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Demolitions Likely For Some Historic Buildings Damaged In Downtown Nashville Blast

Rachel Lacovone

Five of downtown Nashville’s historic buildings will likely undergo at least partial demolition because of damage from the Christmas morning blast. And six more remain at imminent risk of collapse.

Those are among the preliminary findings from a local engineer who surveyed the blast area for a report to Metro officials.

In response, the city has ordered property owners to hire structural engineers to complete detailed reviews by Jan. 18. Metro Codes wants the structures stabilized as soon as possible, and officials will likely close portions of surrounding blocks, again, when that work takes place.

“We hope to turn to that restoration work soon, but the most urgent issues at the moment concern safety,” Codes wrote to owners last week.

“The severity of the damage and the likelihood that a building collapse could threaten the integrity of nearby properties and the safety of first responders and others working in the area require that you immediately undertake this evaluation and the work necessary to prevent further damage,” Codes added.

The initial review — which was limited by the amount of debris and instability of buildings — discusses “significant” demolition for the properties on Second Avenue at addresses 168, 170, 172, 174 and 176. That’s a row of historic brick buildings that date to the late 1800s. They are mostly three and four stories tall, and immediately across from the RV blast site.

Along the block, the engineer finds masonry and steel columns shifted and detached; walls cracked or bowed; and roofs compromised.

The recommendation is that the front of the collapsed buildings be demolished — an operation that won’t be easy because of walls between buildings. Structures farther from the blast, which mostly show broken windows, are recommended for further review in case there is damage to their brick, wood, walls or connections between buildings that’s not easily seen.

Meanwhile as of Friday, Metro Water Services reported it was 80% finished with its sewer line inspections. So far, the agency has not found the major issues that were feared, although recordings from an underground camera still must be reviewed more closely.

Credit Tasha Lemley / WPLN News
Volunteers helped downtown residents retrieve items on Saturday. Mark Mackenzie, who was not present the day of the explosion, was able to pick up family heirlooms.


Tony Gonzalez, a reporter in Nashville since July 2011, covers city news, features inspiring people, and seeks out offbeat stories. He’s also an award-winning juggler and hot chicken advocate who lives in East Nashville with his wife, a professional bookbinder. During his time at The Tennessean newspaper, his investigative reporting and feature stories were honored in the state and nationally. Gonzalez grew up near Chicago and came to Nashville after three years reporting and editing at Virginia's smallest daily newspaper, The News Virginian.
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