“It sounded like the worst car accident ever,” said Louis Alberta, describing the noise that woke him at quarter after four in the morning last Wednesday in Collingswood.
Alberta, who owns , looked out the window of his Haddon Avenue apartment atop and saw “a huge pile of rubble on the ground”—remnants of the façade of the old TD Bank building at 765 Haddon Ave.
He called the non-emergency services number, and watched as police and firefighters arrived on the scene.
“I’m sure nothing like that’s ever happened in this town before,” he says. “I could hear the cops saying ‘how did this happen?’”
owner Rick Guerriero says he saw another piece of the façade fall when he came into the shop that morning.
“The police came and barricaded it off, but it took a good 10 hours before they started removing the wall section by section,” Guerriero says.
Guerriero says police told him they believe the structure could have been weakened by the earthquake that struck the Eastern seaboard last summer. Alberta wonders whether the material was weakened by water intrusion.
Whatever the cause, workers spent the remainder of the next 24 hours pulling down what was left of the facing well into the early hours of Thursday morning, Alberta says.
“No lights, just a cement saw and a hammer,” he says. “For something unprecedented, they really did an awesome job.”
Pieces of the structure that could possibly be used in its renovation were preserved, and now sit in the foyer of the building.
Pat Ciervo of , leasing agent for the property, says it is off the market until repairs can be made to make it safe again. Ciervo said that prior to the collapse, there had been some passing interest in the property, but “nothing on the table.”
One recent proposal that had captured the attention of neighbors was that of Haddonfield Dr. Nicholas DePace, .
Patch contacted borough zoning, code and health officer Mary Ellen Ries to ask about the history of the property, including its schedule of inspections. Her only response to several such questions was “no comment.”
Patch visited Friday morning to obtain access to such documents as would illustrate the inspection history of the property. Ries declined in person to provide these herself, and Patch filed an OPRA request for these documents.
One comment that was made by Guerriero—and echoed independently by Ciervo and Alberta—underscores the impact of the incident.
“ was on Saturday,” Guerriero said. “God forbid this had happened on Saturday. Someone wouldn’t have just been hurt—they would’ve been killed.”
Additional reporting by Lauren Burgoon.