Heaven's Door art

Heaven's Door as seen from Fifth Avenue

Plans continue to evolve for a Bob Dylan-centric project eyed for SoBro — with a potential hotel component having been scrapped and the effort now fully focused on art, entertainment, food and spirits.

The plan to undertake Heaven’s Door — which will operate, in part, from a former church building at 410 Elm St. (the structure faces Fifth Avenue South) — is now two years old. Marc Bushala (CEO of Heaven's Door Spirits) and other unnamed investors involved with Bushala's MAB Capital Management have filed for a demo permit related to the razing of a building located on the site’s overall footprint and with an address of 625 Fourth Ave. S.  Nashville-based The Mathews Company will handle the demolition.

Bushala told the Post the first phase of the overall project will be the renovation of the church building, which eventually will accommodate some of Dylan’s art.  

“Obviously when the pandemic hit, we put our plans on hold and worked on an alternative concept for the Fourth Avenue site,” Bushala added. “We hope to begin renovation work to the church by the end of the year."

For the 0.75-acre Fourth Avenue site, Bushala and his team plan a food/beverage and live entertainment concept instead of a boutique hotel, as previously contemplated.

“We have a concept that will be unique in Nashville and complimentary to the Heaven’s Door brand center,” he said. “We are taking the food and beverage component out of the programming of the Brand Center as we want to now use that space for additional gallery space as well as studios for painting, sculpting, metal work, glass blowing, etc. Our vision for the project is to be a true center for the arts.”

Via an LLC, Bushala and the investors paid $5.2 million for the Fourth Avenue-facing properties, according to Metro records.

The future building to face Fifth next to the church may or may not house a distillery, Bushala said. But it will offer a spirits tasting room, a screening room and some additional Dylan art work, as well as exhibits of other artists.

“We are moving forward with the intention of renovating the church building in the initial phase and the new construction (to the left of the church and facing Fifth) in a subsequent phase,” Bushala added.

Bushala and the team announced the plan in April 2019. Previously, a fall 2020 opening had been slated. However, Bushala told the Post in a 2020 interview that the COVID-19 pandemic required the team to refine its strategy.

Of note, the ex-church building was most recently the home to Tuck-Hinton Architecture & Design, which now operates in Wedgewood-Houston and is the architect for the project.

Bushala’s HDS Distilling Co. owns the Fifth Avenue-facing property, having acquired it for $6.2 million via an LLC in August 2018. HDS includes Nashville-based entrepreneur and distiller Darek Bell, who owns Wedgewood-Houston-based Corsair Artisan Distillery. Bushala said Corsair and Heaven's Door are likely to have a symbiotic relationship once the business is operational, but details regarding that are not yet finalized.

Bushala said he and Dylan have raised $45 million from investors for the project.

Dylan, 76, released “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (thus the name) in 1973, after recording it in Burbank Studios in California. The legendary musician has both recorded and often performed in Nashville.

The Heaven’s Door line includes a straight rye, a double-barrel whiskey and a Tennessee bourbon. The parent company is in the process of opening a blending, bottling and warehousing facility in Memphis, Bushala said.

I began my journalism career in Nashville in 1990, with my current position with Nashville Post having evolved since October 2000 (when I was with the now-defunct The City Paper, a sister publication of the Post starting in 2008).

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