Damning Building Collapse Emails Reveal…Well, Everyone’s to Blame

Sunday’s Inquirer featured a long, investigative tick-tock of previously unreleased emails and correspondence between two central players in the Market Street building collapse: Demolition contractor STB Investments Corp. and the Salvation Army. The piece reveals that both sides were acutely aware of the danger posed by the pending demolition, foreshadowing the eventual tragedy with eerie, but wasted, prescience. Here’s a rundown.

  • The Salvation Army did not want STB demolishing its next-door neighbor until a legal agreement was reached concerning some of the shakier aspects of the job–including protection of the thrift store roof.
  • STB appeared to agree in principle and promised to use safety precautions (net over roof, manual demolition) that it never ended up using.
  • The reason for this, it seems, is that a legal agreement between the two parties was never reached, and STB, unwilling to wait for one, proceeded with the demolition. STB also sent repeated, pleading emails to the Salvation Army in an attempt to reach such an agreement, warning that whatever demolition it did choose to engage in could pose grave danger to the building and its customers.
  • The property manager for 2136-38 Market also sent messages to the city begging City Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger to coax a legal agreement out of the Salvation Army, which he said created a “situation that poses a threat to life and limb.”

In sum, STB and co. thought the Salvation Army was dragging its heels on legal negotiations concerning the demolition. It needed Salvo’s permission, for example, to put up the protective net the two sides had discussed. But instead of waiting to resolve the matter, and despite its own concerns about the safety of its own project, STB went ahead with the demolition. The city, for its part, says it urged the two sides to come to an agreement, but didn’t step in further. [Inquirer]