Aviles Street building being evaluated for structural soundness

The City of St. Augustine’s Planning and Building Department reported to Historic City News and local media that they were notified late on Tuesday, July 3, that the project team working on the rehabilitation of a commercial building at 9 Aviles Street had developed “concerns” regarding the building’s stability.

Photo credits: © 2018 photographs by Historic City News

After concerns expressed to our reporters described contractors entering the building, day or night, to weaken the load-bearing walls by punching holes in them, we immediately had flashbacks of Len Weeks and the Pedro Fornells house after Weeks’ crew dug out the footings; leading to the inevitable collapse of the building.

Editor Michael Gold requested a call from the building inspector Monday after we heard that neighbors believed this 1911 building needed protection from the new owner. We alerted David Birchim that we suspected that this building was going to make its way to the St Johns County landfill if someone did not intervene. The building is currently unoccupied.

As of July 3, 2018, the structural engineer assessment is as follows:

“It has become clear that the building’s roof and walls are in such poor condition that it would be dangerous for field personnel to work inside the building during any shoring operation. All of the building walls are severely deteriorated from rot and water damage.”

The front façade, including the roof to front wall framing intersections are so severely rotted that the front wall plane has recently shifted to the west cracking the front wall and parapet stucco. This is an integral connection between the roof and wall that has been completely compromised by rot.

Any accidental sudden impact of the wall structure could cause the roof to collapse. Given the small site constraints and limited access in and out of the building, it would be impossible to control a safe work area to stage and install the necessary shoring.

It is the recommendation of the structural engineer, construction company, and city officials that the building be demolished as soon as possible in a controlled manner to avoid any damage to adjoining buildings, field personnel and pedestrians.

The permit process is occurring the morning of July 5, 2018.

The St Augustine Police, HARB, St Johns code enforcement, city inspectors, structural engineers and our architect are all in the loop in this step by step process.

We are working through every step to do things properly.

Safety is the main concern right now and it trumps all other items.

Birchim replied to us when we asked if the city had issued a “stop work” order, saying, “No, they have an active building permit and we did not stop them from repairing and shoring up the building.” This morning, still unsatisfied, we went to the property that had been cordoned off with police tape.

City Inspector Richard Schauland contacted us.  We learned the following about the current arrangement:

A set date was not given to the owner to get the walls shored up.  We are told that he understands the safety issues involved and he’s eager to get it shored up. Since we met last week, he has been moving forward and has kept us informed.

Brandon Construction was supposed to meet an engineer on site today so that the engineer could assess the situation and instruct the contractor on how it needed to be done. The contractor is supposed to start work after the meeting. We will be reaching out tomorrow to see where they are in the process.

We found the building empty, nobody in hard hats. AND, we reached out to the building department in search of any news to report.

“In an abundance of caution for public safety and given the nature of Aviles Street, a single lane, narrow street and the route of sightseeing vehicles, the street was closed to vehicular traffic until evaluations can be made by structural engineers as to the safety of the building,” a prepared statement from City Manager John Regan said. “These evaluations are currently underway.”

Additional information will be forthcoming from the City Manager’s office after the condition of the building is fully evaluated. In the meantime, the City Manager has ordered that Aviles Street between King Street and Cadiz Street remain closed to vehicular traffic but is open to pedestrians and all businesses along the street are open.