September 27, 2019

Unprecedented Auction Could Impact Future Of Nashville Businesses

Businesses in Nashville, Ind. could be affected by an auction of commercial real estate planned for next month. (Barbara Brosher, WTIU/WFIU News)

There's always plenty to look at when you're in Nashville, but one thing seems to be catching everyone's attention this week. A large, white and neon sign hangs on the side of the Professional Building on Van Buren Street, advertising a real estate auction of the Andy Rogers estate.

Rogers was a Nashville fixture who died last year. His father helped establish the popular Nashville House Restaurant, and Rogers bought a significant portion of real estate in town over the years.

"[He] was quite a person and quite a leader in Nashville for many decades," says United Country Real Estate CEO Jimmie Dean Coffey. "Probably known as Mr. Nashville."

Coffey will lead an Oct. 30 auction that includes 16 of Rogers' properties. Many of them are commercial buildings in the heart of downtown Nashville that house multiple businesses.

The size of the auction has many residents worried about the future of their town, which is known for its charming artisan shops.

"We have a lot of commercial properties in town, but they very seldom go on the market," says Nashville Town Council President Jane Gore. "And, this is about one-third of the commercial district."

The auction includes 16 properties, but many of them house multiple businesses. (Barbara Brosher, WFIU/WTIU News)

Town Council Takes Steps To Protect Historic Buildings

Nashville doesn't have a historic preservation ordinance in place to protect its many longstanding buildings.

Gore says the council's been working on developing such an ordinance with Peaceful Valley Heritage and Preservation, but they have yet to adopt one.

The council did take the first steps toward expanding an existing "demolition delay" ordinance Thursday night. The ordinance sets up a review process before someone can demolish a historic structure, which the council amended to incude buildings 50 years old or older. It also increases permit costs and fines for violations.

David Martin is a member of Peaceful Valley Heritage and says ensuring an investor can't come in and bulldoze the historic buildings is urgent.

"If we lose these historic structures, we're going to lose a portion of the population that comes here, I think," he says.

Martin is also worried about what will happen to the tenants in the properties up for sale. Many of them have been in business for decades, and some don't have leases in place. Coffey says any current leases will be honored.

John Lawrence has been a tenant in one of Rogers' buildings for more than 40 years. (Barbara Brosher, WFIU/WTIU News)

Some Building Tenants Optimistic About Future

John Lawrence's Quintessence Gallery is among the businesses that could be impacted by the auction. He's been a tenant for more than 40 years.

Lawrence says in recent years he didn't have a lease in place because a handshake with Rogers was standard business, but he did recently sign one. That means he knows his business will at least stay put in the short term. Beyond that, he says he's optimistic.

"I think there will be some changes, but some of the changes that have happened in the past couple of years have been very positive, like our new music theater," he says.

Coffey says he can't guarantee a single person won't buy all of the Rogers properties up for auction, but he sees it as unlikely. At least one of the most notable won't be for sale.

"The Nashville House is being kept in the family by one of the beneficiaries of the trust and estate," he says.

The restaurant closed following Rogers' death, and it's unclear what the future plans are for the property.

Coffey says it's important for people to have the opportunity to invest in other properties the trust can't maintain.

"They need to be allowed to be owned by someone who can love them and continue with Andy's legacy, and continue the charm and feel that Nashville and Brown County has worked for years so hard to maintain."

The auction will take place Oct. 30 at 1 p.m. at the Brown County Historical Society.

See the map below for locations of all the properties for sale.

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