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Shirt Corner

Third Street fives minutes after the wall came down

[Updated 4:30 p.m.]

A wall of the old “Shirt Corner” building at 3rd & Market St collapsed onto the street at about 1:30 p.m. today. The complex of buildings had been under demolition for some time, with crews working from east to west, fencing off access on both Market and 3rd Streets. The wall that came down today, however, was on the building’s west side, which faces 3rd Street.

The Philadelphia Business Journal has reporting that the demolition crew, Constructure Management, said that the event was a “controlled demolition,” and that a managing parter of the firm in charge told them that “We would have liked to keep the debris off the street but sometimes these things happen and we had taken necessary precautions in advance.”

Updated: A spokesperson for the Alterra Property Group in charge of the project told AxisPhilly that the “collapse” was controlled, and that both sides of the street had been closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

But a witness to the event contradicts that story. Russ Thompson, who was standing on the sidewalk on the west side of 3rd Street, says that the street was open, the crew was nowhere to be seen on 3rd Street, and that he saw pedestrians walking along 3rd street in the moment the wall came down.

“I saw one woman running,” says Thompson, who also says that it was only after the wall fell that the crew came “rushing” around from the other side of the building, where a demolition crane had been taking down the eastern wall that morning.

Thompson says he believes the wall opposite that activity collapsed westward and caused a domino effect that spilled onto the street. Thompson took photos moments later, posted below, which show rubble having spilled all the way to the sidewalk on which he was standing, and which was not barricaded.

“I guarantee you,” he says,  that the crew did not expect the incident.

3rd & Market, moments after a wall fell. Photo by Russ Thompson

3rd & Market, moments after a wall fell. Photo by Russ Thompson

Thompson’s account is backed up by that of a site superintendent, who told the Inquirer that the work on the eastern side caused a “domino” effect that was not anticipated.

The collapse brought Fire Department crews to the scene within moments after the sound of the crash reverberated through the neighborhood.  There were no emergency medical services vehicles on the scene.

A photo taken by AxisPhilly about 5 minutes after the event shows debris spilling far past the barriers put up by the crew, spilling out onto the street and, to a much lesser extent, onto the opposite sidewalk, which was open to pedestrian traffic.

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The same view one hour later, with some debris cleared and safety barriers moved

The orange barriers have since been placed along the opposite sidewalk (below), closing off the entire street, but they were moved only after the rubble fell.

Follow Isaiah Thompson on Twitter.