Is Nashville’s Brand What We Want it to Be?

NashvilleIn January, the New York Times acknowledged Nashville’s spot as the newest “it” city. Billboards and commercials across America showcase the city while advertising ABC’s hit series “Nashville.” On the business front, Nashville is leading the nation in job growth. Given these trends, Nashville must be doing something right.

According to the New York Times, Nashville was “once embarrassed by its Grand Ole Opry roots,” yet those roots seem to be precisely why Nashville is so popular. Nashville, it seems, is now starting to embrace its musical heritage and unique culture. Look no further than the $623 million Music City Center downtown, which will provide ample opportunity for increased visitors and visibility for the city. The Music City Center itself harkens back to Nashville’s musical roots, with its main section being shaped like a guitar. There has even been talk of a guitar-shaped office tower in recent years.

The question becomes, then, “What is Nashville’s brand now, and is that brand what we want?” If the purpose of branding is to distinguish oneself, we must wonder how Nashville can continue to stand out and capitalize on recent national publicity. It would seem Nashville should embrace the past, which it has done, while also looking to the future. Nashville’s extensive commercial real estate developments along West End, the Gulch, the Sobro district and other downtown neighborhoods reflects these values. Nashville has embraced its “Grand Ole Opry roots,” while also focusing on creating a business-friendly environment and varied business sectors that have kept Nashville successful during the economic downturn.

Nashville’s recent real estate development reflects a Southern city that is becoming more modern. The fact that Nashville’s finest and most well-known honky-tonks can be located down the street from a world-class Symphony Center and Nashville’s most prominent office towers seems to be precisely the brand that Nashville’s boosters should want to create — something unique, cool and different.

The new Omni Nashville Hotel, opening in October, is doing just that. It will feature both Bongo Java, a local coffeehouse, and a honky-tonk called Barlines. The ability to simultaneously attract hipsters and honky-tonkers is exactly what makes Nashville stand out. Nashville International Airport showcases live music, which my out-of-town friends always reference approvingly. If Nashville can continue fostering its unique brand of “cool” for the creative class, while also making itself an attractive business destination, then we can expect much more of the positive attention we have been receiving lately.

This post was first published by the Nashville Business Journal on May 7, 2013.  To read more commercial real estate articles by Walt Burton at the Nashville Business Journal, click here>