A chance

Downtown may not get another ‘hole’ as Cameo work starts

A lmost exactly 11 months after the fall of a 125-yearold brick firewall atop a downtown Rockdale block, work has begun on the most seriously damaged of the buildings involved.

A building permit was issued July 24 for what’s locally known as the Cameo Building at 113 East Cameron (US 79). The wall collapsed in two phases, Aug. 29 and 30, 2012.

What’s happened since is about as complicated as a Russian novel. It was obvious that the Cameo building was the key, since it is so closely linked to adjacent buildings, structurally, that its ultimate fate will dictate whatever happens to the rest of the half-block.

Ownership of the Cameo Building wasn’t even decided until March. By that time the wheels were already turning in the city’s procedural mechanism.

Two days later the city’s Building Standards Commission ordered the structure demolished.

A month after that, owner Gloria Thrasher appealed the decision before the city council. The council, which acts as a “judge and jury” on such appeals, sent the matter back to the Building Standards Commission.

In May, the commission met again and, for the second time, ordered the structure razed.

Thrasher appealed to the city council for a second time. There was no decision at the first meeting but a week later an evenly split council upheld the demolition order.

A month passed and in that time it apparently began to dawn on many that just tearing down the building might also result in serious structural damage to its neighbors.

One councilman reversed his vote and the building was spared. For now. The current order lets the owners proceed with renovation on a strict timetable under city supervision.

The final chapter is yet to be written. But the ultimate goal, which everyone ought to buy into, is to do everything possible to avoid having another “hole” downtown.

Why? Well, what happens when the holes meet?—M.B.

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