Condemning Country in Nashville

Country International Recordsas called Nashville’s Music Row home for nearly a quarter century, producing well-known country tunes in good times and in bad. Country International was started by Joy Ford and her husband and in its long history, the Fords’ label wrote songs for the likes of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Times seem to be getting better for Music Row, but now the building that houses Country International is no longer good enough according to Nashville’s Metropolitan Development Housing Agency, which decided to file for condemnation at the end of June. They’ve told Joy she has but weeks to pack up and leave.

Nashville officials would like to hand over Ford’s property to a Houston developer, who plans to build a skyscraper next door and wants the property for a parking lot. Ford has offered to do what it takes to have her building fit in with the surrounding development–everything except give it up to be razed for a developer’s benefit.

The fact that the surrounding neighborhood has improved –and that development is active–indicates that the area is not actually blighted. But it’s been fairly clear that the city’s thinks Ford’s property is underutilized and that it could be used better by being a parking lot. Or as one columnist put it: "Webster defines blighted as ‘deteriorated’ or ‘dilapidated.’ Ms. Ford’s place is neither. It’s just in their way."

At this point at least, Ford has the support of not only many local Nashville citizens outraged by the city’s eminent domain abuse but also one local official, Nashville Councilman Michael Craddock, who has called the city’s actions "sinful" and "unconscionable."