ABC Announces New Arts & Community Hub in Shelby Park

Friends of Shelby Park and Bottoms and the Arts & Business Council announce partnership to revitalize historic US Naval Reserve Training Center in the creation of “Shelby Commons” – a new parks, arts and cultural center in East Nashville

Shelby Commons to include co-working space for arts nonprofits, artist studios, restaurant and market, recreation-focused rental, event venue and more

EAST NASHVILLE, TENN. – November 1, 2023 Representatives from nonprofits Friends of Shelby Park and Bottoms and the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville, along with Metro officials, today announced a unique collaborative campaign to revitalize the US Naval Reserve Training Center, a historic community asset located on the western entrance to Shelby Park and Bottoms, and to reimagine it as Shelby Commons, a new parks, arts and cultural center for all of Nashville to experience.

In an innovative public-private partnership, Friends of Shelby will lease the former US Naval Reserve Training Center and surrounding grounds from Metro Parks, and enter into a parallel long-term lease with the Arts & Business Council, who will be an equal partner on the capital campaign, site restoration, and ongoing operations. Metro Nashville previously committed $2.5 million to this project, which is estimated to have a total budget of $10 million. The Frist Foundation and Joe C. Davis Foundation have kicked off early fundraising with contributions to initiate the overall project; a capital fundraising campaign is currently underway.

Rebecca Ratz, Executive Director, Friends of Shelby Park and Bottoms states: “We are thrilled to work with the Arts & Business Council, who share in our vision to transform a once vital part of our city’s history into a thriving, cultural space for the community to enjoy. Shelby Commons will provide accessible, collaborative space to bolster the artistic community and strengthen civic life, attracting residents and visitors to experience the park in new ways. Shelby Park and Bottoms is enjoyed by the entire cross section of our community and like the park, this building will be welcoming to all.”

Jill McMillan Palm, Executive Director, Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville notes: “Access to affordable and dynamic space where artists can develop and present their work has long been identified as a top priority by Nashville’s artistic community, and is imperative in fostering the world class creative environment our city is known for. We’re excited to partner with Friends of Shelby to bring this multi-disciplinary arts and community hub to fruition, and provide a place where all types of art and creativity find a home.”

Mayor Freddie O’Connell states: “The Shelby Commons project has the potential to go beyond merely revitalizing an important Metro property; the goal is to make a creative campus that could incorporate studio, performance, and gallery spaces for our arts and entertainment community. I am excited about the work ahead that will transform this property into a great community asset – nestled in one of Nashville’s great parks.”

Clay Capp, District 6 Council Member adds: “This is an exciting chance to bring life back to a beautiful, historically significant building in East Nashville, and support artists at the same time. I think it will become a beloved gateway between the neighborhood and Shelby Park.”

Shelby Commons, spanning 19,000+ square ft, seeks to offer East Nashville’s Shelby Park much-needed amenities, including food service, restrooms, theater space, art studios, recreation retail, and more. It will also serve as a gathering place for the creative community providing a space for connection and collaboration.

Key features of Shelby Commons will likely include

  • Park amenities, including public restrooms
  • Restaurant and market
  • Recreation-focused retail, including affordable kayak and bike rental
  • State-of-the-art event venue
  • Co-working space for arts nonprofits
  • Meeting space and multi-purpose rooms
  • Artist studios and creative micro-retail
  • Specialized creative development space/studios for artists of all disciplines
  • Administrative space for the Friends of Shelby Park team and the Arts & Business Council team
  • Local art displayed throughout entire footprint

Specific space and programmatic needs for the city’s diverse creative class and neighbors will be topics of discussion during upcoming design phases and community meetings prior to the required final approval of the lease agreement by Metro Council and the Metro Parks Board. The first public community meeting hosted by District 6 Metro Council Member, Clay Capp, is scheduled for Saturday, December 9th from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center. To register, please visit

About Friends of Shelby Park and Bottoms
Founded in 2008, Friends of Shelby is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation, enhancement, and promotion of Shelby Park and Bottoms for everyone to appreciate and protect. Friends of Shelby works to protect the natural and historical integrity of the park by supporting recreational activities, maintaining and enhancing park features, promoting programs that inspire appreciation and conservation, and advocating for a level playing field for all user groups.
For more information, visit

About the Arts & Business Council
For nearly 20 years, the Arts & Business Council (ABC) has been the region’s hub for building more sustainable creative businesses. A 501(c)3 nonprofit, ABC leverages and unites the unique resources of the arts and business communities to create a thriving, sustainable creative culture in Nashville. Through six main programs: Education for the Creative Community, Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts, Periscope: Artist Entrepreneur Training, Arts Board Matching, Fiscal Sponsorship, and Creative Advantage, and several other unique resources and opportunities, ABC provides entrepreneurial education and capacity-building resources to more than 8,000 individual artists, arts nonprofits, creative businesses, and arts enthusiasts annually.
For more information, visit