Savoy demolition pushed back one week

September 23, 2009 4:16:26 PM PDT
An emergency demolition downtown will not happen this weekend after all. As we told you last week, bricks from the old Savoy Hotel building were literally falling out of the sky and onto downtown streets, creating a serious danger.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the city decided to give the building's owner one more chance to fix the problem.

As the city moves one step closer to either it or the owner tearing down the old Savoy Hotel, there is one person who will be watching closely. The owner now has one week to tear down the building or the city will do it themselves.

"That plaster is full of asbestos," said architect David Hall.

He is an architect who has studied the landmark for various developers. Hall says the structural damage seen on the exterior of the 100-year-old building is just the tip of the iceberg.

"It's full of environmental issues. There are pathogens that are a result of the pigeon droppings, there are areas of the building I measured where pigeon droppings were six inches thick," said Hall.

The city is aware of the hazardous materials and that's why the contractor chosen Wednesday, Cherry Environmental Services, had to meet certain qualifications. To start, it had specialize in large demolitions like this one and be preapproved by the city in dealing with asbestos.

"We're not telling anyone, 'Hey take it down regardless of the environmental consequences.' Usually these people, if they are an experienced firm and I hope they are, they know what to do with an older building with some of the materials in it," said Houston Mayor Bill White.

The city says it got the emergency demolition order because the structure is simply not safe. Parts of the walls have already fallen down and the blighted building has become a haven for criminal activity.

While Hall agrees that tearing down the building is necessary, he's still concerned what will be left behind.

"Personally I wouldn't want to be within a mile of this building and I would not want to be there until there's been a very hard rain for a long time," said Hall.

We did talk to the contractor who told us that every precaution is being taken, including wetting the building from keeping the asbestos from going airborne. The Texas Health Department will be on the scene to monitor the situation.

As far as the owner, he has until next Tuesday to present a contract. If the city is not satisfied, they will move forward with the demolition, which would take place no later than the weekend of October 2-4.

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