Music City Lofts offer competition for upscale hotels

Friday, October 3, 2014, Vol. 38, No. 40
By Ellen Margulles

Somewhere between short-term rentals and traditional hotels, you can find a new breed of visitor lodging in Nashville.

These privately-owned condos with sophisticated urban décor and unique spaces for every guest are a dream come true for any traveler who wants to experience a city on a more intimate level.

That’s the guest experience that is being created by Music City Lofts, a block of downtown lofts that can be booked like hotels but feel more like a stay in your hip cousin’s vacation home.

Owners Dani Dubetz and former Titans player Tim Shaw joined forces along with interior decorators, local artists and photographers, as well as restaurant and venue owners, to create an experience as memorable as possible.

Dubetz says she would never have thought of the idea had it not been for a sluggish real estate market a few years back.

Loft co-owner Dani Dubetz sits in the living room area of “The Willie.”

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

“I was struggling, just like everybody else,” says Dubetz, a former TV journalist who moved to Nashville on a whim in 2009 during what she calls a quarter-life crisis.

“I had purchased a property in downtown Nashville that I couldn’t sell no matter what I tried. A friend told me to post it on a website as a vacation property for rent.

“I tried it and realized that not only was it something I enjoyed doing, it was something I was passionate about. I had come to Nashville as a tourist and experienced for myself the magic of this city, and the energy, and the music and the food and all the stuff about our city that draws us here to live here permanently.

“With people coming into town, I was enjoying sharing with them my favorite things about my city.”

Living room space in the “King George” loft.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

Dubetz found herself in business after teaming up with Shaw, whose playing career had ended and who announced in August that he amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was part of this summer’s “Ice Bucket’’ challenges to raise funds to fight the disease.

Shaw and Dubetz purchased 15 more lofts in the same building as her original property, hired interior designer Stephanie Carter to create individual spaces with names like “Elvis,” “Center Stage” and “No Show Jones.”

“I spent many late nights at my kitchen table not only picking names, but literally doing the research and knowing the contributions of each artist with Nashville,’’ Dubetz explains.

“With Elvis, it was about knowing his relationship with Studio B. If they didn’t have a direct Nashville connection, they don’t get a room named after them.

Dubetz shows the Elvis suite.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

“As we were developing this dream, it was about talking to my friends. All of us started here in Nashville as tourists,” she adds. “Some of us work in PR, some are in music, some are foodies who came from New York. Music City Loft created the space for everyone’s talents to be featured and highlighted.

“When I first bought the loft in 2010, I walked across the street to Dunn Bros. Coffee and I saw Beth Inglish’s art on the wall. I called, and we met for lunch and became friends. Fast-forward: We now feature her art on our walls.”

Dubetz had never used a vacation rental herself before becoming an owner. A trip to Europe opened her eyes to what such spaces mean to a visitor.“The woman who organized the trip found vacation rentals and villas and condos on the square,” she recalls.

“We stayed in a mill, a very contemporary condo on a square in Spain and in a hillside villa. Those unique places made our memories for that trip. More than just the food and the culture, the places we stayed were part of our stories and part of our memories.

“Prior to trying it as an owner, I had never stayed in a vacation rental before. Now, it’s my preferred way to travel. I love a great hotel, but there are times when I want a little more of the experience.”

Prices at Music City Loft range from $190 to $500 a night, and guests must book a minimum of two nights.

“Our target demographic is someone who really wants to experience Nashville in an authentic and unique way. We want to provide our visitors with more than just a place to crash, we want to provide them with a place to hang out and make memories.”