UPDATED: Old City wall collapse was accident during controlled demolition, with no injuries reported

The scene of the collapse of the Shirt Corner building at 3rd and Market in Old City.
The scene of the collapse of the Shirt Corner building at Third and Market in Old City. Credit: Charles Mostoller/METRO

Contractors and L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams said today that safety precautions were in place at the site of a demolition in Old City which experienced a wall collapse today just after 1 p.m. in the afternoon.

Leo Addimando, a representative of 259 Market Street Partners LP, the group that bought the structures at the former Shirt Corner, said contractors had earlier warned about just such a collapse occurring, leading to precautions being taken including closing the entire block of North 3rd Street to pedestrians and vehicles before demolition went underway.

“Although not foreseen, this was something we knew was a possibility,” Addimando said, explaining that at the time demolition was underway and caused this partial collapse, the entire block of Third Street was blocked off to all traffic, and Market halfway to Second Street, he said.

Addimando explained that demolition on a taller structure accidentally knocked debris onto an adjacent, lower part of the structure being demolished, causing that structure’s wall to collapse into Third Street.

“As we tried to remove the top two floors of 257 Market … in the process of doing, that a portion of that building buckled and fell onto 259 Market to the west,” Addimando said. “That building then crumbled under the weight of the debris from above, fell through the sidewalk protection
and probably went a third of the way into Third Street.”

Carlton Williams, commissioner of Philadelphia's Department of Licenses and Inspections, speaks on the wall collapse today, with owners' representative Leo Addimando at right in green. Credit: Sam Newhouse/Metro
Carlton Williams, commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections, speaks on the wall collapse today, with owners’ representative Leo Addimando at right in green. Credit: Sam Newhouse/Metro

Wayne Dunlop, a contractor with Constructure Management who was overseeing the demolition, said that the party wall between 257 and 259 Market streets was 40 feet high and eight inches thick, and presented concerns that they responded to by setting up a safe area around the project.

There was a “chance that instead of the wall tipping to the east, it could tip west or tip down which could cause things to go to Third Street,” Dunlop said. “Recognizing that concern, we went to the north of Third street and Market street and closed them to pedestrian and vehicular traffic, to ensure that if something did happen it would be a controlled situation.”

“Unfortunately, the worst case did happen, the collapse did occur, but it was a controlled collapse,” Dunlop added.

However, Axis Philly has reported that witnesses saw the street open to traffic at the time the collapse occurred. A witness quoted in the story states that North Third Street was open to pedestrians when the wall collapsed onto the street.

Reporter Jared Shelley of the Philadelphia Business Journal asserted that he too saw the street open at the time of the accident.

But Addimando asserted that North Third Street and part of Market Street was definitely closed, as did L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams. Addimando didn’t know at what exact times the street was closed, but said it was definitely closed when the collapse occurred.

“The spotters were there making sure that no one walked on either side of Third Street, that no cars went north on Third Street. This was not necessary during all of today’s work,” Addimando said. “When we went to take the top of this building down we prohibited any car or person to go on Third Street and to be on the north side of Market Street.”

The demolition began on Feb. 24, L&I said. Demolition had previously been ordered in January by L&I inspectors who determined the building was in imminent danger.


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