is one of the things that make us feel best about our city, and downtown.

We have been privileged to have a front-row seat for one of the most fascinating pageants anyone could witness: the flourishing of downtown Nashville. Here’s to 20 more great years.

David Fox is partner at McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations.”