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Dangers of historic buildings in the Heartland

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 6:23 PM CDT
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(KFVS) - Historic buildings in the Heartland have a lot of stories attached to them.

Sometimes those stories are lost if the buildings aren’t maintained.

Downtown Cape Girardeau is home to many historic buildings. Some still stand, but others are just a memory.

“Each one tells its own story about a certain time in the city’s history and so once a building is lost, that story is lost as well,” said Cape Girardeau’s City Planner Ryan Shrimplin.

Lots of the buildings have the potential to be saved, but others are a danger, according to Shrimplin.

“Whether or not a building can be saved really depends on whether or not there’s money that’s available to help restore the building,” he said.

Shrimplin said it also helps to put the building to use.

“A vacant building is always at more jeopardy of falling apart,” he said.

You can click here to see the 2021 list of Endangered Buildings in Cape Girardeau.

But even old ones that are used, like the One Hour Cleaners building in Princeton, Kentucky, can still collapse from old age.

“There’s always some minor damage that can be remediated, but, unfortunately, this was way too far gone,” said Mayor Kota Young.

That’s why Young said what’s left of it needs to be demolished.

Older buildings like the Broadway Theatre can become a threat to people’s safety. The building has been on the city’s endangered list since 2012.

After a suspicious fire damaged the front of the building, it forced Broadway to close for more than a week.

“Often times, older buildings, because they’ve been around so long, they may have been remodeled multiple times. They may have been compartmentalized, which creates a lot of void spaces or hidden spaces that a fire could grow without anybody seeing, so that’s a concern with some of the older buildings if they’ve been used for not what the building was built for.”

One old building in Christopher, Ill. is another example of a safety hazard.

The stairs collapsed during a fire, trapping firefighters inside.

Cape Girardeau’s fire marshal, Greg Hecht, said once the buildings become damaged, they usually become a hazard.

“To correct that would be on the owner of the business, or potentially tear the building down,” he said.

Carbondale’s Community Development Manager John Lenzini said the city of Carbondale can leave pre-existing buildings alone if they aren’t hazardous to a certain point.

“It depends on what the occupancy is,” he said.

“You really need a contractor who has an understanding of how to work with these old buildings and knows what it takes to really make them stable”

Shrimplin said if the owner doesn’t make the necessary building repairs, the city can step in.

“The city has the ability to advertise for bids for a contractor to demolish the structure,” he said.

“It’s really important for the community to value the historic buildings because they really do help form the basis for our heritage.”

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