Engineer's report: Thompson Block masonry could topple into Cross Street
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
A new report conducted by an independent engineer says a portion of the Thompson Block building could collapse into Cross Street.
The report also detailed extensive damage to portions of the exterior walls and recommended 70 percent of the west wall and 40 percent of the south wall be demolished and replaced.
The city and developer Stewart Beal are currently in court-ordered facilitation over a dispute on how to proceed with reconstruction of the historic structure, which was significantly damaged in a fire last September.
Ypsilanti Assistant City Attorney Karl Barr said the report confirms what the city has already known and serves as further evidence that the building is unsafe.
“It just provides a lot of detail to what everyone can tell when walking by the building,” he said.
Beal said he hasn't seen the report and declined to comment on its specifics. But he said his engineers’ own assessments, which were provided to the city, found the shoring system to be stable.
Beal added his own construction experts have said a rebuild of the structure is possible without demolishing any exterior walls.
The report states if the eastern end of the south wall, which has no bracing, collapses toward the south, it “presents a hazardous condition in that some of the masonry would fall outside of the current protective barrier fencing.”
The engineers found “significant structural distress” in that portion of the wall, including collapsed masonry, laterally displaced portions of masonry, cracked bricks, missing bricks, joint separations and bond separations between the mortar and brick units.
One-quarter of the south wall's eastern end, where the building is two stories instead of three, has already collapsed, the report says. Due to the complexity and cost of restoration, WJE recommended demolishing and rebuilding that section of the wall.
Some of the same problems were found on the southern wall’s west end, but the issues aren’t as significant and are more localized, the report says. It concluded restoration without demolition could be possible in that section.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
WJE also found significant issues with the southern and central sections of the west wall, which faces River Street. Of particular concern is deflection in timber lintels above the first-floor store windows, the report says.
According to the report, the timber lintels support 25 feet of masonry above the windows and sustained significant damage in the fire. Citing the complexity of repairing the lintels, the report recommended demolishing and replacing the wall.
The northern portion of the west wall was found to contain relatively little damage, according to the report, and could be used in further construction with some restoration. Barr said WJE did not assess the north and east walls because they weren't as badly damaged and aren't as close to the streets.
Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber said the city needs to ask Beal to stabilize the section of the building that could fall into Cross Street.
“Hopefully he will do that,” Schreiber said. “If not, I think we will have a much better chance in court.”
Beal said the building is in no danger of collapsing and vowed to finish the project.
"We're going to rebuild the structure as is," he said. "The construction experts say it can be done, and with the time and resources, it can be accomplished."
A facilitation session likely to include all City Council members, Beal, and attorneys on both sides has been delayed several weeks to Aug. 30 due to scheduling conflicts.
Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2530.