Front facade collapses from downtown Denison building

Michael Hutchins, Herald Democrat
Debris and bricks litter the sidewalk outside of 309 W. Main in Denison Sunday evening following the collapse of the building’s front facade. Representatives for the property owner said the collapse occurred as the awning pulled away from the building. (courtesy photo)

Denison Main Street residents and city officials were in clean up mode Monday after the front facade of a downtown building collapsed Sunday night. Property managers for 309 W. Main said the front awning pulled away from the building and brought down part of first floor brick facade, sending bricks and debris into the roadway.

Officials said there were no injuries or damage to adjacent buildings or property.

“There is no chance of someone surviving that if they were underneath,” Property Manager Kevin Hempkins, representing Hempkins Partners, said. “Thankfully, it happened when it happened.”

Hempkins said he was alerted of the collapse by a property owner across the street shortly after 6 p.m. Sunday. Hempkins said this seemed unusual as the awning was made of light-weight aluminum and canvas and should not have put much strain on the building.

There was no construction or anything ongoing at the building, which is vacant, at the time of the collapse, but Hempkins said there has been ongoing construction nearby.

“It is hard to point to the direct cause of all of this,” Hempkins said.

Hempkins believes the brick veneer may not have been put up properly when it was originally put on, and that the facade had not been properly anchored, contributing to the collapse.

“It was just an example of shoddy work,” he said.

The building itself was built in 1908, along with many of the buildings in the 300 block of Main. Hempkins said he was uncertain when the facade was built, but estimated it was from the 1950s. Others, however, estimated that it might have been as recent as about 20 years ago.

Among those who came out to assist with the initial clean up was Denison City Manager Jud Rex, who was informed of the collapse by Main Street Director Donna Dow.

“There was a small amount of brick and dust that got into the street, but most of it fell onto the sidewalk,” Rex said.

Despite the collapse, Hempkins said the structural damage was relatively minor with damage only occurring to the door and window frames.

Hempkins said he expected clean up to be finished Monday. Since the clean up, Rex said the sidewalk has been reopened and city officials do not believe there is any chance for an additional collapse.

Prior to the collapse, Denison Development Alliance Vice President William Myers said the owners of the property had applied for a facade improvement grant through the DDA, but this was aimed at improving the second story and restoring windows. However, Myers said that the project could be extended to the first floor and be approved.

The first step would be to put the project before the city’s Historic Preservation Board for approval of appropriateness. If that is approved, Myers said there is a good chance the grant proposal would be approved as well.

Myers added that if the property owners did apply, the project would likely be expedited given the circumstances and the previous application.

“Evidently the building had heard about the facade grants and decided to take it upon itself to apply,” Hempkins said, jokingly.