BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — People returned to work Tuesday after concerns about the safety of a downtown Battle Creek building forced the evacuation of an entire city block last week.
Crews have installed fencing around the triangular Binder Building, which is more than 100 years old. The six-story structure near the intersection of East Michigan and Capital avenues is attached to the back of a separate building and has been used only for storage in recent years.
Assistant City Manager Ted Dearing said officials decided to evacuate the block Friday after neighboring businesses were concerned they saw movement in the old structure. Roof damage is believed to have caused the top two floors to collapse.
“When we had hail damage a little bit earlier in the year,” Dearing said. “I think there might have been some damage to that roof and I don’t know that that damage got repaired and as a result I think that might have compromised some of the internal integrity of the building.”
According to Dearing, the state of the building appears to have been much worse than many thought.
“That building has been on our radar for a while in terms of just based on its age and condition so there had been previous code actions there, but this was a little bit more severe and required a different reaction,” he said.
Nearby businesses were happy to reopen after evacuating and remaining closed Monday.
Stephanie Breitbach, the co-owner of Ermisch Travel, said she appreciated the city’s precautions and was grateful no one was hurt. She said her workers evacuated their building just after 2 p.m. Friday.
“We got notified around noon that something was going on and they were concerned and we didn’t know what all the implications would be,” Breitbach said. “They warned us there was a chance they’d have to close our buildings.”
City officials are working with the owner and engineers but the future of the building remains uncertain.
“If it could be repaired, I think that would be beneficial but if not, I really think they will have no choice but to tear it down,” Breitbach said.
It is unclear how much repairs to the building would cost or if the project would make sense financially.