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With Hurricane Irene Nearing, Town Has Eye on Collapsed Downtown Building

Building commissioner Thomas McGrath said the front wall of the collapsed building on Washington Street is unlikely to withstand hurricane force winds.

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.

Heather August 26, 2011 at 12:40 PM
It blows my mind that this building is still standing. It has been nearly 2 years since the original fire, and another 8 months since the roof came down. Why the heck hasn't the building been taken down. If Malcolm and Parsons can't handle this problem I certainly wouldn't trust them with my insurance.
Sarah August 26, 2011 at 12:48 PM
I agree, Heather. This should have been taken care of months ago. I had a 2 story barn taken down on our property a few years ago (about the size of a 4 car garage). It was situated within inches of our house, a neighbor's fence, and another neighbor's garage, so it needed to be taken down with care. It was fully demolished, removed, cleaned, and ground filled and graded in less than a week's time. There is NO reason that removal of this building should take more than a month at most. And, if this is being held up because of insurance issues, then I would most definitely not want to have my insurance handled by M&P. Does it take them a year to settle all claims?? It is unsightly, dangerous, and shows a lack of respect and care for the town of Stoughton.
ET17 August 26, 2011 at 01:07 PM
It's an eyesore and dangerous!! This is the town's center and it's embarrassing.
Fiscal Conservative August 26, 2011 at 01:19 PM
Free demolition. What else could the owner ask for? Great way to save $$$. You, know, we are in tough economic times, every penny saved counts. Great job owner, if it works out for you!!!
Laura August 26, 2011 at 03:06 PM
When it involves public safety, does the town have the authority to demolish it and send the bill to the owner? If this falls during the storm, it could hinder fire trucks (coming from the station around the corner) from driving through the center of town. I wonder if M&P realizes how badly this reflects on their primary business?
Fiscal Conservative August 26, 2011 at 04:16 PM
ET17---Hate to say it....the WHOLE center is an eyesore & embarrassment. Maybe, just maybe, the storm could "change" the center for the better. Did you ever think of that?
lowertaxes August 26, 2011 at 04:56 PM
Just drove by the building and saw the sign on it that reads "Don't just hope you have insurance" which is then followed by a sign for Malcom and Parsons. Hmm, M&P not have insurance cause they obviously haven't used it. Also, there is a nece section of brink up in the top corner that I noticed that looks like it is begging for Irene to blow it into the street.
Longtime Resident August 27, 2011 at 12:05 AM
Two friends of one of my kids (who are from New Jersy) drove thru Stoughton center the other day - their comment? "What a slum." This building block is an eyesore and a disgrace. It is tough to let some of the old buildings go, but it is obvious these two are not going to be saved. I hope Mother Nature takes care of the problem since no one has so far who should. And send the clean-up bill to M&P's insurance company.

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