RICHMOND, Va. -- When the owners of a new Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar franchise considered opening in the historic Shockoe Bottom entertainment district of Richmond, they knew the area was prone to flooding. They made the decision to modify the building that was to house their new restaurant to make it flood resistant.
Now, other businesses in Shockoe Bottom can learn how to prevent future flood damage at a Shockoe Recovery Workshop on Wednesday, Nov. 10, from 2 until 5 p.m. It’s being held at the Holocaust Museum, 2000 E. Cary St. The seminar will feature a nationally recognized expert on how to flood proof non-residential buildings.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), the River District Alliance and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation are sponsoring the seminar.
“This is a good opportunity for the business community to learn how to protect their investment from flooding,” said Michael M. Cline, state coordinating officer for VDEM. “We hope business owners will take advantage of this expertise.”
It didn’t take long for Wild Wings’ investment in flood protection to pay off. The new establishment opened on Cary Street a little more than a year before Tropical Storm Gaston flooded Shockoe Bottom on August 30, 2004. The flood reached 8 to 10 feet above street level in some areas. It damaged 48 businesses.
But Buffalo Wild Wings sustained only minor water damage and was ready to reopen its doors four days after the flood. Their initial investment of $130,000 protected over a million dollars in capital and untold revenue.
The owners decided to build up the floor 5 feet. They took the fuse boxes, the hot water heater and the air conditioner compressor from the original ground floor and moved them to the modified floor, the top floor and the roof.
Renovating the entire building cost about $1.3 million, with the floor modification accounting for about 10 percent of the total, according to Steve Green, the manager on duty when the flood hit. “That 10 percent saved the other 90,” he said.
“We decided to go with a concrete floor in the bar, even though the standard for (a) Buffalo Wild Wings (franchise) is a wood floor,” said Green. “ If we had wood floors, there definitely would have been more damage.”
The restaurant just had to hose the mud off the concrete floor in the bar and clean the carpet in the dining room. “The total cost to get the restaurant ready for business after the flood was less than $5,000, and most of that was for labor,” Green said.
Green believes raising the floor probably saved lives, too. “We had about a hundred people in the restaurant that night,” Green said. “The current was strong. It was like a Class III rapid.”
“This shows how a little preparation can pay off,” said Marianne C. Jackson, the chief federal officer in charge of the Gaston recovery effort. “The best protection is always prevention.”
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.