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Planned or accidental, collapse is a new wrinkle for Shirt Corner

3/3/2014 | Construction Blog, Real Estate Blog

Since the wall collapsed on the Salvation Army Thrift Store in June, many people in Philadelphia have had visceral reactions to the news of any kind of demolition accident. Today’s news of another demolition gone wrong — at the Shirt Corner site we discussed in an early February post — has underscored that fear, the concern that human error may have resulted in the loss of life.

At this writing, however, authorities say there have been no injuries at the Old City site. That is the good news. The bad news is that explanations offered by the property owner and the demolition supervisor do not match.

Perhaps the collapse should not have been a surprise. The row of buildings was more than 100 years old and had deteriorated significantly — to the point that the site’s redevelopment turned into a demolition project when the Department of Licenses and Inspections discovered some serious structural issues.

The property owner said in a written statement that the collapse was intentional, a “controlled and carefully planned” step in the demolition process that included restricting access to the sidewalk on one side. What is confusing is that the site supervisor told reporters that workers in a building a couple of doors down had caused the collapse.

The workers pushed on a wall of one building that caused the building between it and the corner building to vibrate, he said. The vibrations, which a neighbor said he had felt all week — triggered the collapse of the building on the corner.

The street was strewn with rubble, belying the property owner’s claim that the collapse was either planned or controlled. Still, aside from the lack of injuries, this collapse had one thing that the Salvation Army collapse did not have: on-site L&I officials.

The supervisor added that this is a particularly tricky demolition job. He would have, he said, preferred to take the row of buildings down brick by brick.

Source: The Inquirer, “Building under demolition collapses in Old City,” Jeff Gammage, March 13, 2014