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VOL. 8 | NO. 31 | Saturday, July 25, 2015

Partial Roof Collapse Revives Concern For Downtown Memphis Eyesore

By Bill Dries

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A hard rain Thursday, July 23, has put a problem property on the Main Street Mall’s “demonstration block” back in the public eye and potentially back in court.

The roof of 107 S. Main partially collapsed Thursday in a rain storm raising new concerns about the stability of the long vacant four-story structure on the Downtown demonstration block.

(Andrew J. Breig)

During the Thursday afternoon rain that flooded streets and briefly knocked out electricity across Downtown Memphis, the roof of the four-story building at 107 S. Main partially collapsed and a water pipe burst.

The city and the Downtown Memphis Commission filed suit this past March in General Sessions Environmental Court against Long Development LLC, the owner of the vacant, 115-year-old property.

The suit alleged the building was in such poor shape that water was seeping through the walls and damaging the buildings on either side. The lawsuit has an August trial date, but DMC president Paul Morris contacted city inspectors after Thursday’s storm.

“We might be going to court on Monday. We haven’t made that decision,” Morris said. “The city has authority to take action without going to court. We’ve shared our concerns with the city and are trusting the city to take necessary actions.”

The circa-1910 row building is in the demonstration block, once a block of mostly vacant buildings that the Downtown Memphis Commission made a priority for redevelopment.

Morris said development next to the building took time because of the condition of the 107 S. Main property, including some indication the front part of the building has become “a little bit unbuckled from the rest of the building.

“It is a blighted building. We’ve been alleging for a long time – and it is – harmful to the neighborhood because it’s blighted and it’s potentially dangerous,” he said. “With the cave-in of the roof Thursday, which we realized was a risk, the sprinkler system busted and the water flowed through and went to the neighboring property and damaged some of their property.”

A neighbor turned off water to the sprinkler system.

“When the sprinklers go off it’s supposed to send an alert to the fire department. But it didn’t,” Morris said. “The only way we knew about it is because we happen to have been successful in redeveloping the rest of the block. We’ve got a lot of neighbors around who noticed it and called the fire department.”

Following the filing of the lawsuit in March, the owner, Allan H. Long of Memphis, and the DMC each had their own experts inspect the building. The two experts agreed the building was generally in poor condition then but disagreed on its stability.

Engineer Robert E. McCaskill’s opinion for the DMC noted that “the roof is ineffective and leaks are numerous.”

“The building, while not in eminent danger of collapse except in the presence of significant seismic event or wind storm, is in a state of progressive collapse,” McCaskill added in the April 20 written report. “This by definition suggests that unless action is soon taken toward restoration, structural collapse becomes likely.”

PROPERTY SALES 36 154 6,546
MORTGAGES 34 94 4,129
BUILDING PERMITS 201 554 15,915
BANKRUPTCIES 43 126 3,396