City needs owner input on damaged buildings

Two-month deadline for info expiring this week
Reporter Editor

City wants to act on two downtown buildings damaged when wall fell Aug. 29. Cameo Insurance (R) hasn’t been touched since. 
Reporter/MIke Brown City wants to act on two downtown buildings damaged when wall fell Aug. 29. Cameo Insurance (R) hasn’t been touched since. Reporter/MIke Brown Monday marked the deadline for downtown building owners involved in the Aug. 29 wall collapse to provide informati0n to the City of Rockdale so it can proceed with a procedure which may lead to demolition of one or both.

So far the city hasn’t heard from the owners and hasn’t even fully determined who owns the former Cameo Insurance building, the most badly damaged structure in the collapse of a 19th Century wall.

City Manager Kelvin Knauf said the first step should be for the owners, possibly in conjunction with other building owners nearby to have the structures evaluated by a structural engineer.

“That will tell us if the buildings can be restored or if they’re going to have to come down,” Knauf said. “It should also give us an indication of how much it would cost to make them safe for occupancy again. That’s information the city will need before we can proceed.”

OWNERSHIP—Knauf said the city has already been talking to the owner of the building which housed Old Tyme Friends Antiques but the Cameo Insurance building is another matter.

“We’ve been talking to three persons,” Knauf said. “That building was in the midst of an ownership change and it’s still unclear exactly who the owner is.”

Knauf said the Monday (Oct. 29) deadline wasn’t intended to rush the building owners. “We want to work with them,” he said.

“In fact, I think a lot of downtown building owners need to get together and hire a structural engineer to evaluate those buildings,” he said. “I’m not talking only those buildings and not only in that block.”

“There are a lot of buildings downtown which were constructed in that same era,” he said.

Knauf said once structural and safety information is received the matter could go before the city’s Building Standards Commission.

That could start the process to have the buildings demolished.

“That’s a long process, involving many months and procedures,” Knauf said.

COLLAPSE—On Aug. 29, part of a brick firewall fell. The structure, estimated to be well over 100 years old, extended about 3-1/2 feet above rooftops, running north and south above the block bounded by East Cameron (US 79), North Main (FM 908) and two alleys.

The first bricks fell about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, drawing volunteer firefighters, police, an AMR ambulance team and city officials to the scene.

Much of the remainder of the wall fell about 9 a.m. Aug. 30, inflicting even more damage.

No injuries were reported but there was one near miss.

Cliff’s Tavern co-owner Mark Clark had been building a new stage during the afternoon and had left the stage area just two hours before the firewall collapsed, burying the area in rubble.

Clark was also in the building the next morning when the remainder of the wall collapsed but was not near the point of impact.

DAMAGES—Both Cameo Insurance and Olde Tyme Friends Antiques closed and the antique store’s merchandise was moved from the heavily damaged building by the weekend of the collapse.

Other outcomes:

• Cliff’s Tavern, 218 North Main, re-opened after receiving the go ahead from a structural engineer and has remained open.

• Ram Optical, 208 North Main, damaged in both falls. It was repaired, re-opened and remains open.

• O’Barr-Rost Realtors, formerly at 204 North Main, moved across the street to 229 North Main and remains there. Realtor Dave Phillips told The Reporter the business was in the process of moving anyway. “That building came open and it was the plan to move there even if this incident hadn’t occurred,” he said.

• A vacant two-story building, containing an upstairs apartment at the corner of Cameron and Main, escaped serious damage. It remains unoccupied.

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