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UPDATED: Building collapse currently attributed to removal of load-bearing wall during unauthorized work

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Lurphy DePalma

Larry Halstead is a tech nerd with an affinity for arts & sports. Reppin' the hard streets of South Asheville for almost 15 years. He's made this city home and has vowed to never stop fighting to keep it as weird & unique as possible.

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UPDATED: Mountain Xpress reports Friday that preliminary investigation by the City of Asheville “attributes the collapse to the removal of a load-bearing wall.”

Read the full Xpress article hereCity: unauthorized work led to Carolina Lane building collapse

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More on Thursday’s surprise building collapse, in which a two-story downtown brick building behind Bouchon and between North Lexington and Carolina Lane collapsed into rubble.

The building was beside Liquid Dragon tattoo parlor on the Bouchon Creperie courtyard, a semi-private courtyard abutting Scully’s and office buildings facing North Lexington and Walnut. The address seems to be is 15 Carolina Lane.

“Before” images of the building from Google Maps are here and here.

Two contractors thought possibly to be inside were not at the scene. There were no injuries in the collapse.

BACKSTORY AND EFFECTS ON NORTH LEXINGTON BUSINESS

According to Mackensy Lunsford of Asheville Scene, Bouchon owner Michel Baudouin planned to add a second-floor dining room to the building that collapsed, and demolition was partially underway. Bouchon will be open today, despite the collapse.

According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, there was no permit issued for work in the building:

“That concerns me when we have a collapse,” said Robert Griffin, director of the city Development Services Department.

“I don’t know if their work contributed to the building collapse or not,” Griffin also said. “We need to investigate that. That’s the primary concern.”

He said other agencies will probably investigate the incident as well. Any work on a commercial building requires a permit under state law, Griffin said, to protect the public.

Griffin said a stop work order was issued to J.D. Wallace and Mountain Brook Homes following the collapse. The company could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

“It’s a really serious offense for a licensed contractor to do work without a permit,” Griffin said.

Read the full Citizen-Times article here: Downtown Asheville building collapses

The Citizen-Times reports that six to 10 businesses in the North Lexington area (Mela, etc.) were directly affected, with some closing due to debris from the collapse affecting exits and seating capacity, or because they lost electricity. The collapse may have damaged electrical lines in the area.

HISTORY

Reader Jenny Bowen writes on Facebook that the building once housed the Asheville Postcard Company:

From a local history point of view, the loss this old building is actually very tragic.

The building once housed the Asheville Postcard Company, which greatly influenced our town’s history as a tourist destination – especially during the tumultuous times of the Great Depression.

My personal feelings aside, I hope the City of Asheville goes through a thorough due process of holding responsible parties accountable.

EYEWITNESS PHOTOS

Graphic designer Jay Smilanic, who works nearby, posted to Facebook that the collapse felt like a small earthquake. His photo of the scene on Thursday:

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Photo by Jay Smilanic

“Our office shook, then came the sirens,” wrote Smilanic’s co-worker Jessica Stouder on Facebook, minutes after the collapse.

Here’s her photograph of the collapsed building.

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Photo by Jessica Stouder

Other eyewitnesses reported a billow of what looked like smoke, but was actually dust, just after the collapse.

Music promoter and downtown CEO/entrepreneur Sean O’Connell was an eyewitness to the collapse. He took this photo from Carolina Lane:

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Photo by Sean O’Connell

Did you see or hear yesterday’s collapse? Share your information and photographs here.

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Lurphy DePalma

Larry Halstead is a tech nerd with an affinity for arts & sports. Reppin' the hard streets of South Asheville for almost 15 years. He's made this city home and has vowed to never stop fighting to keep it as weird & unique as possible.

  • 1

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11 Comments

  1. Jon Elliston January 26, 2013

    I’m pretty sure the Asheville Postcard Company was a couple doors down, at 31 Carolina Lane.

    Reply
    1. Jon Elliston January 26, 2013

      But Jenny’s since informed me that the building that went down had some old markings on it from the postcard company — so maybe that was in fact the building and the street addresses were changed over time.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer Saylor January 26, 2013

        You’re on the spot, Elliston. Thanks for your updates.

        Reply
  2. Pete January 26, 2013

    I know who won’t be building my next home!

    Reply
  3. Radio Follower January 26, 2013

    Yeah, I would think that the property owner…not the person leasing the building (Michel)…is responsible.

    Reply
  4. Rebel January 25, 2013

    Michel may not be responsible. The property owner could have hired the contractor. The contractor is certainly responsible- he may have told whoever hired him that he would pull all permits and then didn’t. But someone’s insurance should absolutely take care of lost income. Then again, if contractor was working illegally, insurance will probably deny the claim. What a cluster. Someone needs to man up.

    Reply
  5. Murphy January 25, 2013

    Michel Baudouin, as owner, should be held fully responsible for the damage(s) and revenues (including employee wages) lost as a result to all the businesses in the area as well – and for starting renovations without the proper permits …

    the “contractor” should have had enough sense to spot a “load-bearing wall” …
    aren’t contractors granted licenses by the city/county?

    Reply
    1. Patrick January 25, 2013

      The owner is responsible?

      This is an observation based upon the article above. Things and information can and often do change. When an owner hires a licensed contractor to do a job, they should expect that permits will be pulled and quality work will be completed. How is the owner responsible for this? If the removal of a load-bearing wall caused this, the contractor holds full responsibility for the accident. If you hire a taxi cab to drive you to the airport and they run over a pedestrian, are you responsible?

      Reply
      1. Murphy January 25, 2013

        you have a point, I was going with: “Bouchon owner Michel Baudouin planned to add a second-floor dining room to the building that collapsed, and demolition was partially underway…” time wil tell.

        Reply
    2. Lane Spahr January 26, 2013

      Primarily, the Contractor will be responsible. The State licenses all types of contractors, not the city or county. However if there was some collusion, other parties (persons leasing the space or the building owner) could also be held responsible. The contractor shouldnt rely on ‘common’ sense,but training/ experience. The contractor pulls the permits with city, submits plans to the city where a city engineer approves/ doesnt approve the plans. Then work can commence.

      Layna
      Handyman Services

      Reply
  6. Doug Sahm January 25, 2013

    No permit?? Wow, someone is in a whole heap of trouble. Excuse the pun.

    Reply

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