Was Shirt Corner’s Collapse Planned?

Shirt Corner via Google Street View

Shirt Corner via Google Street View

The building known as Shirt Corner at Third and Market is gone, having collapsed entirely today. Its dissolution isn’t a surprise as L&I ordered it to be demolished in January and work to that end was under way. It was scheduled to be finished in a week. But was this collapse part of the demolition plan? Or was it a little hiccup in the process?

The Philadelphia Business Journal’s Jared Shelly spoke with Constructure Management’s Mark Christof, who said it was a “controlled demolition.” The Journal also got an email from Alterra’s Leo Addimando, saying the “collapse” was “all planned and blessed by L&I and the fire department. We would have liked to keep the debris off the street but sometimes these things happen and we had taken necessary precautions in advance. No cause for alarm.”

Yet alarm was caused, as police and fire vehicles came to the scene, unaware of the plan. (Alarm was also raised on social media, surprisingly.)

An image of a proposed elevation at third and Market rendered by Coscia Moos Architecture

An image of a proposed elevation at third and Market rendered by Coscia Moos Architecture

Addimando’s plans for the 19th-century Shirt Corner buildings were well-intentioned, which makes this a doubly sad day. He had conceived a rather admirable historic restoration of the buildings (to be converted into apartments with a CVS on the ground floor). But in January L&I told Alterra that the structures were “imminently dangerous” and could not safely be reconstructed. At the time, Addimando told the Inquirer’s Inga Saffron that he was disappointed by L&I’s order, though it was his own engineering firm that first called the structural problems to the city’s attention:

“I went into this with the intention of saving these buildings,” said Addimando, who serves as vice chairman of the Preservation Alliance, an advocacy group. “But I’ve been convinced that I have no choice.”

What would have been: the rendering of Addimando's plan for the historic buildings.

What would have been: the rendering of Addimando’s plan for the historic buildings.

L&I acted quickly with Shirt Corner — a lesson learned, perhaps, from other tragedies? Given this week’s blistering Inquirer editorial — “License to neglect” — we can only hope so.

Busy week for L&I, by the way, with an investigation into a building collapse in Strawberry Mansion.

We have a call in to Addimando. More as this develops.

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