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Society headquarters building to be sold


HARMONY HALL - Nashville

Society headquarters building to be sold; plans are to relocate elsewhere in Nashville

Enormous jump in value to benefit barbershop singers long-term

Taking advantage of Nashville’s status as the hottest real estate market in the nation, the Barbershop Harmony Society Board of Directors is listing its headquarters building for sale.

The 37,000-square-foot building was purchased in 2006 for $1.45 million; its value today is substantially higher. It is one of the last remaining zoned high-rise properties in Nashville’s coveted central core, located a block off the city’s legendary Broadway entertainment district, at 110 7th Avenue North.

“When we purchased the building, we saw it as the acquisition of an asset for the Society in a good real estate market and a city built on music history — the right place at the right time,” said Alan Lamson, who leads a task force supervising and directing the sale on behalf of the Society Board. It’s similar to the role he played for BHS 17 years ago when it chose to relocate out of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“We purchased a neglected, well-worn building with ‘good bones’ that could be renovated, meet our needs, and hopefully increase in value. The market has exceeded our expectations, and the day to take advantage of that is here,” Lamson said. The retired architect is a second-generation barbershop singer who has served as Society President and as its interim executive director.

Colliers Nashville, a leading commercial real estate services firm in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, and part of the global Colliers organization, will list the building and work with buyers to entertain their queries and bids. The sales process is expected to take about a year.

Census data shows Tennessee is one of the fastest growing states in the country, and Nashville’s reign as the top U.S. real estate market is in its second year. The U.S. Land Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers have already named it the No. 1 U.S. market to watch in 2023.

“Nashville is setting real estate records on a number of fronts,” BHS Board President John Santora said. “This is an opportunity most organizations never see. It’s an opportunity that won’t wait. And it holds tremendous value for the Society and its singing communities.”

Proceeds from the sale will be carefully invested in order to benefit barbershop singing communities for the long term, Santora said.

“This isn’t about an infusion of cash today, this year or next year,” Santora said. “This is a strategic decision that will support barbershop singers for decades to come.” The Society Board will finalize details about proceed investments and use once the sale is complete.

The building sale task force plans to look at other space in the greater Nashville area for a new home for the headquarters. Space will be secured to accommodate the staff, which requires about half of the office space it currently has, the Society’s music library and archives, including recordings, and barbershop memorabilia.

“Barbershoppers still will be able to come visit us and still experience Music City when they’re in town,” CEO Marty Monson said. “That won’t change.”

Monson noted that barbershop singers have had a history of embracing the BHS headquarters — “a tradition that was at its pinnacle with a lakefront mansion in Kenosha. Although that building was sold 20 years ago, many of us have memories from there that we’ll cherish forever,” he said.

Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Sale

Why has the Society Board of Directors decided to sell its headquarters building?

This is an enormous opportunity that will have long-term benefits for barbershop singing communities. The sale will bring a return on investment that is almost never seen by organizations or individuals.

The building’s value is substantially higher than when the Society purchased it in 2006. It sits a block off Nashville’s Broadway entertainment district and is one of the last remaining zoned high-rise properties in the city’s coveted central core. While it has been exciting to have a building in the heart of Music City, the Board feels a responsibility to take advantage of Nashville having the hottest real estate market in the nation.

But it’s such a great location. Why would we move from this prime spot in downtown Nashville?

The building is in a great location, yet its greatest benefit to the barbershop world lies in its value.

The building hasn’t generated a stream of new members for our singing communities; no building would do that. It hasn’t been turned into a barbershop museum or an event space, as once was dreamed. Perhaps most telling, the Society has never leased the large, vacant space that’s existed in the building since 2006. In fact, prospective tenants invariably ask about buying the building.

At the end of the day, strong markets don’t last forever. It’s time to capitalize on what we have, and invest the results of a sale for the ultimate, long-term benefit of barbershop singers everywhere.

Is BHS in financial trouble?

The Society is and will be fine.

Nashville’s real estate market is the single biggest reason for listing the building. It is timely, considering the combined impacts of COVID on the ranks of our singing communities, member hesitancy to participate in singing conventions and other large events, and decades of membership decline. That said, Society leaders will continue to be fiscally conservative and see the way through the revitalization of barbershop singing.

This sale isn’t about an infusion of cash today, this year or next year. This is a strategic decision for the long term. Proceeds of the sale will be invested to support barbershop singers for decades to come.

If the building is so valuable, why not stay there, rent out the unused portions of it, and sell it in another year or two when the value is even higher?

The Society has been touring prospective tenants through the building for years. No leases came to fruition, and if they had, the Society would have had to fund immediate building improvements. What’s more, leases would have diminished our ability to sell the building and minimized its value to developers. Almost invariably, prospective tenants have inquired whether the building was for sale.

Market volatility is another major consideration. There is no guarantee prices will continue to climb, or even that they’ll stay at the same level.

How will proceeds from the sale be used?

Proceeds from the sale will be carefully invested in order to benefit barbershop singing communities for the long term. The Society Board will finalize details about the investment and use of proceeds once the sale is complete.

Where will the new office be located? Will you conduct a nationwide survey to identify possible locations, as was done last time?

A building sale task force is charged with identifying current space needs; working with real estate professionals to locate suitable space; and supervising the purchase, rental or lease of space. The plan is to remain in the Nashville area.

What will happen to the music library and incredible barbershop artifacts housed in the downtown Nashville building?

The music library and artifacts are invaluable to BHS members and singing communities. They will be carefully maintained and stored, just as they are today. These are important to who we are as barbershop singers, who we have been and who we will be in the future.

Additional questions or comments?

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Building sale explanation video