In the immediate aftermath of the Market Street building collapse, our esteemed editor Joey Sweeney took a look at some of the darkness stemming from the whole situation. Not a lot of new info has come out since then, but each trickle unveils its own shadow of mistakes and wrong decisions. The latest in the line of these disappointments comes from the owners of the building that was being demolished.
According to The Inquirer, the owners of that building — via their property manager — had been telling anyone that would listen that the situation at the site could pose “a threat to life and limb.” Specifically, the “situation” at hand was an impasse in negotiations with the Salvation Army, which would eventually end in disaster. But that warning (or even show of concern) did not stop the work from being done. The Inky goes on, saying:
STB Investments Corp., the owner of 2136-38 Market St., promised a safer demolition procedure than it actually used, and it pushed forward with the demolition despite its own warnings and still-unresolved negotiations with the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army was seeking assurances that demolition would not proceed until a legal agreement was reached about several issues, including protection for the thrift store roof, partial removal of a chimney on the thrift store, and repairs to the common wall and the sidewalk.”
Also according to the paper, the day before the collapse, a lawyer for the Salvation Army was pressing for “assurances from STB’s lawyer that STB would protect the thrift store, unaware that two days earlier, STB’s contractor had brought in heavy machinery to demolish the adjacent building.”
So, just so you can be clear on this, since it took us a second, here’s what is going on here: The owners of the collapsed building at 2136-38 Market Street were telling the city that if work continued as it was going, it could be dangerous to anyone in the area, specifically those in the Salvation Army store. However, that was not enough for them to stop work, or even proceed with caution, instead deciding to go full-speed-ahead, flying arrogantly in the face of their own estimations.
The Salvation Army, it seems, was more concerned about the vibrations from demolition causing damage to displayed items in the store, and was informed by STB that the demo procedures would “safeguard the interests of the public, the Salvation Army, and STB Corp. and allow the demolition to proceed without delay.” Those procedures?
The roof of 2140 Market Street [the thrift store] will be covered with a tarp and on top of the tarp plywood will be laid,” STB attorney Oshtry wrote in the two letters to Nudel, the Harrisburg-based attorney for the Salvation Army. “This will protect the roof if any debris fall on the roof area.”
There is much more at The Inquirer, including broken promises to demolish the wall adjacent to the thrift store by hand, the ignored assurance that no more work would be done until a legal agreement was reached, and the possible ignoring of correspondences on the side of the Salvation Army. But the more we learn about this whole thing, the more we realize that darkness surrounded this whole thing, and fault can be spread far and wide.