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Building in downtown Cedar Rapids that saw partial facade collapse Friday is being evaluated, city says

The collapse seriously damaged one vehicle, no one was injured

Bricks and debris lie on the pavement near the corner of Third Street and Fourth Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sat
Bricks and debris lie on the pavement near the corner of Third Street and Fourth Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Saturday, July 25, 2020. A parked vehicle along the street was severely damaged by debris. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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A portion of Third Street SE and its sidewalk in downtown Cedar Rapids remain closed Monday as contractors investigate what caused the partial collapse of a building at the corner of Fourth Ave. SE.

Portions of the building’s brick facade pulled away from the structure, causing an avalanche of brick to tumble to the ground, severely damaging a vehicle that was parked out front, according Emily Breen, a city spokeswoman.

The structure of the building itself — which houses a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop on the ground floor — is believed to be sound, Breen said.

“The owner will be required to have an engineer or architect inspect the facility to determine cause and potential repairs, and to help avoid future failures,” Breen told The Gazette in an email Monday.

“The owner has already had an engineer on site to investigate the failure, and a masonry contractor will also be on site to study repairs, based upon the recommendations from the engineer. The property owner is taking all the necessary steps at this point.”

The owner, Steve Emerson, president of Aspect Inc., also is responsible for clearing the debris.

According to a news release from the city, collapse occurred at 10:45 p.m. Friday. A caller to the 911 emergency phone line said it sounded like an explosion when the bricks hit the streets, according to the Public Safety department.

Preliminary information is that the front brick and decoration on the building released and fell from the seventh floor and above, according to a news release from the city.

This is the second incident in of things falling from downtown buildings Cedar Rapids has seen in the past year.

On May 15, 2019, glass fell from a window in the northwest corner of the top floor of the CRST Center, 201 First St. SE, onto the Second Avenue Bridge shortly after 6 p.m.

No one was hurt, and no vehicles were damaged, officials said.

Cedar Rapids police blocked off the Second Avenue Bridge and the surrounding area to make sure no one would be injured or that it became a traffic hazard, public safety spokesman Greg Buelow said.

The building has a facade with a large amount of glass. The windows have two panes — an interior and an exterior — and it was glass from the exterior pane that fell, while the interior remained intact, Amanda McKnight, property manager for Ryan Companies, told The Gazette last year.

The shattered glass had been cleaned up from the street and the window replaced by late the following morning.

McKnight said to the best of her knowledge, most people in the building had gone home for the day and no one was inside the room — a Bankers Trust conference room — when the glass fell.

McKnight said it still is too soon to speculate what may have caused it. A person who works in the building was leaving and noticed the glass on the ground. She notified the company’s emergency line, McKnight said.

The Gazette reached out to Ryan Companies Monday to request an update on what caused the glass to fall, but has not received a response.

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The $37 million, 113,000-square-foot building opened to fanfare in 2016 as one of the first major private sector projects downtown after the 2008 flood.

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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