The Look in Brief

Property owners ask to demolish four buildings damaged in Christmas bombing

By: - July 1, 2021 5:11 pm
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Dec. 28 - A shot from a garage adjacent to downtown Nashville's Second Avenue captures the scope of the damage done by a Christmas Day suicide bomber. (Photo: John Partipilo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Dec. 28 – A wide angle shot captures the scope of the damage done by a Christmas Day suicide bomber on Second Avenue. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Property owners of four buildings on Second Avenue North directly across from where the Christmas morning bomb exploded are seeking demolition permits.

Representatives for the property owners explained in a letter to several city departments that the demolition will be necessary after inspections by their engineers revealed structural problems. One building’s structure could be moved simply by pushing on it, according to the property owners’ letter.

Second Avenue is Nashville’s first historic district and served as the foundation for a preservation movement that helped revitalize downtown, launch the honky tonks on lower Broadway and save iconic buildings like the Ryman Auditorium. The buildings are owned by trusts in the name of the Callen family.

“After careful review and analysis of their reports and multiple additional discussions with our  team and with Metro and their professionals, we have come to the heartbreaking conclusion that  complete removal of the structures is required,” the property owners’ representatives said in their letter. “The site is simply unsafe. As a result, we requested expedited approval for a permit for demolition of 170, 172, 174 and 176 Second Avenue North. We believe that these buildings are an imminent safety concern. They need to be taken down and time is of the essence.”

In response, Metro lauded the property owners for working to preserve bricks and other materials that were salvageable following the blast. The demolition request will be considered by Metro Historic, Codes and Planning.

“For months now, the crews working on these buildings have been removing one brick at a time,” said Second Avenue Project Manager Ron Gobbell.  “The owners have been extremely supportive of the efforts to preserve the historic character of Second Avenue, and we have every reason to believe that whatever the outcome they will continue to work with us.”

The concern among stakeholders has been that in place of the handsome brick buildings, property owners would pursue density inconsistent with the historic nature of the block.

A single suicide bomber was responsible for the blast, which, thanks to a message he broadcast from his van and the quick response of police officers on the scene, led to no additional deaths or serious injuries.

Andre Callen, of the Callen family that owns the properties, said the decision to seek a demolition permit came after months of due diligence, talks with the city and working through the debris on the explosion site. Callen was inside one of the buildings with his family when the bombing occurred. The families have owned the buildings since 2005.

“After careful review and analysis of the reports of our engineering experts and multiple additional discussions with our team and with Metro and their professionals, we have come to the conclusion that complete removal of the structures is required,” Callen said. “We also believe this needs to happen as soon as possible. Our sense of urgency is based on our concern that these structures pose a risk to nearby pedestrians because they could fall when we least expect it. 

“We believe it is best to take the structures down in a controlled manner, to save as much of the historical material as possible, so that we can reuse it as we rebuild for the future, incorporating the history into our design. That is our commitment.”

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Nate Rau
Nate Rau

Nate Rau has a granular knowledge of Nashville’s government and power brokers, having spent more than a decade with the Tennessean, navigating the ins and outs of government deals as an investigative reporter. During his career at The Tennessean and The City Paper, he covered the music industry and Metro government and won praise for hard-hitting series on concussions in youth sports and deaths at a Tennessee drug rehabilitation center. In a state of Titans and Vols fans, Nate is an unabashed Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs fan.