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Parts Of Elm Street In Somerville's Davis Square To Reopen After Building Found At Risk Of Collapse

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Parts of Elm Street in Somerville's Davis Square will reopen Tuesday night after being closed because a two-story building in the heart of the major business district was found to be unstable and potentially on the brink of collapse, city officials said.

One of the walls on the nearly 50,000-square-foot building was found to be at risk for collapse Monday night, with city officials shutting down Elm Street between Dover and Russell streets to vehicles and Elm between Chester and Grove streets to pedestrians for fear the wall would come down on the sidewalk, officials said in a statement.

About 17 businesses in that area were forced to close as workers moved to make the building safe, according to Denise Taylor, a city spokeswoman.

The city announced later Tuesday that one lane of traffic would reopen by 9 p.m., and that all businesses except those at the corner of Chester and Elm would reopen, with Chester Street expected to remain closed through Thursday.

As affected businesses lost money by the hour Tuesday, workers were racing against the weather to fix the wall, Taylor said. Tuesday's forecast called for torrential downpours, strong winds and thunderstorms that were likely to halt construction progress from the outside of the building.

Calling the area "a critical transit node," spokeswoman Taylor said several bus lines — 87, 88, 89, 90, 94 and 96 — as well as drivers, cyclists and pedestrians were impacted by the street closures.

Taylor said most people avoided the area today.

Mayor Joseph Curtatone told WBUR the city had filed a criminal complaint against the building's owner in April, citing a lack of compliance with Inspectional Services, and now plans to file a civil complaint.

"We're all responsible for our own properties, whether we own businesses, to maintain a good state of repair and in accordance with all applicable laws and health and safety codes," Curtatone said.

An engineer working on the building for its owner discovered the safety issue. The statement summarized his findings:

In the course of work to repair the parapet wall and façade of the building, a structural engineer ... determined that “along [the Elm Street] wall, between the steel beam bearing piers, the masonry has been taken down below the roof framing level and no longer engages the wall with the roof diaphragm."

This unstable wall condition creates the risk that the front exterior wall could collapse onto the street and sidewalk below, the engineer concluded.

See the latest street closure updates here.

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