Wrecking crews have begun to tear down some structures at the massive Neuhoff meat-packing plant in the Germantown neighborhood. The $500 million redevelopment will displace several artistic businesses, including the Nashville Jazz Workshop.
This looming change spurred a question to WPLN’s Curious Nashville about where the workshop will end up next. As recently reported in The Nashville Scene, the nonprofit music venue and educational organization is moving out after its final show on Nov. 15, ending nearly two decades of creative use of the former industrial space.
Leaving The ‘Cave’
Workshop co-founder Lori Mechem tells WPLN that she vividly remembers the day she first saw what would become the workshop and its “jazz cave” performance space.
It fell cavernous, with no walls and no windows.
“Absolutely the most perfect fit in the universe,” Mechem says.
Others, like her parents and music students, were baffled by the intimidating slaughterhouse property and its dilapidated red brick buildings. The workshop took up residence next to the former animal holding pen in 2001.
“We were the pioneers,” Mechem says.
The jazz workshop thrived with classes and shows. And other entrepreneurs followed.
Now the space will be torn down, and sooner than initially thought.
Mechum calls it gut-wrenching.
“It’s one of the coolest places on the property,” she says, “but we knew this was coming.”
The Next Adaptation
Mechem says she’s had a lot of tears lately as demolition takes place all around the workshop. There was also a fire at another of the property’s buildings in August.
But she’s also come to terms with the move, and says it will force her team to further develop the organization.
“You know, we’ve always been called the best kept secret in Nashville. Well, we don’t want to be a secret anymore,” Mechem says. “We want everyone to know that there’s jazz in Nashville.”
The Nashville Jazz Workshop intends to reopen in early 2020 at 1012 Buchanan St. in the Buchanan Arts District in North Nashville.
Rent will be more than three times as high. But Mechem says it’ll be better to be in a neighborhood setting, with more parking and a bigger stage (although the total space is smaller).
And she’ll still need ingenuity. The building used to be a church, and then a funeral home.
“Jazz is not dead,” Mechem says. “When I walked into it, my hair stood straight up on my arms. Because, again, I knew it was the right place.”