There are more than a few Nashville natives and long-time residents who fear Music City is under siege. The cranes loom high above neighborhood streets, the sounds of construction seeming to signify a threat of the old being overrun by the new, and the steady influx of newcomers (some say as many as 90 people are moving to Nashville every day!) bring with them more traffic. All of this makes us wonder if historic preservation and growth can peacefully coexist, and one man, Nashville native Nathaniel Beaver, is showing us that yes, they can. As co-owner of Infinity Hospitality Group, Inc. — a group of unique, mostly historic restaurants and event venues — he’s playing a role in preserving Nashville’s history while making room for the city’s growth.
“Every single person who tells me they hope Nashville stops growing, I hope they aren’t business owners,” says Nathaniel, who co-owns Infinity Hospitality Group with Tabor Luckey. “I understand the idea of the overcrowding, and yes, we have major traffic and transportation issues that need to be addressed, but the more attractive Nashville is, the more business it brings.”
Nathaniel was born and raised in Nashville and the only thing that pulled this proud graduate of West Meade Elementary School and Montgomery Bell Academy away from Music City was a four-year stint at the University of Tennessee. After graduation, he returned to his hometown and, soon after, started his own business. “Why do I love Nashville? It’s not the hot chicken,” he says with a smile. “I can say a lot of different parables but it is my home. It is hard to say what sets it apart when it is your home.” And home is a good place to do business. “Nashvillians love to do business with Nashvillians,” Nathaniel says. “All people like to do business with people they know and trust but Nashvillians really love that.”
Nathaniel began his business with Tabor Luckey, a culinary master, Johnson and Wales University graduate and a partner with a work ethic second to none (at least according to Nathaniel). Nathaniel assumed ownership of Whitfield’s Restaurant and Bar in 2006 where he crossed paths with Tabor and, three years later, they opened Bria Bistro Italiano together. With two budding businesses, the pair continued to spread their wings by opening The Harding House Restaurant at Belle Meade Plantation in the spring of 2011. After launching Infinity Events & Catering, they sold Whitfield’s in early 2012 and launched into the event business with the creation of The Bridge Building Event Spaces, followed by The Bell Tower and 12th & Porter. Today, The Bridge Building Event Spaces, Bria Bistro Italiano, The Harding House at Belle Meade Plantation, Infinity Events & Catering, The Bell Tower and 12th & Porter all fall under the Infinity Hospitality Group umbrella.
“I wanted to figure out how to run a great business, and preserving historic buildings was a great business model. Through it all, I discovered my passion for historic preservation,” Nathaniel tells us. Historic preservation is not a prerequisite for Infinity Hospitality Group’s ventures, but it has become a great foundation for the company. “We don’t have a unique criteria, but it has appeared that the more uniquely Nashville they are, the more we are inclined to go after them,” Nathaniel says of his event and restaurant venues. “We are not just preserving Nashville by restoring buildings but by giving back and giving millions to the tax base every year.”
While Nathaniel, Tabor and their team are helping preserve pieces of Nashville by retro-fitting iconic and historic structures — such as The Bridge Building, The Bell Tower and 12th & Porter — into event spaces, in doing so, they are also helping others create a history of their own. “We have done over 400 weddings in the past years, which means for 400 people, they spent one of the most special days of their lives here,” Nathaniel tells us. “It is pretty cool that day was spent at one of our spaces.”
Today, we’re taking a closer look at three Infinity properties that are enjoying fresh life and some fabulous events, all thanks to Infinity Hospitality Group, Inc.
2 Victory Ave., Ste. #100, Nashville, TN 37213 • (615) 369-6474
Set on the east bank of the Cumberland River, The Bridge Building is part of the Shelby Street Bridge pedestrian walkway. It offers unparalleled views of the city that (currently) are not threatened by change. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow you to peer over Music City while standing in a space enriched by history that dates back to the 19th Century.
In the 1890s, Nashville Bridge Company (NABRICO) was founded with the sole mission of building bridges. In later years, the company’s specialty moved from bridges to ship building and became the leader in building inland barges. The company’s headquarters were based in what is now known as The Bridge Building, a six-story structure that was erected by Arthur Dyer in 1908. The NABRICO building became the site of barge launches (which drew large crowds), it is said to have earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for its height and historic recounts tell of how Arthur used to drive his car off the bridge straight into the building to park. As the Cumberland River continued to act as the economic and social epicenter of town, all eyes were on the waterfront.
Years later, when Adelphia Coliseum (now Nissan Stadium) was built on the east bank of the Cumberland, The Bridge Building was one of the only structures spared during demolition. Even 15 years ago, Nashville faced threats of decay and development similar to those discussed today. Thankfully, The Bridge Building continued — and continues — to stand tall, and the discussion has turned towards gratitude of preservation.
Hastings Architecture Associates — alongside Baron + Dowdle Construction — revitalized the iconic building, which is owned by the Metro Development and Housing Agency (MDHA), in 2012 as part of the Riverfront Redevelopment Initiative. The exterior received a much-needed facelift and, inside, the space was retro-fitted with modern amenities. In 2013, the building was awarded LEED-Platinum Certification for their energy-efficient and environmentally conscious design, which includes a geothermal heat pump mechanical system, LED lighting, solar water heating system, rainwater harvesting system and high-efficiency windows. These changes, many feel, showcase the commitment to preserving the past while enhancing the city’s future.
When the space at The Bridge Building became available to Infinity Hospitality Group in 2012, Nathaniel and Tabor wondered how they could make use of the building in a way that would attract the crowds. “When we took over at Belle Meade Plantation, we became the preferred caterer there. We realized that starting an event and catering company was a good way to sell more food and beverage and, if we had our own venue, we could do even more business.” And thus, the space was transformed into an event venue that is now a premier destination for weddings, private events and meetings. More than 125 years after the building rose, it now is being used in a way that Arthur Dyer never could have imagined.
400 Fourth Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37201 • (615) 369-6474
Across the river, another renovated building holds up to Nathaniel’s standards of being uniquely Nashville. “People are coming to Nashville for Nashville, not for Margaritaville — although they end up there sometimes! But when someone is visiting Nashville, we want them to leave with an experience that is really Nashville,” he shares. An evening at Infinity’s second event space, The Bell Tower, promises just that.
The Bell Tower is an historic church located in the SoBro neighborhood with a history that began during the Civil War era. According to The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, this area of town — home to prostitution, gambling joints and saloons — was referred to as Black Bottom, a nickname resulting from the mud left on the streets after the periodic river floods. Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church was one of the first churches in the area, and it was built by freed slaves in the post-war period; it quickly began creating a history as rich as the area in which it was located. Black Bottom saw many struggles throughout the years but developed a lively culture with primarily African-American residents. It is even believed that the emergence of black urban life explored by Zora Neale Hurston was shaped by her time spent in Black Bottom. With the onset of The Great Depression, followed by The New Deal and World War II, the community of Black Bottom struggled to survive. After the war, urban renewal projects overran the area, and redevelopment meant the loss of community members and buildings.
Despite the changes, the former AME Church, Saint Paul, continues to hold court on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Franklin Street (now Korean Veterans Boulevard). In 2012, the space was purchased by singer/songwriter Brett James from EOA Architects. Brett partnered with Infinity to turn this old, red brick church into an event space now known as The Bell Tower. The redesign maintained much of the history and character of the space, leaving the original beams, downstairs stonework and sub-flooring (pulled from homes during the reconstruction). As the name might suggest, The Bell Tower was preserved — and the bells are even rung for events. But of course, technological advancements were made, primarily with lighting and sound, and overall functionality of the space was increased. With a capacity for 400 for a seated event and 700 for standing, this is one of downtown’s larger event venues.
114 12th Ave. N., Nashville, TN 37203 • (615) 678-7722
Jody Faison, a seasoned restaurateur, opened 12th & Porter in the mid 1980s as a restaurant, but it didn’t take long for the music to follow the crowds. Some of music’s best acts played on 12th & Porter’s stage, including Neil Young, John Prine, Kings of Leon, Vince Gill, Ben Folds and Keith Urban (who shares stories of playing at 12th & Porter here). It also became a launching pad for many up-and-coming acts, as well. The building represented Nashville’s music culture until Faison sold the space in 2004. Over the next 10 years, the building had a few bouts with new management, saw a stint as a pizza place and spent at least one year sitting idle — until 2016, when Infinity Hospitality Group decided to save this local treasure in a way that preserved its history (sensing a theme?) and culture.
Before Nathaniel and his team stepped in, the space had undergone renovations to enhance the overall sound and production capabilities. This allowed them to maintain the space as a spot for great acts while having the ability to transform it into a private events space, as needed. Nathaniel says he was attracted to the nostalgia the place offered, and long-time Nashvillians appreciate the remnants of the former 12th & Porter that can still be found there. These days, 12th & Porter is open daily, and patrons can enjoy bar food — such as wings, sliders and sandwiches — with a cold beer while listening to whatever band is taking the stage on any given night.
With these three venues in mind, it’s clear that Infinity is dedicated to creating and preserving the very best of Nashville. Learn more about the entire family of Infinity’s businesses on their website.