In the short time since we turned the calendar over to 2013, two downtown buildings have collapsed.
First, it was the historic Greensfelder building at 313 E. Market St. Collapsing Jan. 30, it was soon demolished after crews found the structure couldn’t be stabilized.
Then, just last week, the building at 208 N. Sixth St. was demolished after a portion of it collapsed.
What do these two situations have in common?
They could have played out much differently, but we’ve been lucky — lucky no one was inside the structures at the time of their collapse or happened to be the poor soul walking nearby when the walls started coming down.
But, luck runs out.
If you guessed the commonality is that both buildings were really old, you’d be right, too. With 100- and 125-year-old buildings sprinkled throughout the downtown landscape, we’re glad to see the city is taking notice of the problem.
Building Commissioner Bill Drinkwine told us last week the city is working to establish a regular inspection schedule for the privately owned properties. It’s necessity has become painfully obvious. Frankly, it’s something we were surprised wasn’t already in place.
The city plans to inspect the older properties in the future. That future needs to be sooner rather than later.
We understand it’s not what city officials had planned for their time and resources at this juncture, but sometimes plans have to change, especially when public safety is at stake.
And while we believe establishing a schedule for regular inspections is in order, we believe emergency action is required now. As soon as possible, since they pose the greatest risk, we would like to see multi-story structures be inspected.
The city is constrained not only by lack of time and money, but also by hurdles that crop up with these privately owned properties.
But city officials tell us they can inspect and cite for violations. That’s as fine a place to start as any. And while an inspection might not get the building fixed or at the very least maintained by the owner, it will let us know when a collapse could be imminent. We could then take preventative measures to keep everyone safe.
And furthermore, if it gets to the point of collapse, there’s less chance of saving the building. And at the rate which we’re losing historic buildings downtown, we need action now.