City Slickers

Troy Vaughn had his sights set on a condo in East Nashville when the high rises pushing their way into the downtown skyline caught his eye in 2008.

A side-by-side comparison of the perks of each neighborhood sealed the deal for the Encore Condominiums building on 3rd Avenue and Demonbreun Street.

“It really came down to amenities,” Vaughn said. Those amenities include a 24-hour gym, a rentable movie theater lined with rows of easy chairs, an outdoor pool and 24-hour concierge service.

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Live it UP Downtown! visit

Amenities like this, along with the allure of urban living, are drawing gay men downtown in droves.

Those interested in joining Vaughn and the thousands of other downtown residents in posh apartments and condos can get a taste of urban living on April 18 during the Live it Up! Downtown Home Tour, an event sponsored by the Nashville Downtown Partnership that will give participants the chance to tour several downtown housing options.

Vaughn, who lived in Nashville suburbs for seven years before moving downtown, cites a laissez-faire attitude toward homosexuality as a welcome surprise for him and his partner of three years, Randall Ratley.

“It's amazing how the gay thing is important in Brentwood and Murfreesboro, and downtown, thank god nobody cares. It was a lot more hospitable and a lot more open than I had thought,” he said. “It’s not just gay-friendly, it’s gay-don’t-matter.”

Vaughn attributes this ambivalent attitude to the characteristics many downtown residents have in common, what he calls the “dink factor” — Vaughn says most of Nashville’s downtown dwellers are dual-income households with no kids.

Moving downtown has also broadened Vaughn’s appreciation for what Nashville has to offer. When he lived in the suburbs, a trip downtown was often limited to the gay enclave on Church Street. Now, he says, visits to Play or Tribe are few and far between. Instead, he frequents a diverse set of bars and eateries within walking distance of his front door where everybody knows his name.

“It really becomes your neighborhood. You’re recognized as a local,” Vaughn said of his tight-knit downtown network. "I've cut my gas consumption almost in half because I don't drive anywhere. There really is no reason — everything's right there."

Vaughn harnessed his enthusiasm for his new neighborhood by joining the Urban Residents Association. He was recently elected president. The URA seeks to further unite the downtown community.

The organization works to increase social ties between downtown residents, strengthen their relationships with downtown merchants and harness the their political clout in relevant areas, including the construction of the new convention center and improved public transportation. Vaughn’s primary goal as president will be to expand the 400-member organization to 1,000 through increased awareness and vibrant marketing.

Vaughn’s condo has become a hub for friends looking to enjoy a night on the town. Susan Shurling, a close friend and East Nashville native, visits often.When they’re together, their collective passion for the city is palpable. Together, they recount stories of watching the downtown fireworks on July 4 from his balcony, hosting a “Wicked”-themed party at the condo before migrating to TPAC to see the musical in person, nabbing discounted tickets to the symphony and watching the signs of the skyline go dark during last year’s Earth Hour from Encore’s clubhouse deck.

“If I didn’t have two big dogs, I would live downtown,” Shurling said. “I love the environment of downtown and I love the possibility of downtown. I think we’re on a great trajectory right now.”

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