April 11, 2021

HITTING A HOME RUN AT THE HERMITAGE HOTEL

When I came to work with consultant Steve Gibson for the Nashville Downtown Partnership in July, 2001, downtown was just beginning its revitalization. The Partnership was floundering and was still something of a subsidiary of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, with a small office space adjacent to them. 

A few days after we began, they hosted an annual meeting in a Chamber conference room, with fewer than 30 people!  Then we began adding our first staff members—that October, Andrea came as communications director and the next January, Tamara for economic development. They were bright, young and enthusiastic—and Steve began grooming us into a team that could really get things done. That was a new concept for the Partnership and just what was needed to be part of a turnaround for downtown Nashville.

The next year, we had an annual meeting luncheon at The Hermitage Hotel and presented our vision for downtown.  The hotel ballroom was almost full, with about 200 attendees.  And later that year, Russell joined our team to oversee the development of parking projects with the city.  

This photo shows us standing in front of the fireplace of the hotel lobby after a second annual meeting luncheon at the Hermitage—celebrating a huge success! Overflow crowds had to eat at tables on the mezzanine!  We instituted an annual awards program—presenting framed certificates to key community supporters.  Each attendee received a customized mini-CD I produced with a young videographer friend, Jason. The disc contained brief clips of business owners, Board members and public officials in their downtown settings—all promoting what downtown could be!

We had obviously outgrown The Hermitage Hotel, and in subsequent years the meetings rotated among several major venues (Renaissance Nashville, Hilton Downtown, Music City Center, Omni Nashville), with attendance topping 1,000!  I loved being the meeting planner and organizer each year, and to add new elements such as musical entertainment (strings from The Nashville Symphony, the Hume-Fogg Silver Jazz Band, a bluegrass duo, singers Ruby Amanfu and Andy Gullahorn). 

This photo was Steve’s final year as interim director, as he recruited a permanent executive, Tom Turner. With him, Andrea, Tamara, Russell and I continued on this team until I retired in 2017! The staff grew, we had turnovers occasionally, but we all stayed.  Today only Russell and Tamara remain, as Andrea went into real estate a few years ago. 

Downtown Nashville has undergone tremendous changes—most of them amazing—and it’s rewarding to know our little team in this photo had a role in changing the perception of downtown. Steve showed us how it could be done!

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