Apr 4, 2024 - News

Downtown leaders launch campaign to save Second Ave. businesses

A rendering showing a street with wide sidewalks and lined with trees.

A rendering showing plans for a Second Avenue construction project. Image: Courtesy of MDHA

Downtown leaders are launching a publicity campaign to support beleaguered businesses on Second Avenue while the historic road undergoes major construction.

Why it matters: Second Avenue businesses have been clobbered in recent years by the pandemic, the 2020 Christmas bombing and the resulting construction project.

  • While downtown's entertainment district is booming in many ways, the stretch of road between Broadway and Union Street has seen several businesses shutter.

Driving the news: Beginning next week, the group plans to "paint the street pink with clever campaign signage and a robust social media campaign," according to an email sent to businesses on Tuesday.

  • The campaign is called Turn the Corner. It's a collaboration among the Downtown Partnership, MP&F Strategic Communications and the city.

Flashback: Bars and restaurants were already dealing with government shutdowns and capacity restrictions in 2020 when a Christmas morning suicide bomber destroyed the street and several buildings on Second Avenue.

  • According to the Downtown Partnership, 25 of 46 street-front businesses have closed since 2020.

What he's saying: "It's not just, 'Oh, that's unfortunate,' or, 'Man, I feel bad for you.' This is people who mortgaged their homes or other businesses to open these businesses," Barrett Hobbs, who owns Doc Holliday's Saloon on Second Avenue, tells Axios. "Some of them backed their bank notes with their lifetime earnings."

  • "The devastation of the street could affect someone generationally. I don't think people understand the scope of the negative financial toll this has taken."

The big picture: The goal of the $39 million Second Avenue construction is to create a dynamic entertainment corridor with new sidewalks, outdoor dining and exterior lighting.

Zoom in: Hobbs says he's enthusiastic about what the road will look like once the construction work finishes in 2025. In the meantime, he says, business owners need way more help.

  • He mentioned government grants, tax rebates or breaks on utility bills to help make ends meet.
  • Hobbs compared it to the government help businesses received following the tornado in 2020.

The bottom line: "When you have a terrible situation, you just try to make it as palatable as possible," Hobbs says. "I'm extremely optimistic. I think the city and state should work together to expand [the work being done on Second Avenue] to First Avenue."

What's happening: Metro Councilmember Jacob Kupin proposed legislation to designate a stretch of Second Avenue as a tourism event zone with the goal of increasing pedestrian traffic during construction.

  • "Look, there are businesses that may not make it if we don't do something," Kupin tells Axios.

Hobbs also supports loosening Historic Commission regulations to open up the First Avenue side of the businesses to pedestrians.

Friction point: Business owners supported a piece of state legislation to create a tailgate zone near the Second Avenue businesses so that Titans fans could use the area for pregame festivities while the new stadium is under construction.

  • The legislation died earlier this session amid concerns about fans carrying alcoholic drinks across the river to the stadium.

Worthy of your time: New Second Avenue attractions are coming online during the construction.

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