Second Avenue: 5 months after the Christmas day bombing

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — One day will not define 2nd Avenue in downtown Nashville, where more than a century of history permeates the area.

“This is where the brunt of the explosion was felt. Here at our entrance, you can see there’s a missing wall. This was our vestibule. The entire front wall was pushed back a few feet towards the host stand,” said restaurant owner Mark Rosenthal, as he described the damage done to the Melting Pot.

It used to be a place that hosted celebrations and holiday gatherings.

“We still have our gift bags for New Year’s Eve,” said Rosenthal, “They were for our guests. We were getting ready ahead of time.”

They were getting ready for a New Year’s Eve dinner that never happened after a bomb was set off on 2nd Avenue Christmas morning.

Rosenthal also owns Rodizio Grill. Both restaurants all but destroyed, and 150 of his employees were suddenly out of work.

“We have insurance, but it’s impossible to repair the damage that’s been done to us by this this event,” he said. “It has been a struggle for a lot of the folks who’ve worked for us. Yeah, some of them for up to 20 years. All of a sudden, everything’s ripped away.”

Rosenthal and his business partner not only helped their employees with job searching but also helped them financially, with the backing of a gofundme account.

He said the restaurants will likely have to be demolished and rebuilt due to the structural damage as well as water and weather damage after being exposed to the elements.

Rosenthal pointed out, “You see all that green? That’s mold. And then there’s bubbling white mold. This is all gonna have to come out.”

It’s full steam ahead in the rebuilding process. Rosenthal said, “I’m a problem solver. And so for me, it just became, alright, the deck was reshuffled; we got re-dealt, and now I just have to play that hand.”

Ron Gobbell is president emeritus of GHP, an architecture, environmental and construction firm. “It’s gonna take years to get all this back together. But, what we’re trying to do right now is to move as quickly as we can to get things back open, get them normal.”

Gobbell was tapped by Mayor John Cooper to be project manager of the 2nd Avenue reconstruction.

“The Mayor has basically said, you know, ‘we need to make it better. We need to take this opportunity to really improve that whole region down there,'” Gobbell said.

The project management team has held public listening sessions and received recommendations from a panel of national experts with the Urban Land Institute.

They’ll discuss the suggestions with community members and Metro government before formulating an action plan for reinventing the birthplace of downtown Nashville

“Maybe this time next year, we’ll have 2nd Avenue coming back to life in a sort of a reinvented form,” said Gobbell. “You have to look at these things like it’s an opportunity, because you have no choice.”

An opportunity for 2nd avenue to reimagine downtown Nashville once again.

“2nd avenue was revitalized before Broadway. In some ways, 2nd avenue is responsible for the explosion of what Nashville is today because it helped revitalize Nashville about 26 years ago,” Gobbell said.  

2nd Avenue’s historic core is what makes this restoration effort so challenging, but also what makes it worth preserving.

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