'Pantheon Park' idea concentrates Music City techies, entrepreneurs, Creatives
By Milt Capps Updated Oct 1, 2011 3:39 p.m.
A platoon of well-connected Nashvillians is advancing with a concept for a Davidson County urban haven that would be home to creatives, technology developers and entrepreneurs.
The proposed multipurpose downtown campus has been dubbed "Pantheon Park," and would be heavily weighted toward music, entertainment, business and education, project advocates told VNC. Those underwriting the project's exploratory stages say they subscribe to the view that recruiting and retaining "Creative Class" members is vital to Nashville's future.
Dortch Oldham Jr., who is president of McIntyre Ventures and an owner-agent with Keller Williams Realty, is personally an investor in the project alongside McIntyre Ventures, itself, which serves as the project's developer, according to a source close to Pantheon investors.
Sources would not disclose other owners, but acknowledged they exist. Additional investment and funding is to be sought from among individuals, businesses, governments and foundations, they said.
Parthenon Park LLC was registered by Oldham with the state in July, according to state information online today. No details regarding the possible location or intended scale of the proposed development were available for publication, although more than one source told VNC the view from the complex is likely to be a good one.
If the ambitious concept materializes, Pantheon Park would provide a focal-point and gathering-place for performers, writers, digital gamers, and music and entertainment producers, directors, videographers, artists and others with a stake in such creative ventures, sources said.
Project backers say they believe Pantheon would serve as a "missing link" for building a more robust innovation community -- in effect, complementing other elements of the entrepreneurial, tech development, entertainment and education ecosystem.
According to one source, Cherokee Studios, which gained renown in Los Angeles under founder and engineer Bruce Robb and which now operates in a smaller facility in the City of Angels, will open a new larger production facility at Pantheon, if the project comes to fruit as its advocates expect. Robb is among Pantheon's advisors.
According to a number of Pantheon advocates, entertainment, technology and entrepreneurial residents and guests of Pantheon would, as now conceived, have access to music scoring facilities, performance halls and event and showcase venues, as well as a technology campus supported with needed infrastructure, sources said. Scoring facilities would, as now planned, be large enough to accommodate the Nashville Symphony.
Though VNC could not determine the extent of such services on deadline for this story, sources also said that a technology- and venture-services group based within Pantheon Park would selectively provide some financial, management, IT support, legal and accounting services.
The concept calls for Pantheon to serve as a resource for early-stage companies that are post-incubation, perhaps graduates from the region's incubators that are ready for growth, said one source. Also, educational programs based at Pantheon are expected to enrich K-12 and postsecondary education in Middle Tennesssee.
Listed among participants in a Pantheon advisory group is Steve Turner, the founder of Marketstreet Enterprises, which has largely led development of The Gulch zone downtown.
Other advisors to the project, according to several of its supporters, include George Augsperger, A & R Studio Design / Los Angeles; Steve Bogard, Nashville Songwriters Association International; Steve Cropper – musician, producer, engineer; Andy Kerr, Prime Source Entertainment Group; Scott Massey, Ph.D., The Cumberland Center; Steve Mitchell, TMG Nashville; Phillip Odom, AppDiagnostics; and, the aforementioned Bruce Robb, engineer, producer and musician.
Tuck-Hinton Architects has been aboard the effort for some time, and long-time Nashville developer Tom Baldridge has been development advisor to the project since its inception, according to several sources with knowledge of the project. Presenters with a detailed scenario for the proposed Pantheon project are likely to begin presenting current plans to investors and other potential stakeholders, soon, VNC learned.
Background materials provided by a representative of the Pantheon working group in response to a request from VNC describe the proposal in this manner: "Pantheon Park will be a place where proven, creative ideas and their developer(s) work closely with entertainment and technology industry veterans to commercialize next generation games, entertainment applications and content. The Park will be lively, entertainment venues, studios and performance halls filming, recording, producing and broadcasting. The Park is one of but a few missing links Nashville needs to be more than competitive with its peer cities," the group contends.
The project's "Pantheon" branding is, of course, a direct reference to The Pantheon of Rome. Nashville has long been known for its link to another icon of antiquity, The Parthenon of Athens, a replica of which has stood since 1897 in Nashville's Centennial Park.
The Oldham and Baldridge families have long been associated with Nashville business, with Oldham's father (who died more than two years ago) having been associated with an earlier era of growth of Southwestern Company; and, Baldridge's father having decades ago run Tom Baldridge's Sportsman Store, which became Sports Industries of America after investor Crom Carmichael co-founded the latter business with the elder Baldridge.
One of Dortch Jr.'s four brothers, Mark, was founder of Uniguest, based here. The late patriarch Oldham was known for his support of the University of Tennessee and business and entrepreneurial studies; he was a leader of the Tennessee Republican Party. VNC