By C.J. LOVELACE
8:52 PM EST, February 11, 2013
A portion of West Antietam Street in downtown Hagerstown will remain closed at least through the end of this week as demolition work continues on a building that burned in an overnight fire last week, a city official said Monday.
West Antietam Street between South Potomac Street and Rochester Place has been closed since Friday after a two-alarm fire the night before ripped through the upper floors of 19-23 W. Antietam St.
City of Hagerstown spokeswoman Erin Wolfe said the street would remain closed to through traffic until at least Friday, and might be closed through Feb. 18.
Due to the fire and resulting damage to the five-story structure, parts of the building were found to be structurally unstable, Wolfe said in a news release over the weekend.
Joel Merrbaugh, a Washington County contractor, began demolition work Saturday to remove the top floor of the building, according to information in an email City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman sent to Mayor David S. Gysberts and city council members on Friday night.
Most of the work is being done by hand due to the building’s proximity to adjacent buildings and utility lines, city officials said.
It is estimated the top-floor-only demolition will cost about $90,000, Zimmerman said in the email.
City building code officials examined the structure on Friday, and it was determined that immediate action was necessary to “abate an imminent danger and protect the public,” Wolfe said in the release.
“All roads and sidewalks are closed in the affected area, and there are caution signs and barriers around the building,” she said. “Contractors began removing the top floor Saturday morning, and the work is expected to carry into next week.”
The building has been the subject of foreclosure proceedings, Wolfe said. The owner of the property at 19-21-23 W. Antietam St. is listed as Fulton R. Gordon III and Gloria Mayes, of Bethesda, Md., according to Maryland Department of Taxation and Assessment records.
Zimmerman said in his email that city staff have been in contact with the bank that is foreclosing on the property.
“Our hope is that they will pay for the demolition,” he said in the email, although he said the city planned to front the costs and start work immediately due to public safety concerns and the proximity of nearby utility lines.
The city has tried to contact nearby property owners about the ongoing demolition work, according to Zimmerman’s email.
Motorists can still access Washington County District Court and the West Antietam Street public parking lot via Summit Avenue. A roadblock has been set up to keep motorists from turning right onto West Antietam Street from South Potomac Street.
The fire, which began late Thursday and kept firefighters busy through Friday morning, destroyed the majority of the fourth and fifth floors, Hagerstown Fire Marshal Doug DeHaven said last week.
A cause of the blaze has yet to be determined.
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