With projected to hit the Massachusetts area on Sunday, the in downtown Stoughton, adjacent to Malcolm and Parsons Insurance Agency, becomes an increased safety risk, according to building commissioner Thomas McGrath.
McGrath called the set of former storefronts at 762 Washington Street the “most vulnerable building” in town.
“It won’t take 100-mile winds to take that down,” he said.
The building, the former site of the Cheng-Du Restaurant, had been vacant since a three-alarm fire caused extensive damage in October of 2009. Then, in late January of this year, due to heavy snow.
Shortly thereafter, the front wall of this building was given support with wooden braces and a fence on the roadway was put up to give pedestrians a place to walk since the sidewalk was blocked off.
Of particular concern is the front wall of the former storefronts, which faces the street. McGrath, and Bob Grover before him, have been working for the last number of months with the buildings owner, the Freeman Corporation, which is owned by David Parsons of Malcolm and Parsons Insurance, to try to have that wall taken down.
McGrath said the temporary fence is not likely to cause damage—he is most concerned with how the front wall will withstand hurricane winds.
“With serious weather, [the front wall] is likely to come down,” he said.
McGrath started working for the town on July 18. He said the week before his arrival, interim building commissioner Bob Grover sent a letter to Parsons saying that the wall was unsafe and needed to be addressed.
A permit has been pulled for selective demolition, McGrath said. But, not a lot of progress has been made. McGrath said two independent engineers have determined the wall was “beyond saving” and it was not practical to keep it in its current condition.
“I haven’t been here that long, [but I have] spent a lot of effort trying to get it taken care of in a reasonable way,” McGrath said.
He indicated the lack of progress has left him “frustrated as of late.”
McGrath said he is “trying to get some type of assurance” that the wall will be taken down before the weekend. He did not want to predict whether or not that would be the case, but said it is only a “slim” possibility.
McGrath said it is also a possibility to look into further bracing the wall before the storm.
Irene’s current projected track, according to WBZ-TV, has the eye of the storm crossing over Western Massachusetts, with the heaviest rains to the west of the eye and the strongest winds to the east of the eye. Irene is expected to hit Massachusetts as either a category 1 hurricane or tropical storm sometime on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the wall came down [as a result of the storm],” McGrath said.