One going down, one staying up

A section of the roofline of the building at 80 Elm Street over the storefront closest to the Block building bulges out and leans over the Elm Street sidewalk. A contractor is scheduled to stabilize the roofline early next week. (Photo by Carl E. Hartdegen)

WESTFIELD – A city contractor is expected to begin work to demolish the city-owned Block Building at 94 Elm Street on Tuesday, while a private contractor begins work at about the same time to stabilize a wall of the adjacent building at 80 Elm Street.
The two buildings were discovered to be problems on Wednesday when police reported that bricks were falling into Arnold Street from the Block Building. The ensuing inspection revealed that both the buildings were structurally unstable.
After the bricks started to fall, building inspector Jonathan Flagg inspected and found that bricks were so loose on the north wall of the Block Building that he could see them move in response to passing vehicles.
He reported to the mayor that the building was “in danger of immediate collapse” and also raised questions about the safety of the adjacent building, which is owned by Hampden Bank.
A section of the front wall of that building leans out over the Elm Street sidewalk.
The two buildings have long been eyed for demolition to make way for a redevelopment project, which includes an inter-modal transportation center. The city has title to only one of them.
The single story building next to the Block Building on the corner of Elm and Arnold streets is owned by the bank . The city has been in negotiations to buy the property as part of the development project.
In response to Flagg’s report, Jeffrey R. Daley, the city’s advancement officer, appeared before a special meeting of the City Council Thursday evening with a request for an emergency $125,000 appropriation from the city’s stabilization fund so the building department would have money to immediately secure, as required by law, both buildings.
Daley told the councilors that while the Block Building is the city’s responsibility, the owners of the adjacent building are responsible for that building. But, given the emergency posed by the unstable building, state law requires that the city deal with it to protect the public if the bank does not present a plan to deal with problem by noon on the day after they were advised of the emergency.
Daley told the councilors that the money has to be available immediately so that the city can be able, if necessary, to demolish both buildings and deal with any environmental issues found in the privately-owned building.
The council approved the emergency appropriation.
Late Friday morning, Daley said that he had spoken with bank officials and reports “they are going to secure their facility.”
“The private contractor will go in to secure the roofline that is leaning over Elm Street (in the) early part of next week,” Daley said and went on to say that the city’s contractor will probably start to demolish the Block Building on Tuesday.
Daley declined to name the contractor, since the contracts have not yet been signed, but said “I’m guessing he will mobilize and begin preparing the site on Tuesday.”

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