Historic buildings add considerable character to downtown Nashville, the center of the largest and fastest-growing region in Tennessee. In April 2007, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County adopted TDR provisions as a way of encouraging the preservation of landmarks and allowing landmark owners an opportunity to be compensated for their unused development potential.
The 2007 Downtown Community Plan Update called for the preservation and adaptive reuse of historic structures in general, the designation of two new historic zoning districts, the creation of new Historic Landmark Districts and the adoption of a TDR program to encourage the transfer of development potential from these landmarks to other sites in the Downtown. A TDR ordinance was adopted in which sending sites are parcels within these historic zoning districts and landmark districts. The owner of a sending site can participate by recording an easement that permanently precludes additional development on the site. Note that the easement need not prevent alteration or demotion of the building but simply limits the development potential of the sending site to the floor area of the existing landmark. The development rights that can be transferred to a receiving site are the maximum floor area allowed by the base zoning minus the floor area of the landmark building.
The ordinance identifies five specific areas within the downtown as receiving sites. Receiving site developers may purchase or receive development rights as a donation. Receiving sites owned by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville, the State of Tennessee or a non-profit preservation organization are only allowed to accept transferred rights as a donation. Transferred floor area can be used in a receiving site building to exceed the maximum floor area permitted under the site’s base zoning. However, a receiving site must still comply with all other applicable zoning requirements including building height, setbacks and sky exposure planes.
According to Jennifer Carlat, Community Plans Manager, the program had not been used as of September 2007, which is not surprising since the ordinance was in existence for only a few months at that time.