Richmond: Macdonald Ave. building a public safety hazard

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Richmond: Macdonald Ave. building a public safety hazard
Images of collapsed roof at 824 Macdonald Ave. (on left), and on the right is an image of the building's facade before the art was removed. (Photos courtesy of the city documents)

The City of Richmond aims to remove the floor and roof framing, brick parapet and entire front wall of a long-vacant historic building at 824 Macdonald Ave., after a structural engineering firm determined the badly damaged building poses a public safety hazard to adjacent historic buildings and the public.

Tawfic Halaby, the City of Richmond’s interim public works director, is expected to present a plan to remedy the matter at the city’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting, which takes place today at 5:30 p.m.

Originally built in 1928 and located between 8th and 9th streets alongside other vacant historic buildings, the structure contributes to the Macdonald Avenue Historic District. In its current state, the structure “is in imminent danger of collapse,” states Mark Moore, executive principal for ZFA Structural Engineers, which was hired by the city to evaluate the building’s structural integrity.

“The 2-story, wood-framed building has been abandoned for over a decade,” Moore stated in his report to the city last month. “The framing forming the roof and floor was supported on the perimeter by load bearing unreinforced masonry (URM – brick) walls. The second floor and roof have entirely collapsed in the front portion of the building.”

Moore’s report added, “The partial collapsed structure presents an immediate concern, unsafe condition of the building, the walkway, and parking approximately 6′ to 8′ each way in front of the building, where the public travel. Barriers have been installed to cordon off the falling hazard zone, and pedestrian traffic are to be controlled by the barriers and future signage. The pedestrian traffic will be redirected to cross Macdonald at 8th and 9thstreets and passing the building on the opposite side of the road. Parking in front of the building is barricaded off as well. Pedestrian traffic between the barrier and busy Macdonald Avenue is prevented by the pedestrian redirection measures.”

Moore’s firm recommends demolishing and removing the floor and roof framing for the entire building.

“There is no lateral protection for truck vibration, wind or minor earthquake of the heavy brick parapet/wall due to the loss of roof and floor, which are the de facto lateral system,” Moore states. “Therefore, we recommend that the brick (URM) parapet and entire front wall also be removed. Upon completion of the demolition, we recommend the rear brick wall be evaluated, possibly shored, or removed at that time. Once the site is secured from falling hazards, the front elevation should be barricaded off to prevent access.”

In its city report, the proposed demolition of the building’s floor and roof framing “would allow the City to continue to re-evaluate the structural integrity of the structure.”