2nd Avenue in Nashville following the 2020 Christmas Bombing

Lessons in Rebuilding: A Year After the Nashville Christmas Bombing

By Jared Verstraete | Published December 22, 2021

Twelve months after a man detonated a bomb in an RV in the middle of a tourist district in downtown Nashville, plans to rebuild historic 2nd Avenue are slowly becoming a reality. 

Revitalization of any historic district is a daunting task, but the circumstances surrounding the Nashville bombing added to the project’s difficulty. Over the last calendar year, RMC Group faced multiple challenges in assessing damage and preparing estimates for reconstruction costs for five of the affected 2nd Avenue buildings, including dealing with layers of response teams, historic preservation groups, and lingering damage in the area from a March 2019 tornado. 

The Lofts at 160, one of downtown Nashville’s most unique residential communities located 500 yards from the blast, suffered major damage for example, while the Old Spaghetti Factory and B.B. King’s Blues Club are among those businesses that won’t return to their downtown homes. The Almost Famous Saloon, one of the tallest rooftop bars in the city, had repairs done throughout the year and is now open for business. The connected Benchmark Bar is currently going through a full renovation while repairs have been completed on the Stallman Building, located a few blocks from the blast.

4 Insights from Assessing Buildings Damaged in Downtown Nashville Bombing

The restoration projects stemming from the Nashville bombing currently underway provide key insights into what to expect from disaster rebuilding both today — and tomorrow. Here are four key takeaways from this disaster that can be applied to building damage cost estimates in 2022.

1. Not a typical estimate.

Reconstruction costs are harder to estimate with historic buildings. Investigations from multiple agencies can complicate assessments of roof damage and the interior and exterior facades as well. Buildings impacted by the Nashville bombing required a thorough inspection to determine if the structure could withstand being renovated or if it needed to be rebuilt. The Lofts at 160, for example, covered 40,000 square feet of lofts and restaurant space. Engineers spent significant time on site examining every wall, every joist, and the foundation to check for significant stress fractures in the brick. Typical estimating software unreliable in circumstances like these because of the building’s historic standing; due to age, there were no blueprints of the building.

2. Expect new rules.

The future of 2nd Avenue has been the subject of intense concern as community leaders looked to reinvigorate the heart of downtown while keeping the history of the street alive. Nashville city officials are using the rebuild to bring the older buildings up to code as they are revived. Grandfathered building clauses are no longer valid. With buildings over 100 years old damaged and many walls and floors missing, strict safety code enforcement is at play. With the goal to retain the integrity of the area, any exterior alterations to buildings will require local permission. 

3. Know the market.

Hot markets, like Nashville, are going to be more costly in general, but layer in a historic district in downtown and you can expect costs to be even higher and the logistics of repair to be more complicated. Access issues for buildings becomes a challenge and multiple construction projects hamper traffic in and out of the area, which can lead to delays. Labor and materials can be more costly in congested downtown areas, especially in historic districts like Nashville’s 2nd Avenue. 

4. Anticipate higher costs.

The supply chain challenges resulting from the pandemic have resulted in rising material costs and reduced inventory. With increased demand and the oft-mentioned labor shortage, expect to see higher insurance estimations for reconstruction projects.

When it comes to insurance estimates and reconstruction after a disaster, looking ahead to 2022 we can expect supply chain delays to continue to hinder recovery so partnering with an experienced and knowledgeable team for cost estimating is critical. 

Reach out to the RMC Group for help with accurately identifying building damage and preparing repair cost estimates.