UMPH dedicates new digs


NASHVILLE, Tn — After 58 years on the corner of 8th Ave. and Demonbreun St. in downtown Nashville, the United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH) dedicated their new facility in a a new location this morning. In a ceremony which included members of the Board of Directors, both current and past UMPH staff, several UMC bishops, and the mayor of Nashville, Karl Dean, the UMPH celebrated a long heritage of Methodist publishing as they looked forward to a new day in a new state-of-the-art facility.

UMPH President and Publisher Neil Alexander speaks at the dedication of the New House Commons and John Dickins House

UMPH President and Publisher Neil Alexander speaks at the dedication of the New House Commons and John Dickins House

“It’s exciting and a lot of fun,” said UMPH president Neil Alexander, “and it’s an uplift for our staff to go from a building that had seen its best days past to a fresh and full of light building with a real sense of community.”

Bishop J. Michael Lowry, a member of the UMPH Board of Directors was likewise excited about the change. “I think the move to the new location opens us up for new possibilities in ministry and outreach in a changing period of communications of the gospel of our Lord. This gives us an opportunity to reach people in new and more creative ways.”

The move from 8th Avenue

The transition from the old facility at 201 8th Avenue South had its origins in the construction of the new Music City Center facility across the street from the old UMPH building, opening in May of 2013. With the building of this state of the art convention center, the section of downtown Nashville south of Broadway (SOBRO) experienced a revival, and various developers started reaching out to the Publishing House about the possibility of purchasing and developing the property. This had some appeal, for the old facility, built in 1957, was dark and damp, having seen better days. After several false starts an agreement was finally reached and the UMPH Real Estate Advisory Team began to consider options for a new location.

In his remarks at the celebration this morning, Alexander noted that they considered several options, but none of them seemed to be quite right. There was some nervousness when they were taken to consider the site of the current facility for it was not a conventional office space, and came with its own history.

fountainsquare1987The New House Commons and The John Dickens House that makes up the new UMPH facility was originally built in 1984 as a showcase pedestrian mall called Fountain Square. The developers had high hopes given the success of the surrounding Metro Center business development, an area located along the Cumberland River just outside of downtown Nashville. However developers failed to consider that the mall was located across the street from a low-income neighborhood known at the time as “Dodge City” because of the high number of shootings in that area.  After some initial excitement, several violent incidents led people  to stop visiting the mall and it was eventually closed. Characterized by its blue metal roofs, the property became known as the “Big Blue Monster” and the “Mistake by the Lake.”

Yet, as Alexander recounted, with some leadership by the Real Estate team and the help of a creative architect (Jenny Campbell of Collaborative Studio) the conversation began to move from what was wrong with the building to what was right. The location was convenient to downtown and the Interstate highway system, had good space and parking, lots of light, and was very close to the already existing UMPH Distribution Center. Thus UMPH took on the task of transforming a former shopping mall into a state-of-the-art publishing facility.

Alexander said that he was most excited about the inclusion of new technology tools that help to facilitate the work of the UMPH and make things more efficient. “We’ve had one group of business analysts who said that they got done in three hours what would have taken then a week to do in the past,” Alexander said. “All of the technology is current state-of-the-art,” he said, “although as fast as technology is changing that may only last for 5 minutes.”

Unless the Lord builds the house…

The new John Dickins House features an open lobby with lots of natural light.

The new John Dickins House features an open lobby with lots of natural light.

R. Carl Frazier, current chair of the UMPH Board of Directors, drew on the words of the scriptures as he reminded attendees that the work of the Publishing House is more than simply maintaining a building. “We come today to put down a marker,” he said, “but this is about how more people in more places can come to know God.”

“I believe that our future is very bright,” Alexander said, reflecting on his hope for the organization. “If we are able to stay in tune with the needs and aspirations of local congregations then we have a great future . . . but our work is going to look very different.”

That difference is reflected in their new home on Rosa Parks Blvd.

Jay Voorhees, Former Executive Editor

The Rev. Jay Voorhees is the Executive Editor of The United Methodist Reporter and the Chief Creative Officer for CircuitWriter Media LLC which operates this site and Jay is an ordained elder in the Tennessee Annual Conference. Jay has written on life and the practice of faith in The United Methodist Church at Only Wonder Understands since 2003.

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