Let Toddzilla Save His Home
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On June 16th, 2017, Todd “Toddzilla” Austin, local musician and longtime East Nashville resident, lost his home and seven kitties in a tragic fire. As he began the process of pulling permits needed to rebuild, the Nashville Historic Commission stepped in. Because Todd’s home falls under a Historic Overlay, they are requiring almost a third of the structure to be salvaged. He does not have the money to cover those kinds of repairs. When the Historic Zoning Commission meets on November 15th, if they rule against Todd’s plan to rebuild a replica of his house on the existing foundation, he will be forced out of his home and neighborhood completely.
Before Todd Austin’s home at 1621 Forrest Avenue burned down, he had lived there for over 22 years. During that time, he had become a beloved fixture in the neighborhood and in the city of Nashville as a whole. There is simply nobody else like him, and not just because of his suits or the way he does his hair. He is a generous, sweet, kind, and incredibly giving individual who goes out of his way to help others. He’s also an unbelievably talented musician, having made his stamp on the Nashville music scene with his original bands, Jonesworld and Funkhammer, as well as his work with locally based Prince tribute band, Purple Masquerade. It’s probably safe to say that there isn’t a guitarist in Nashville who hasn’t bought an instrument from Toddzilla at Corner Music.
When he first moved into the Lockeland Springs area, it was considered a sketchy neighborhood at best; he used to have to chase crackheads off of his porch. But he saw it through; he renovated and restored his home himself, survived the tornado, survived the flood, and persevered. Each day, his neighbors would stop him and tell him that his home was their favorite in the neighborhood, that he had done so much to improve his little corner of Forrest Avenue. East Nashville has now become on of the most sought after real estate areas in the nation, and he was there, a part of that positive change.
While visiting his sister in North Carolina on June 16th, an electrical fire broke out at his home. He and his girlfriend, Abby, lost nearly everything they had in this fire, including his 1964 Corvette convertible, a well-known fixture of the neighborhood. All they had left was the contents of two suitcases. But most devastating of all, they lost seven of their eight beloved cats, some of whom he had had for over a decade. Now, in the face of all this tragedy, they may be forced out of their home completely.
Because Todd’s home exists in a Historic Overlay, the Nashville Historic Commission has stepped in and required that he salvage and rehabilitate almost a third of the unstable, smoke- and water-damaged structure that is left. However, he does not have the kind of money it would take to pay for the extensive cleaning and meticulous repairs required in order to “save” what remains. Estimates given to rehabilitate those portions are fully $100k more than what he was given for his insurance settlement.
What Todd can afford to do is take the home to the foundation and rebuild from there. He proposes to replace the burned out house that exists today with an exact replica of the home as it has stood for nearly 100 years, down to the smallest detailing around the window frames. The Overlay that the Commission seeks to enforce exists to prevent developers from bringing unwanted modern elements into the historic neighborhood; he has no intentions to put up a fast and cheap modern structure. He is asking instead for the right to rebuild his home and his life to some semblance of what it once was
If, at their meeting on November 15th, the Historic Zoning Commission rules against Todd’s plans to rebuild a replica and demands that the front portion of the house be salvaged, he will be forced to abandon the reconstruction effort and sell his property. Because his finances just won’t allow for him to comply with what they are asking, a Nashville icon may be forced out of his city. Everything he worked his whole life for, the efforts he put into helping to build up his neighborhood and his community will have been for nothing.
A week after the fire, his neighbors on Forrest Avenue and the surrounding streets gathered together and held a reception and benefit for him so that he would have a little money for food and clothing. One by one, each of them came up, hugged him, and begged him to stay, begged him to rebuild and not sell his property. He wants to be able to keep that promise. The Overlay is meant to protect the interests of those people, the people he made that promise to, the people of the neighborhood, and every one of them would rather have Toddzilla living in the replica home that is planned than have him forced out in order to save a few smoke encrusted boards.
Todd has been a thread in the fabric that has made East Nashville what it is; it is not just the great architecture that makes Lockeland Springs such a wonderful and desirable place to live, it is the people who have given it a heart. As one of those people, has he not earned the right to keep his home however he is able? Todd is holding on to hope that the HC will see that while the law is on their side, there are moral and human issues at hand that cannot be overlooked. After enduring the nightmare of having everything he ever knew and loved ripped away and being left with nothing but the hope to rebuild, to have even that taken away, to be forced out in the name of “preservation,” would be unspeakable.
If you are one of Todd’s neighbors in the East Nashville area, or if you are a Nashvillian who has been touched by the positive impact that this incredible man has had on his city, please take the time to sign this petition and show the Historic Commission that you support keeping Todd as a part of the community. Please also include your zip code with your signature if you are in East Nashville, because you are the very people whose rights and interests the HC seeks to protect. #StandWithToddzilla
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