September 23, 2010

No Injuries Reported After Buildings Collapse on Memphis City Square

The skyline on the south end of the east side of the Memphis City Square was dramatically changed late Thursday night when two buildings partially collapsed just before midnight.

Residents of Memphis are counting their blessings after a pair of buildings on the south corner of the east side of the city square collapsed overnight on September 16th.

An internal structural issue is being blamed for the initial collapse of the abandoned property on the corner just before midnight.

No one was injured by the collapse, which occurred just weeks after the city square had been filled for days by patrons of the annual Scotland County Antique Fair.

Law enforcement officers responded to the scene and reported the front third of the building at 134 S. Market Street to have collapsed. The disaster also claimed the front portion of the former Rodgers Jewelry store, which is located directly north of the corner building. Both structures were unoccupied at the time of the disaster.

The Rodgers building was being used for storage and also maintained an apartment that was occupied when family members were in town. The corner building was posted as an unsafe property and was in the midst of legal wranglings attempting to sort out ownership of the property.

Officers from the Memphis Police Department and the Scotland County Sheriff’s Department worked to verify that no one was in either building and that no pedestrians had been injured at the time of the building collapse, which spread across east Monroe Street. Residents from the adjoining property, owned by John Cook, escaped uninjured despite that building sustaining some structural damage as well.

Mark and Heather Lee, rent the upstairs apartment, above the Scotland County Rotary office, from the Cook family.

“I was awake, working on the computer and my wife, Heather was asleep when this terribly loud disturbance occurred,” said Mark Lee. “It reminded me of when a strong wind hits your home, forcing the whole thing to shift somewhat. But when I looked outside, there was no storm and it was calm. But the square looked different because of all of the dust.”

The couple quickly evacuated the building and identified the source of the commotion.

“I had an idea what had happened, but we were really shocked to see all of the rubble and that both buildings had come down,” Lee said.

First responders worked to shut off gas and electrical services to the Rodgers Building.

Gas meters to the site were removed, but Atmos Energy was unable to decommission the service lines to the building until Tuesday morning, September 21st, preventing demolition of the remaining structure until that time.

A structural engineer from the Continental Western Group insurance company that represents the Rodgers family, reviewed the site Friday evening and determined that both buildings posed a safety hazard and needed to completely come down.

Zimmerman’s Excavating of Rutledge prevented further damage to the square, bringing down the rest of the collapsed building on Tuesday afternoon despite precarious conditions and surroundings.

The City of Memphis is heading up the demolition and clean-up efforts. Zimmerman Excavating of Rutledge has been hired to demolish the remaining portions of both buildings, a process that began on Tuesday, September 21st.

The adjacent property will remain unoccupied until the demolition is finalized and a structural engineer can review the property to inspect the damage caused by the process.

The city will meet later this week to make plans for clean-up of the lots.

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