The lot where a building collapsed Aug. 8 in Lexington is now covered with hay and grass. Its future is unknown, but it appears the building crumbled after years of being vacant, neglected and damaged.
Thad Scott, an officer with Lexington's code enforcement, said he wasn't sure why the structure at East Third and Race streets collapsed, but he said water leaking into the boarded-up building could have been a factor.
"I'm sure it was built to the expectations of the time," he said. "But dilapidation and the lack of attention" are probably factors causing the building to crumble.
The building, at 500 East Third Street, had received a notice for general and exterior repairs after city officials determined parts of the building had started to rot. The building was put under notice April 30, after an inspection discovered the building had loose and rotten siding material and window frames, and deteriorated doors, knobs, locks and frames, Scott said.
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"It was a laundry list of things," he said. "The electric is always a safety issue. ... We didn't get inside. We weren't granted access, but we knew it was vacant and closed up."
City officials were in the early stages of issuing a $750 fine for not complying with inspectors' list of repairs. Scott said code enforcement officials had been keeping an eye on the building in case it continued to show structural movement and deterioration, but the building collapsed before the fine was issued.
According to the Fayette County property valuation administrator's website, the structure was built in 1940 and zoned as a neighborhood business. The building was assessed last year at $70,000, the website said.
The building was bought in 1972 by Charles W. Finnell, who has owned it since. Finnell, 90, could not be reached.
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 the past, the corner of Race and East Third has been rife with crime, prostitution and drugs. But city and community officials have attempted recently to restore the Third Street corridor to its heyday as an entertainment hub.
First District Councilman James Brown said residents were pleased the building was gone. It has led to a great deal of excitement about the property "because it looks like something will happen," he said.
"Keeping in mind that it is still private property and that it is either going to have to be sold, bought and then redeveloped, but I do think there's a level of excitement in the community about the prospects," Brown said.
Last week, orange cones and a thin fence surrounded a small pile of rubble, including broken concrete from the sidewalk. But contractors were expected to have the site cleared, filled and leveled, Scott said.
The site's future is up to the owner, he said.