Sidewalks closed after bricks fall off downtown Springfield building

6:26 p.m Wednesday, May 17, 2017 Community News

Sidewalks have been closed on parts of Main and Fisher streets in downtown Springfield because of safety concerns about the facade of Hull Plaza, city leaders said Wednesday.

The property owner said he hadn’t been notified about the issue.

Building inspectors were at the 4 W. Main St. office building Wednesday after a large section of facade fell off Tuesday, Springfield Community Development Director Shannon Meadows said.

RELATED: Renovations begin at prominent downtown Springfield building

The city’s main concern is the health and safety of pedestrians and drivers, Meadows said.

“A small brick falling from eight stories in the air gets enough velocity that it can be very significant damage to an individual,” she said.

It could also cause a traffic accident, she said, or property damage.

The city first issued orders to repair the building’s facade in April 2016. The building’s overall structure doesn’t appear to be threatened, Meadows said.

“The facade is what we are concerned about,” she said.

Property owner Robert Hull said this was the first he heard of problems with the facade.

“I will work with the city to get this resolved,” he said. “That’s all I can do at this point. I don’t really know what they’re doing or what’s going on.”

He was unaware the building would be inspected, he said, or that a piece of the facade had recently fallen.

The city had contacted him about a problem with bird feces, he said, that they were in process of fixing.

Springfield Chief Building Official Jene Gaver used a cherry picker truck on Wednesday to check the building.

“You’ve got mortar that’s deteriorated. You’ve got brick that’s cracked,” Gaver said. “And the pieces that we pulled out of there could’ve actually fallen and hit somebody on the sidewalk.”

He said he was able to pull a brick from the fourth floor with his hands.

“We saw that it separated in spots and that some of the brick is pushing out and cracking,” Gaver said.

The damage is likely caused by the changing of the seasons over time, he said, which causes repeated freezing and thawing. The property owner will likely need to pull some brick out and re-lay it to make repairs, he said.

The closed sidewalks were a shock to Wittenberg student Derek Williams, who was getting his haircut at a barbershop in the building when building inspectors showed up.

“It’s scary,” Williams said. “I was walking out on the sidewalk like 15 minutes before it happened.”

He thought several buildings downtown could be dangers because of their age, he said.

“There needs to be some work done on some of these buildings,” he said.

Meadows will review the building inspection results with other city departments to determine the next steps to make sure it’s safe. It’s unknown the the sidewalks will reopen.

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