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Salvation Army, developer, others named in building collapse suit p2

10/14/2013 | Construction Blog, Real Estate Blog

Six people died when the Salvation Army Thrift Store collapsed on June 5. The disaster was triggered by the demolition of an adjacent building. While city leaders have discussed updating Philadelphia’s construction code to avert the same kind of accident in the future, families of the victims have been investigating the matter themselves, it seems.

The complaint in a recently filed lawsuit lays out a series of events that, the plaintiffs say, show just how deeply involved a number of entities were in the fate of building. The plaintiffs are the parents of a 24-year-old woman killed in the accident; they have named a number of entities, including the Salvation Army, as defendants in their wrongful death lawsuit.

The properties on Market Street near the thrift shop all belonged to one developer and his company. According to the complaint, the plan was to take over the area and build a new development. The problem was that the Salvation Army would not sell. The developer, apparently to bolster his arguments in favor of a sale, paid for an evaluation of the structural integrity of the Salvation Army’s building. The inspection showed that the building was in bad shape, but the developer moved ahead with demolition of the nearby buildings.

The developer took one step toward preventing damage to the thrift store. He (or his company) contacted the Salvation Army and informed the organization of his plans to take down the adjacent buildings. He also asked for access to the roof of the thrift shop.

The Salvation Army said they would “fulfill their neighborly obligations, but would work to ‘protect their investment.'” Demolition was well under way as the parties talked and emailed about the project. The developer contacted the city when it was unable to get straight answers out of the Salvation Army, as the demolition continued. That apparently opened a door to communication, and the parties started to discuss the matter more seriously.

Perhaps, however, the Salvation Army was not as serious as it should have been.

We’ll finish this up in our next post.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Salvation Army Faces Wrongful Death Claim,” Cheryl Armstrong, Sept. 20, 2013