Nashville’s First Arts-Focused, Affordable Housing Holds Grand Opening
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – What began as an idea by Metro leaders and music industry executives was opened recently as Ryman Lofts, Nashville’s first affordable apartment building designed specifically for artists. Mayor Karl Dean, with MDHA, the Music City Music Council and members of the city’s arts community, joined tenants of Ryman Lofts for a grand opening celebration that included a ribbon cutting, along with performances and artwork displays by tenants. Tenants wrote and performed the song “Looks Like We’re Home” for the grand opening.
“Part of what makes Nashville known around the world is the incredible creative community we have living and working in our city,” Mayor Dean said. “Nothing inspires a creative mind like bringing it together with other creative minds, and that synergy between smart, talented individuals is exactly what excites me about Ryman Lofts.”
The 53,000-square-foot building in Rolling Mill Hill includes 60 studio, 1-bedroom and 3-bedroom apartments. All of the units are currently pre-leased or occupied. Ground was broken on Ryman Lofts in October, 2011, and the building was substantially completed in January, 2013.
The idea for Ryman Lofts grew from the Music City Music Council, which recognized that making quality affordable urban housing available to emerging artists can spur small business development, reduce transportation demands and help nurture the city’s creative workforce.
“It’s been truly exciting to see this building go from concept to a home for dozens of Nashville artists,” said Randy Goodman, who serves as co-chair with Mayor Dean of the Music City Music Council. “The idea for Ryman Lofts stemmed from conversations between music industry leaders like Tim DuBois, Jody Williams, Mary Ann McCready, the Mayor’s Office and MDHA. To see people living at Ryman Lofts and to know they are already creating art here is really cool.”
Applications were accepted online beginning in October, 2012 and move-ins began in early February of this year. While the majority of residents at Ryman Lofts are musical artists, people in the visual and performance arts also call the building home, including painters, sculptors, actors and photographers among the tenants. Units are available to working and aspiring artists who “practice in the unique creation and public display or performance of visual arts, craft, sound and performance art, film and television, theater, dance, music or literary arts.”
In order to qualify for residency at Ryman Lofts, applicants undergo a credit and criminal background check and submit examples of their work along with three letters of reference for a panel of arts experts to review. While it wasn’t required that the applicants make their living solely from their work, the panel looked for evidence the applicant was pursuing a career in the arts on a “regular and persistent basis.” Applicants must also earn 60% or less of the area median income.
“Our research and our experience with Ryman Lofts show us that people are embracing the idea of living in downtown Nashville,” said Ralph Mosley, chair, MDHA Board of Commissioners. “For these artists, being close to music venues, art galleries and nightlife, combined with affordability, makes Ryman Lofts a great place to live.”
Smith-Gee Studios served as the architect for the $7 million project, and R.G. Anderson was the general contractor. Financing for the project was made available through the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. MDHA worked with City Real Estate Advisors of Boston to market the tax credits, and financing was provided by Fifth Third Bank and First Tennessee Bank.
“We were excited to be able to participate in Ryman Lofts,” said Don Abel, Tennessee president, Fifth Third Bank. “The real estate market in Nashville has certainly demonstrated strength and resilience, and I think the demand for units at Ryman Lofts shows strong demand across a broad range of housing options.”
The Arts and Business Council hosted today’s reception and is offering professional development to tenants of Ryman Lofts with workshops in strategic planning, marketing, financial management and collaboration.
Before construction began, architects held focus groups with representatives of Nashville’s arts community to get input on the type of living space an artist would need. Many of the suggestions which came out of that research were included in the final design, including hard surface flooring and countertops, condo-grade soundproofing between units and “industrial” finishes consistent with the loft look of the building.
In addition, the units have large-scale windows to allow the maximum available light and, in some cases, remarkable views of downtown Nashville. The studio, 1-bedroom and 3-bedroom units range in size from 713 to 1,275 square feet and rent for $600 to $853 per month. In addition, the building has gated on-site parking and a secure, buzzer access system. Ryman Lofts was designed to comply with LEED Silver standards, and it is anticipated the application for LEED Silver certification will occur later this year.