NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Six months after the Christmas Day bombing, we are getting a look inside the area as work to mend the heart of the city continues.
A fence at Commerce Street through Church Street on 2nd Avenue marks what’s known as the red zone. In the heart of the devastation, you can still see light shining through the four buildings most significantly damaged on 2nd Avenue, the floors are basically all that remains.
The buildings are stabilized enough now for structural engineers to move inside The Rhea building next door, 44 feet away from where the bomb exploded.
Today, a surreal look inside The Rhea building where Rodizio Grill once stood. Christmas trees and the dessert tray are as they were that Christmas morning, with shattered glass, fiberglass and debris surrounding it.
“Anything that had some flexibility, the blast spared. Anything that was fixed, but not strong enough, the blast totally destroyed,” engineer Steve Prosser of Prosser & Associates explained.
Three weeks ago, crews started working on the building built in 1887, as the neighboring buildings had to be stabilized. Prosser says they started at the top which housed apartments.
That’s where Betsy Williams called home, and where she ran her business.
“It’s great coming down here and seeing progress,” she told News 2 while holding a stained-glass windowpane pulled from the devastation.
Inside her building, crews are working their way down to the basement, home of the Melting Pot.
“We’ve had days where we’ve had 45 people in here just hauling out debris,” said Prosser.
He explained that the building was renovated in 1994 with steel, and it’s the reason The Rhea building is still standing today.
“There’s steel going all the way to the top, that’s what saved this building right here.”
Melting Pot and Rodizio Grill plan to return to The Rhea building, and that’s the city’s goal, to get all the businesses back up and operating.
“I can’t wait to be back on down on 2nd Avenue,” proclaimed Williams.
Nearly half the businesses impacted from the bomb have already reopened on 2nd Avenue. Engineers say the red zone stretch will likely remain under construction for at least a year or longer.
As city leaders look ahead, their recovery efforts focus on the historic integrity of the downtown area, important for those like Williams.
“We don’t need to blow it; Nashville doesn’t need to blow it. I don’t believe we will. I think with the leadership, I hope that their hearts are in this like our hearts are in it, and we can all come together and create something that will far exceed what was here, while still celebrating the wonderful parts of 2nd Avenue and the district,” she said.
The city is pushing for businesses to experiment with more outdoor dining and experiences as they look to reopen, as well as reinvigorating an active riverfront while holding to the commitment to build “better, stronger, together.”