Old City building collapses; no injuries this time

Posted: March 14, 2014

THE SIGN on the fence at 3rd and Market streets in Old City reads:


Maybe they should be required everywhere in Philadelphia?

A wall of the early-19th-century building that had housed the Shirt Corner store unexpectedly buckled about 1:20 p.m. yesterday, setting off a chain reaction of collapses that generated a massive dust plume, crushed the fence surrounding the demolition site and sprayed bricks onto the sidewalk across 3rd Street.

No injuries were reported, but the building collapse - at least the sixth in Philadelphia in the last month - sent pedestrians scurrying from the intersection.

Patricia Krupa's car took a beating from falling bricks. The Port Richmond resident had parked her Lexus near the demolition site to run errands, not expecting the building to come down.

"I just went across the street, then when I turned around, bricks were coming down," Krupa said. "It scared the heck out of me."

As police arrived, demolition workers started to grab bricks off the western sidewalk of 3rd Street and throw them back onto the demolition site across the street.

"The orange pedestrian barriers were over on their side and the fence was crushed," said Chalie Stringer, who works for nearby Brandywine Construction & Management and recorded video of the collapse. "If anyone was walking there, they would have been done."

Alterra Property Group, which is developing the property, released a statement saying that the building "did in fact NOT collapse," and describing the incident as a "demolition related partially controlled building collapse." But the firm also acknowledged that the fall "was not planned."

"That's pretty damn funny," Stringer laughed. "One would think that if it was intentional, they would've knocked it the other way, onto the vacant parking lot."

L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams said demolition commenced Feb. 24, after the property was declared imminently dangerous in January. He said additional precautions were taken as a result of the Market Street demolition project that killed six people in June.

"That tragedy forced us to take a look at our operations," Williams said. "We want to take added precautions on all demolitions, so we are pleased today that the results were different than what occurred last summer."

Leo Addimando, of Alterra, said workers were trying to remove the top floors of 257 Market St. by pulling eastward when a part of the building buckled and fell on 259 Market St. to the west, causing that building to crumble.

"Although not foreseen, this was something that we knew was a possibility and we took all the necessary safety precautions," Addimando said. "Nobody got hurt."

The cloud of smoke blew onto Market Street. A security camera at Fox 29's studio showed that traffic was moving in both directions at the time of the collapse. Pedestrians were near the site. Drivers started to make U-turns as they approached.

Witnesses found it hard to believe that the demolition crew had expected such a massive collapse.

"You couldn't see anything. It was all smoke," Krupa said. "Thank God everyone was OK."

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