North West Street Reopens as Work, Pending Litigation Continues Following Lair Building Roof Collapse

By Jeremy Coumbes on January 4, 2022 at 4:01pm

North West Street has been reopened to traffic after months of work from the collapse of the rear portion of the Lair Building in October.

Traffic is flowing again on a downtown Jacksonville street that has been closed for months, however, the headaches following a partial building collapse will continue to linger for some time.

The City of Jacksonville has reopened North West Street between College and Court Streets next to the Morgan County Courthouse. The area has been closed to both motor and foot traffic since a rear portion of the Lair Building’s roof collapsed onto the street and two adjacent buildings during the overnight hours of October 12th.

Director of Community Development and Building Inspector for the City of Jacksonville Brian Nyberg says that although the collapsed section of the building has been raised, there is still more work to be done to the remaining structure.

The road is clean and all of the road barriers have been removed. There is still more work to be done, but I’m hoping we can just close one lane to get some of the work done. There is some block wall that needs to go up to cover the openings to the basement of the Lair Building. And then that will need to be waterproofed and then we can backfill that hole.”

The back wall of the Lair Building had to be completely rebuilt after the two-story portion of the structure collapsed in October.

The City of Jacksonville had to foot the bill for demolition and certain engineering costs needed to make the building a non-hazard after the property owners were not financially able to do the work.

Nyberg estimates the city will have nearly $160,000 in liens on the property by the time the work is completed, and in total nearly half a million dollars once Morgan County and Rammelkamp Bradney are factored in. During demotion, it was discovered that the two-story section that suffered the collapse was not an addition as first thought, and a new block wall structure had to be built to hold up the back of the three-story building.

Nyberg anticipates that liens will also be placed on the building due to the adjacent buildings that were damaged. He says he’s certain the insurance company from at least one of the properties will also file suit.

Work to solidify the back wall of the Lair Building continues.

Nyberg says that since the collapse, some others in the area have expressed interest in the Lair Building and what could be done with the space. He says it’s too soon to tell however with the pending litigation.

Nyberg says for now though, getting North West Street back open is a milestone and he hopes better things will come for the property sooner than later. “I’m very hopeful that we’ve saved a historic building on the square. I’m glad that the City Council was in favor of saving that building.

It’s been an expensive endeavor for the city. Hopefully in the long run it will be well worth it and that building will prosper and be back to productive use.”

Nyberg says one filled in, the area where the section of building was raised could become parking or green space going forward. As for the two adjacent buildings that were also damaged, Nyberg says both the Morgan County Public Defenders Office to the north and the Rammelkamp Bradney Law Offices to the east have both been cleared to reoccupy their repaired spaces.