Report: Downtown New London building ‘structurally unsafe,’ needs work

February 2, 2019

New London — A structural engineer has determined that the partial roof collapse at 27 Bank St. has made the building structurally unsafe and “represents a significant threat for further interior collapse” if work is not done to stabilize it.

Structural Engineer Thomas Gillespie submitted a two-page summary of his findings to the city’s building department this week that shows the roof is not the only problem at the long vacant former Metropolitan Hotel. Gillespie’s visit revealed structural deterioration of the wood framing inside the building caused by excessive moisture.

A 20-by-23-foot section of the roof collapsed Jan. 24 and crashed through the wood framing below it. The three inches of roofing material was tripled in weight by about four inches of ice and is now being held up by the third-floor framing. The ice build-up likely contributed to the collapse, Gillespie wrote in his summary. A portion of the roof is held up now by a temporary shoring wall constructed on the interior Bank Street side of the building.

In Gillespie’s opinion, the exterior brick walls are not in immediate danger of collapse.

Gillespie’s report corresponds with an earlier report submitted to the city by another structural engineer that warned of continuous water intrusion contributing to the deterioration of the building and unsafe condition of the roof.

The latest report was ordered by Building Official Kirk Kripas, even as a portion of the Bank Street sidewalk was cordoned off for fear of falling debris. Gillespie said he intends to submit a structural stabilization plan to the city by Feb. 5. That plan will address the need to shore up the floors to allow personnel to enter and safeguards for removal of debris. Once the building is stabilized, the first priority is rebuilding the roof to a watertight condition.

The plan will be submitted to Kripas, who condemned the building after the collapse. No one is allowed to enter until a plan is approved.

Kripas also will inspect the work when it is completed, said Felix Reyes, director of the city’s Office of Development and Planning. Reyes said he had been in contact with building owner Brandt Gentry and initial work will include removal of some of the brick cornice at the roofline that is showing signs of separation from the building.

“We don’t want pieces to start falling or contribute to a further collapse,” Reyes said.

Gentry, working under the name Creative Property Concepts LLC, bought the long vacant building for 180K, in gutting, structural and facade reinforcement have given tremendous strength to the building.”

The roof, Gentry said, was the area that had not been completed.

While Gentry appears to be confident of his future success, his Bank Street neighbor is less enthused.

Eric Hamburg, who owns the two buildings abutting 27 Bank St. — the former Marcus & Co. clothing store and Capitol Theater — said he expected to see a wrecking ball tearing down Gentry’s building.

“I didn’t think the building was salvageable when he bought it. It probably should be taken down. I think he’s wasting his money,” Hamburg said.

Hamburg said the lack of work at 27 Bank St. has for months held up work on his own buildings.

The partially collapsed parapet wall and other issues at 27 Bank St. has led to water cascading into his own building at 15 Bank St. Hamburg said his work is stalled until he can get a new roof on, but he can’t perform roof work without Gentry completing work on his building because they are so close together.

“The water is constantly coming into my building and I can’t frame my interior,” Hamburg said.

Hamburg, founder and president of Westport-based Industrial Renaissance LLC, said he has plans for a series of 21 apartments, integrated between his three buildings at 9, 11 and 15 Bank St. His plans call for construction of one floor on each of the buildings at the same time. The demolition of 27 Bank St would help provide Hamburg with space for another entrance to his buildings.

Once his first project is completed, Hamburg said he plans to focus his efforts on the former Capitol Theater. Hamburg said he purchased 74 State St., the former Mallove’s Jewelers, because it abuts the rear of the Capitol Theater and would allow him to create a rear entrance, another example of how downtown buildings are closely tied together.