A vacant building at Third and Race streets collapsed Saturday evening, leading police to block the intersection.
Firefighters used thermal imaging to confirm that no one was inside.
"It's too unstable to send anybody in there right now," said Capt. Roger Smith of the fire department.
People in the area heard the building at 500 East Third Street begin to fall and called for help just after 6:30 p.m. By the time emergency crews arrived minutes later, the building was down, Smith said.
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He said investigators were en route, as was a representative of Kentucky Utilities.
The intersection was expected to remain closed for at least a day.
A 1955 city directory indicates the building was occupied at that time by a grocery store. The 1981 directory lists its occupant as Third and Race Furniture; by the 1990s, it was East End Variety Shop, Herald-Leader archives show.
In recent years the building sat vacant, with a "for sale" sign up on the outside. The telephone number on the sign has been disconnected.
Several residents said they were not sorry to see the green building go.
East End activist Thomas Tolliver, who lives just down the street, said that while he was glad no one was hurt, the building's collapse was "an improvement."
"It cast a bad impression of the neighborhood with its boarded-up, wire-screened windows," he said. "It opens up an important piece of property for redevelopment."