“Safety first,” said Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood early Thursday afternoon, as the fire department and RCMP were on the scene blocking off access to this section of Main Street, which runs between Central and Brown streets.
Mayor Mood said the town doesn't know how much risk, if any, is posed by the building, but they want to ensure they are proactive until a more thorough inspection of the building is carried out. Business in the closed section of downtown have also been told they have to stay closed.
“We do not have even a percentage as to what are the chances it will come down,” she said. “But we feel we have to close down the street to be safe.”
Engineers were en route to the scene to give the building a closer examination.
The mayor said the town’s inspector detected an issue that would cause concern when he was inspecting the building. She says the building, which has been vacant for years, has been undergoing some renovation work as a new business was intending to move into the ground floor.
The town says it appears there may have been some damage to the building as a result of the work, or at the very least, an issue was detected during this work. The mayor said they don’t blame the owner of the building for the situation. She says the town is pleased to see work being done to a building that has been empty for years.
“We appreciate the owner doing all this work to the building,” she said. “But it is an old building.”
A date on the exterior of the building reads 1893.
This isn’t the first time this building has been on the town’s radar. The mayor says they’ve hired engineers in the past to examine it and that it was deemed at the time that there was no danger posed.
But given what happened 15 years ago alongside the building, she said the town doesn’t want to take any chances. The mayor was referring to the collapse of the old Odeon theatre that happened in August 2002.
While the mayor again said it’s not known what risk this building may pose – or if there is a riskat at all – she said all options will be on the table once they get a report back about the building’s structural integrity, ranging from repair to demolition.
As to how long the street will be blocked off, the mayor said it could be days.
“It could be a week,” she said, saying the work that needs to be carried out can’t be rushed. “We completely understand the frustrations of people. But let’s be patient. Safety first.”
REMEMBERING THE FORMER ODEON THEATRE COLLAPSE
Although it's been 15 years, visions and memories of the former Odean Theatre collapse remain fresh when it comes to any concern over the stability of buildings on Main Street.
That structure, a longtime downtown landmark, was in the process of being demolished when it came down in late August 2002.
Two days after the collapse, there was concern about the stability of the building that housed businesses from 301 to 309 Main St. There reportedly were cracks in the building’s south sidewall and the front of the building appeared to be bowing in and backward slightly.
A labour department official at the time said it hadn’t been determined whether the damage had been sustained as a result of the collapse or was pre-existing, but he said the department’s engineers were of the opinion the building was not structurally sound.