Nashville’s downtown is still recovering a year after a bombing rocked the area

Damon Mitchell Dec 24, 2021
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Buildings damaged in the Christmas Day 2020 bombing stand on Second Avenue in downtown Nashville. Some businesses have relocated out of the district. Damon Mitchell/WPLN News

Nashville’s downtown is still recovering a year after a bombing rocked the area

Damon Mitchell Dec 24, 2021
Heard on:
Buildings damaged in the Christmas Day 2020 bombing stand on Second Avenue in downtown Nashville. Some businesses have relocated out of the district. Damon Mitchell/WPLN News
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Sporting a white hard hat and orange safety vest, Ron Gobbell strolled down a stretch of Nashville, Tennessee’s, historic Second Avenue. Businesses near the site of a Christmas Day bombing last year are still boarded up.  

“Some of them are coming back. Some of them are making a decision on their own not to come back,” said Gobbell, an architect. He was appointed by Nashville’s mayor to oversee the rebuild of the neighborhood. “COVID was tough on them to begin with.”  

Last Christmas, a vehicle exploded in downtown Nashville. Anthony Quinn Warner died after setting off the blast. The FBI determined that he acted alone, to end his own life.  

The explosion damaged buildings, displaced dozens of businesses and left more than 1,000 employees without jobs.  

Gobbell said construction has been slowed by national supply chain delays, worker shortages and insurance issues. The long rebuild is the reason former Second Avenue business tenant Sandy Lee decided to relocate. 

“We knew that from the beginning — that it was going to be a couple of years, and at that point, we wouldn’t have reopened,” Lee said. 

Lee owned two stores with her husband in buildings that were damaged by the bombing. Before the blast, she said, business revenue was already down about 70% because of the pandemic.   

So, Lee decided to relocate, rebrand and combine her shops into one: Nashville’s Best $10 and Up Boutique. The store opened in August.  

“We were frugal as we could be,” she said. “We used all of our insurance money, and we also had some help with some grant money.”  

Lee said the space attracts fewer tourists, but she’s satisfied with foot traffic at the new location. 

Still, about a block away from the bomb site, the Legendairy Milkshake Bar is still open. It only closed for about two weeks because of power outages. Founder and owner Christina Barnett said her business is one of the lucky ones.  

“As far as customers coming to our business, no, I wouldn’t say we had a dip at all,” she said.

Right now, city leaders are working on a plan to make the historic area more pedestrian-friendly. So far, Nashville officials have approved $20 million for the redevelopment plan. 

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