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Unstable Billboard Bumps Up Demolition in Columbus

Mon October 24, 2005 - Midwest Edition
Linda J. Hutchinson



Demolition plans for a vacant building were accelerated around 4:15 p.m. on Oct. 6 after chunks of an attached billboard crashed through its roof, causing it to implode.

The building, located at the northeast corner of Broad and High streets in Columbus, OH, is part of the multi-building, $30 million reconstruction project by Columbus real-estate company, Casto. Rush hour traffic at the busy intersection was stalled while crews from Loewendick Demolition Contractors raced to stabilize the building.

The former home of Roy’s Jewelers began to collapse as crews used a torch to dismantle the metal frame of the billboard that had been perched atop the building. The roof collapsed after heavy chunks fell from the billboard. Large pieces of the roof could be seen crashing downward, breaking windows and sending dust clouds into the air as it went.

“Luckily, it went down into the building and not into the street,” said Columbus Police spokeswoman Betty Schwab. When the roof collapsed there were fears the whole building would come crashing down on pedestrians and drivers at one of the busiest intersections in the downtown area.

Dave Loewendick of Loewendick Demolition Contractors said the main concern was that there was too much weight and the company would have to pick it off in chunks. A Link-Belt HC-218 crane was moved up the street from another of Loewendick’s demolition sites, along with a 3400 trackhoe, Komatsu D75S and Quantum 2650. Amid fears of further collapse, other heavy equipment was placed at the rear of the building to begin taking it down piece by piece.

“Nothing fell into the street, but one of the walls is bowing,” Schwab said. Police and officials with S.G. and Sons Loewendick Co. worked together to decide what action to take. Heavy afternoon traffic was redirected around the closed-off area.

The 100-year old building was to be torn down on Oct. 10 and had been condemned according to Ben Moore, an employee of Schracorp Commercial Services, which is housed in an adjacent building.

“You should have seen the 1913 crane with the pony motor they used to start the bigger equipment,” he said from the back steps of his office where only rubble remained behind a short wall a few feet away. “Pillars were holding the building up.”

On the night of Oct. 6, one lane was closed going north on High Street and west on Broad Street. The area was closed off completely at 7 p.m. so crews could complete the demolition during the night.

The cordoned off area encompassed High, Gay, Broad, State, Front and 3rd streets. Motorists who would be coming into the downtown area the following morning were urged to allow extra time to maneuver around the affected area. CEG